Both of my uncles were servicemen in World War II, one being on an RFA bomber crew. His plane was shot down over Germany, and he spent some time in a prisoner-of-war camp.
Much destruction and death happened over Britain and Europe over the course of the war, one of the bombed cities being Coventry. On 1940 November 14, an air raid destroyed much of one of the best preserved medieval town centres in Europe, reportedly as revenge for the RAF bombing of Munich, the city known as the birthplace of the Nazi party. The loss of life was tragic and horrendous; the destruction of the medieval cathedral of St. Michael was heartbreaking.
The new Coventry cathedral was built in 1962, of the same sandstone as the original, but the ruins were left symbolically next to the new building, as a witness to the horror and futility of war. Iron nails from the ancient roof truss were gathered by Provost Richard Howard, three being formed in a crucifix called the Cross of Nails. The three represent the prayers made by Jesus as He was dying on the cross. Since then, many crosses have been made and sent to churches, prisons and schools worldwide, including dozens of churches in Germany, a symbol of the church’s commitment to peace, justice and reconciliation.
This is a wonderful demonstration of the ministry which the apostle Paul encouraged the church to do: “All of this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.” (2 Cor. 5:18-20a ESV)
Our loving Lord God reconciled us to Himself, while we were still in lives of sin, not by neglecting His own justice, but by an amazing sacrifice of love. The demand for justice for sin was met by Jesus, who took on Himself all the guilt and punishment our sins deserved. By doing this, Jesus performed the most unique and holy service to God ever done in history; His death made possible the work of reconciling the world to God.
In 1974, the church in Coventry formed The Community of the Cross of Nails, a network of believers who embrace the differences and diversity which its partners bring to the ongoing Christian ministry of reconciliation. Pray for these ministries, in times of uncertainty and violence that continue in our world today, and thank our holy Lord daily for what Jesus did for us on the cross to reconcile us to God.