Sermon for Good Friday April 2, 2021
Over this past year, I suspect that MANY, if not all of us, have felt that we had become stuck in an endless loop, living constantly from the garden at Gethsemane through the torture and sham trial of our Lord Christ, and the dreadful Crucifixion on Good Friday, over and over. And like Jesus’ followers and friends, perhaps we, too, have despaired of hope, and in our grief and doubt, added to our beloved Lord’s sorrow.
Last year we could not observe our treasured Holy Week, with its nerve-racking and grievous emotional roller coaster. We felt robbed, and I even asked Himself if we might have a mulligan on Holy Week, because like many of us, I still hoped sanity might be restored far more readily than has proven to be the case. And still, there was EASTER! Perhaps we were not in our much loved Church, with our beloved Parish Family. But somewhere in our hearts, we rejoiced with the eternal knowledge: ALLELUIA, CHRIST IS RISEN, RISEN INDEED!
But Scripture tells us that for the disciples and Jesus’ friends and followers, the Crucifixion was followed with darkness more fitting night than mid-day, and in the Temple, the curtain guarding the Holiest of Holies was rent in two; as were the hearts, and hopes, and dreams of those who loved our LORD Christ. They had not our centuries of Easter hope to console them in their loss. And yet, from Christ’s grief and pain, and suffering, and from that of Crist’s followers , has come our hope.
The Psalmist, in the traditional Psalm 22, speaks clearly of Christ’s terrible and great suffering; and of God’s unfailing love of Creation, and of the attributes of God, Incarnate in Christ Jesus. “Why, cries the Psalmist, have You deserted me, and why are You so far from me?
All we have had times of feeling like this, and yet, the faithful Psalmist cries, and teaches us: You ARE the Holy ONE, enthroned upon the praises of YOUR people. Perhaps in this sad time of pandemic, We might have the faith, the strength, and the courage, to open our hearts and our lives, to enthrone The LORD OUR GOD upon OUR hearts, and thereby, in our lives, and in all that we think, and say, and do. The Psalmist speaks of the characteristic’s of our LORD, and hopefully, those of the Children of God, saying: “He does not despise the poor in their poverty, nor does He hide his face from them, but when they cry, He hears them.” I pray that may be true of each one of us. The Psalmist declares that those redeemed by Christ, those who serve our Lord, “shall be known as the LORDS OWN FOREVER.” Is this not what all we covet? Is not this our hope, which Christ’s suffering has secured for US forever? And throughout this painful day of Crucifixion, and in our hope of the JOY of EASTER, may this not be our comfort for this past year, and for whatever is yet to come?
Together we have read and heard the Passion Narrative. I pray that God will help us to internalize this in such a way that our lives, like those of Christ’s disciples, family, friends, and followers, shall be forever not only redeemed, but also changed, so that we may forever, and always endeavour to live as our God intended we should when by God’s infinite love, we were created.
The writer of our Epistle, from Hebrews, reminds us that our LORD says “I will establish this Covenant, I will put MY Laws in their Hearts and write them on their minds.” I hope that writing is done with indelible ink. And more, says our Lord, “I will remember their sins no more.” And WE know, as did the writer of Hebrews, and as do all God’s people forever, that “the One Who promises is faithful.” Our Lord God never goes back on God’s word, never fails a promise, functions ONLY on our behalf, and we for our part may safely trust in all that God says, and we may pray for the grace and wisdom to indeed, think, say, and do, as God wills, knowing WELL that God will help us to accomplish all those things that God hopes and desires of us, for our CREATOR knows us well and loves us still! I would pray that God enables us, insofar as we are called, to offer faithful witness to God, following Christ’s example, and that of those early followers of Christ. There ARE many who choose to live such lives, from all nations, all creeds, and all religious traditions. This is yet our LORD’S world, and our God SHALL yet prevail.
As we read and hear again the familiar Gospel for this day, from John, we are struck oh-yet-again with the perfidiousness of those who accused and crucified our LORD Christ. Our dear Peter, in his fear and exhaustion, denied our Lord3 times; and yet Jesus assured Peter of his redemption later in Scripture, when our Lord 3 times asked Peter if he, Peter, loved Him, Jesus? Three times, Peter, with increasing impatience, claimed vehemently his love for Christ. And Christ’s response: Feed My sheep, Feed My Sheep, Peter, Tend my sheep. How I love this tender act of our Saviour, Who, despite faithless betrayal, yet forgave, and spoke so personally and intimately, to His beloved friend. And if you wonder how that worked out for Peter, read Acts, and Peter’s letters. Thus does our LORD redeem US ALL.
In the Gospel, we are astonished with the deviousness of the Temple Establishment, and those among whom Jesus had taught. We are horrified with the brutality of the Romans, and the weakness of Pilate, who clearly recognized Jesus’ innocence and goodness. we are always amazed at the wickedness of such events, but I fear that a part of our astonishment arises from our unacknowledged awareness of our own weakness’. This reminds me of a dear Baptist friend in Missouri, who once sought to reassure me by saying, “Why Father Susan, If I’m not in trouble with AOMEone, I’m afraid I’m not doing what Jesus wants me to do!” We don’t WANT to be in trouble, but sometimes, that’s exactly where we OUGHT to be, as God’s people. Seems all we are subject to Wrong-headedness and weaknesses of all sorts. Acknowledging this ought probably to cause us to all the more readily forgive one another. And to remind US that as it has ever been, our best and only help is in the Lord our God, and our Incarnate Christ, Who assures us of God’s incredible and everlasting Love. THANKS BE TO GOD!
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