Good Friday Sermon
2 April 2010
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA
Last night, Jesus asked his disciples to sit with him and pray. As difficult as that was, this moment is the more difficult one in which to sit. Can we sit with Jesus? The rush to Easter. Of course, like many children, waiting upon Easter candy, we long for Easter, for resurrection, for hope after times of hopelessness, we long for blessing after times that feel like curses, we long for the end of our grieving.
However, as the three day feast of the Triduum began last night with Maundy Thursday, and continued through the overnight vigil, and continues to this very moment in Good Friday, and continues through tomorrow, Holy Saturday and then Easter Sunday – this three days is an opportunity to remember, reflect, pray, and yes, even grieve.
As we know, grieving is a part of the process of life. As much as life is full of growth, and abundance and hope, we also know that there are so many necessary losses in life, and to allow ourselves to grieve is essential for living abundant lives.
When Jesus said in John 10:10 that “I have come, so that you might have life, and have it abundantly,” he did not promise that it would all be tiptoeing through the tulips. As we find ourselves here, in this holy place, on this holy time in the church year, we are offered the opportunity to bring our grief, disappointment, fear, and pain to the cross.
We are offered the opportunity to unload our burdens here, and we are offered the opportunity to grieve our losses and sadness. We are offered the opportunity to grieve for those who we carry in our hearts and minds.
While we know the Easter story, it is most helpful to set the ending of the story aside so as to fully experience this moment in this place. When we approach Good Friday and the terrible story of the crucifixion and death of Jesus, we are reminded of other deaths. When we contemplate this death, we can’t help but reflect upon those who have died, and the many emotions which we felt upon their deaths.
When we attend any funeral, we are reminded of other deaths. This is also likely to happen today. The sadness, pain, guilt, and even the relief that we might have felt may come over us at any funeral might also wash over us today.
Allow it to come. Allow yourself to grieve, as much as you can. The reading of the Passion account on Palm Sunday and the reading of the Passion a few moments ago is one of those deep and abiding stories that allow us to go deeply into the story. When we can locate ourselves in it, as Peter denying the Lord, as the crowd, as the calculating Pilate, as the disciples running away, at times we are any or all of these. We are also invited to grieve with the women who loved Jesus. Allow yourself to grieve.
The grief of Good Friday sets the stage for the rest of the story to come. But we don’t want to rush the ending. The cross of Good Friday is the bridge to the rest of the story, don’t look for a way
around it. Allowing ourselves some time to grieve, and to be with those women in grief, also gives us the opportunity to lay our burden down at the cross. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Through what he willingly endured on the cross, as the pure victim, Jesus himself becomes the bridge between earth and heaven. Regardless of our debates about the Atonement, we can affirm that Jesus bridges the gap between our humanity and God.
Atonement can be seen as “At” – “one” – “ment”, that is “On earth as it is in heaven.” But here, I am getting ahead of our story.
Good Friday is only Good when viewed from the end. While in the midst of it, the story seems to have little good within it, and so we do grieve, along with the women, and with the beloved disciple, we grieve. We grieve for this death as we grieve for any death, but we have the sense that there is a glimmer of hope that within this terrible darkness, there is a glimmer of light.
When we are able to grieve for this terrible death on the cross, we are approaching some small piece of the work that Jesus did for us on the cross. When we visit friends who are going through a rough patch, we bring with us our own times of struggle. When we enter the hospital room to be with those who are suffering, we bring with us our own history of suffering. When we cry for one who is dying, we are also crying for all those whose lives that we knew and for whom we mourn. When we attend a funeral, we also get close to not only the deaths we have seen, but also our own contemplation of our death. We carry these struggles, sufferings, cryings, sadness, deaths with us.
On this day, on this cross, Jesus does this work in spades. One who has no reason for enduring this suffering has taken it up for us. And just as we compassionately carry suffering, Jesus takes it ALL up with him. The cross is the bridge from Good Friday to Easter Sunday and Jesus carries the burden of suffering and death. While it may seem impossible it is not. “Impossible for humankind, possible for God.” The cross, the object of derision and curse becomes the object of glory, and life. The story might have ended here, but God had another end in mind. But, the road to the end passes through this place, and this time, this cross - even as unbelievable as that may seem to much of the world. “What others meant for Evil, God turned into Good.”