Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday Sermon

(O Lord) By your wounded hands:
teach us diligence and generosity.
By your wounded feet:
teach us steadfastness and perseverance.
By your wounded and insulted head
teach us patience, clarity and self-mastery.
By your wounded heart:
teach us love, teach us love, teach us love,
O Master and Savior. Amen. (Daphne Fraser)

On this Good Friday, as we gather with the women disciples and watch from a distance or even at his feet, as we watch with the male disciples from secretive places away from it all, the Cross asks us to bear witness to what has happened to Jesus. The cross will not let us stay away.

I often think of Langston Hughes poem as I meditate on the passion of Jesus:

Encounter by Langston Hughes

I met You on Your way to death,
Though quite by accident
I chose the path I did,
not knowing there You went.

When I heard the hooting mob
I started to turn back
But, curious, I stood my ground
Directly in its track
And sickened suddenly
At its sound,
Yet did not
Turn back.

So loud the mob cried,
Yet so weak,
Like a sick and muffled sea.
On Your head
You had sharp thorns.
You did not look at me—
But on Your back
You carried
My own Misery.
Jesus carried us on his back with him during the passion and it is Jesus who calls us to go with him to the cross. For when Jesus calls each of us to take up our cross and follow him, it is a call to follow him not only as part of the crowd at his triumphant entrance to Jerusalem waving our palm branches, in the best of times, but traveling with him throughout Holy Week from celebration, to betrayal, to abandonment, to the cross of Good Friday, to the worst of times.

So the grim charade has happened, as that old hymn puts it, and we are left wandering in the darkness, Jesus has died on the cross and has been laid now in the tomb.

But even at the worst of moments, Jesus has given us his words to ponder for our lives.

So tonight, let us recall the words Jesus spoke from the cross, from all of the Gospels, and consider what Jesus might be saying to us today. (adapted from the prayers of Caryl Micklem)

Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

Jesus did as he told others to do, and forgave those who wronged him, who placed him on the cross, those who judged him & put him to death. It was an act of strength and courage to forgive. My we forgive others from our hearts and may God forgive us for committing acts of great cruelty.

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. (Luke 23:43)
Jesus gave his assurance to a man convinced he deserved to die, one condemned just like Jesus to a cruel death. All of us are sinners, one way or another, we must understand who we are and what we have done. But, too, we must know the same assurance, that whoever we are, whatever we have done, nothing can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Nothing.

Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother. (John 19:26-27)
In the darkest of moments, Jesus thought of others even when he was dying. May we follow his example and not be absorbed by self-pity, from brooding on our own wrongs or misfortunes. We need God’s help to be Christ like to our neighbor, acting as Jesus would act, mediating God’s love.

My God, my God, why have your forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)
Jesus was fully human and no stranger to the anguish of despair. His own cry can help us also through the dark times, so that we may emerge with our faith strengthened.

I am thirsty. (John 19:28)
When he cried out in thirst, someone answered this cry. May we in our time, answer the cry of those in our world who are hungry and thirsty.

It is finished. (John 19:30)
Jesus died believing he had done the will of God and accomplished the work he was called to do. His focus on his calling is what we need to do in our life, so at the end of our days we do not die suddenly and unprepared, and squander the gifts of love and life.

Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit. (Luke 23:46)
On the cross, Jesus died trusting fully in his Father. May we all have such confidence in the hour of death. May we know that Jesus has conquered death for us all.

Even with these words for us, with faith, hope & trust, we end with the silence of the cross. St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “The death of Jesus is a mystery wrought in the silence of God.”

When I think of that silence, I always think of the inscription found in a house where Jews were hiding from the Nazis in WW II…
I believe in the sun when it's not shining,
I believe in love even when I feel it not,
I believe in God even when God is silent. 

 And in the silence of cross & tomb, we faithfully wait. Amen.

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