Good Friday: Friday’s Spelling Lesson

Good Friday 2017

John 18:1-19:42


Friday’s Spelling Lesson

A sermon preached by The Rev. Dianne Andrews at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Port Townsend, WA.


We have come here today, not to be mere observers of Jesus’ painful crucifixion and death.  We have come here in faithfulness… to be with Jesus in his last painful moments.  We have come here today not merely to witness a blood transaction whereby the ancient debt incurred in the Garden of Eden is marked “Cancelled.”  We have come here out of deep love.  We have come here because we have known Christ’s love and we are compelled to love him back, even at this raw hour of pain and death.  A.A. Milne said it well in a conversation between Piglet and Winnie the Pooh:


Piglet asks Pooh:  How do you spell love?

To which Pooh responds: You don’t spell it, you feel it.


We have come here today to feel the love that is being poured out for us, for our world, and for all of creation.  This is love that seeks to seep its way into the most hardened of hearts.  It is love that yearns to jam and stall all engines of destruction and bring forth life and new ways of being, and of understanding… It is love that ignites deep feelings of caring and stirs impulses to share.  This is love that knows us completely, every wound, every fear, every weakness, every insecurity, every doubt, …a strong and vulnerable love that knows our deepest hidden selves.


Good Friday is not a mental exercise.  Good Friday defies logic.  For good reason, the story that is unfolding before us is called “The Passion.”  To quote Debra Dean Murphy:


 …the drama of Holy Week [embraces] stark contrasts of power and weakness, cruelty and tenderness, unspeakable suffering and astonishing forgiveness. The passio[n] of Jesus in the gospel narratives is the culmination of an obscure life lived in complete embodiment of the shalom of God in the midst of political tyranny and dehumanizing violence, in suffering and death and seeming sure defeat.[1]


This is a day of despair.  Hope is dying.  …and it is in this place that we are to let the intensity of the sacred story do its deep work in us.   Pain, and the profound silence of death, precede resurrection.   Death will be overcome, and the power of the Resurrection will be far, far more… than a joyous return of spring flowers and sunshine.  What is to come will be nothing less than a full cosmos-shaking reorientation of our reality.  All promises to be made new.  We will be saved… not from death itself… but from living “in a state of death[2].”  The promise is that, on Sunday, we will be awakened with surprise and joy, feeling the fresh stirrings of our reworked, reconfigured hearts beating at the center of our being.  The promise is the that we, and our culture, and the world will come to life again… and that all urges towards hatred, violence, tyranny, or indifference will be and transformed into urges for peace, compassion, and connection.


     The ground is shaking….. 

     The tremors have begun…

                                   Things will fall apart…

                                  All will fall apart…



We are gathered as a body of the beloved who is feeling, together, the painful intensity of this moment.  We have come here to offer our love as we stand at the foot of the cross. We have come to be in this place, together, for the sake of profound love, the depth of which is beyond our mortal comprehension.


Let us pray:


God of all mercy, your beloved Jesus did not back down in the face suffering, humiliation and death.  Jesus endured as he was whipped and his face spat upon.   Grant us the courage to encounter Jesus on the Cross of Good Friday that we may be fortified to meet the pain and the suffering in our midst.   Help us to grow in compassion as we offer our lives to your service for the sake of your Christ who loves us beyond measure. Amen.




[1]  On Being:


[2] “He does not save us from dying, but through dying He saves us from a state of death.”

Richard Meux Benson, SSJE (1824-1915)