The Colour Purple
Over this past week three events, with unlikely connections, have occurred which have resonated with the themes of life and death. On Wednesday we learned of the death of Victoria Wood, a popular actress and comedienne, who could be described as cheerful and colourful in many ways. Then on Thursday the nation celebrated the Queen’s ninetieth birthday with much splendour and colour; such as was on show through the guards on horseback and the other regal displays fitting for such an occasion. Sadly, again on Thursday, there was news of the passing of another well-known celebrity known as Prince.
The connection to be made between Prince and Queen are a bit obvious, although one was in name only the other has the rightful claim to rule, through her title. However, perhaps a less obvious connection is the colour purple.
The title of one of Prince’s songs was of course, ‘Purple Rain’. Apparently it was one of his favourites and he sang it on practically every tour. “Purple Rain” opens with acoustics and three verses are followed by a chorus, with a building up of emotional delivery. In the film of the same name, each verse ties into a different strained relationship Prince’s character has and his desire to reconcile. The first verse is dedicated to his father, then his ex-girlfriend (Apollonia), and then his band mates.
The colour purple has long been associated with royalty; it was the colour worn by Roman magistrates; it became the imperial colour worn by the rulers of the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, and later by Roman Catholic bishops. Similarly in Japan, the colour is traditionally associated with Emperor and aristocracy. It is still often the colour donned by Kings and Queens today.
In Matthew 27:28 we read how Jesus was stripped and mocked by Roman soldiers before they put a ‘scarlet robe’ on him. The point of this (As indicated in the footnotes of the NRSV Study Bible) was that they probably used an officer’s cape to mimic a purple Royal Robe. Followed by which they led him away to be crucified.
Life is meant to be enjoyed in full colour, not monochrome, I believe. Whether it is the pageantry of royalty, the humour of comedy or the vibrancy of rock music. Life is God given and full of colour. Colour kind of helps joins up the dots for us in an otherwise dark world.
And even the dark colour of death is part of life’s rich tapestry. I recall the words of an old song which says: the dark threads are just as needful…as the treads of silver and gold…
None of us enjoy the darker places where life can take us; especially when connected to death. But we can trust the one who has overcome death. The one who, as revealed in Revelation, is donned in the most radiant white and surrounded by rainbow thrones, precious gems and flashing colour; His Reign is without end. And we can trust him today, wherever we are on life’s tapestry.
Psalm 20 – New Living Translation (NLT)
A Royal Psalm: A psalm of David.
1 In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry.
May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.
2 May he send you help from his sanctuary
and strengthen you from Jerusalem.[a]
3 May he remember all your gifts
and look favorably on your burnt offerings. Interlude
4 May he grant your heart’s desires
and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory
and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
May the Lord answer all your prayers.
6 Now I know that the Lord rescues his anointed king.
He will answer him from his holy heaven
and rescue him by his great power.
7 Some nations boast of their chariots and horses,
but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.
8 Those nations will fall down and collapse,
but we will rise up and stand firm.
9 Give victory to our king, O Lord!
Answer our cry for help.