A sermon preached by The Rev. Dianne Andrews at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Port Townsend, WA, March 25, 2016.
This is a day of pain and grief that is being played out in slow motion. We are tempted to place blame on others, on authorities, on government officials, on religious leaders, on whole groups of people… We are tempted to soften the pain that we are witnessing… and the pain that we are feeling… by finding an easy way out. Too often this story of Jesus’ crucifixion has been used to fuel anti-Semitism. This story is not about blaming others however much we are tempted to scapegoat, to relinquish responsibility, to deny our place in the story, a story that is alive in our time.
On this Good Friday in the year 2016 … it still feels like things are falling apart as it must have felt on the first Good Friday. Jesus continues to be crucified in every corner of the earth where the dignity of another human being is denied…. in human trafficking and slavery, in genocide, in wanton disregard for life’s most basic needs for clean water, food, shelter and health care. Good Friday continues to be known in abusive homes, in hate-filled rhetoric and violence, in discrimination, in bullying… in every place where we deny the image of God in the face of children, in refuges, in prisoners, those who feel strange to us… and even in those who scare us the most. It feels like things are falling apart as the planet continues to warm and sea levels rise. Crucifixion is happening to God’s beloved planet on this day of sorrow.
This is the moment in which God calls us to get to the heart of the matter. Good Friday calls us to stand at the food of the cross and look up. For if we cannot encounter the pain, see the wounds, if we cannot recognize the need for transformation… and healing… we are left to marinate in an anesthetic of distraction… the anesthetic is yours and mine to choose. There are many ways to “check-out” of the Good Friday experience…
The disciples gave-up much to follow Jesus… they left their friends and their families… they put down their nets and handed in their resignations. Their standing in the community diminished as they chose to follow this rabble-rouser who was turning everything that they understood about how the world worked… on its head. Jesus offered God’s vision of abundant life, harmony and justice… and for that he was crucified… and for that vision to start coming into focus for us, we need to see, and feel and engage with one another, and the world, in new ways. Jesus continues to shake our understanding to the core… because something new is seeking to be born. What we cling to…so dearly… is dying…. so that a greater truth can be born… even in the church that bears Christ’s name.
Where do we go from here? Where do we go from this hard place? For much of the history of “The Church,” Jesus has been venerated as one whose bloodied body remains hanging on the cross. The meaning of God’s gift to the world in Jesus remained entombed in the pain of Good Friday and in the notion that God had placed a price tag on our souls that was to be redeemed only in the currency of blood. But there is another way to encounter and understand Good Friday.
We come to this seemingly God forsaken place in which all that does not matter is stripped away. We come to the foot of the cross because “The Christ” who is beyond all of our imagining, the God of resurrection, might be born in us, and take root in our world. Good Friday is a raw place. The tomb will be still and dark. Jesus’ last words from the cross were “It is finished.” And it is. Because what comes next will be totally new. I have heard it said that Easter is coming…
For now it is for us to stand at the foot of the cross and to know this raw place of crucifixion because God is after us…. seeking to grab our attention and: WAKE US UP! To quote the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz:
Love sometimes get tired of speaking sweetly and wants to rip to shred all [of our] erroneous notions of truth. The Beloved wants to do us a great favor: Hold us upside down and shake all the nonsense out.
For now we know this time of sorrow. And, yes, Easter is coming…