Good Friday 2013
As a child I found going to Church on Good Friday a little bit scary. Exciting scary like a ride on a ghost train. The hooded statues, the freshness and starkness of everything. The lack of flowers, the quietness of the Church. The priests seeming a little distant, a little far away. By the time Good Friday arrived I was thinking about nothing but sweets. Mt mind was filled with thoughts of dolly mixtures and midget gems and cadbury’s cream eggs. I knew where they were stashed, I imagined how I would eat mine, with a small tea spoon scooping out the centre. So Good Friday was this incredible experience of the senses being starved, starved of taste and colour. It still is, it’s an emotional ride through the very core of our Christian being, the essence of who we are. This day, this time is reflection, remembrance and reality, reflection upon our Faith, remembrance of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and a unique exposure to the reality of what we are made for: Sacrifice, service. These days for all of us are full of deep emotion. Last night after we had celebrated the lord’s Supper, watched and prayed til 10 and walked from St Francis to here, I sat down and was quite overcome with emotion. We touch something in these days that is very near to home. If I were to try and express what we all sense when we experience loneliness and grief, loss and profound inner pain, it is a longing for home, somehow these days bring us close to that for which we long, to feel finally and forever; home. It’s hard just to go straight to sleep with that kind of emotion, and by providence a priest friend phoned: He said “brother I didn’t want to be myself, can we just talk for a while?” We shared with each other our experience of the evening, poured a glass of wine as we chatted, talked about the Pope’s homily that day and after 30 minutes or so we bid each other good night.” Priests in these days are immersed in the very core of what they are and who they act as and for – Jesus Christ. It is an overwhelming reality – pray for your priests, walk with your priests, we are fellow pilgrims entrusted with guiding and teaching, but often we feel just like I did as a little kid, a bit scared and often distracted.
Into this starkness, into this starvation of the senses bursts Jesus Christ crucified. What does this mean, why do we preach this as Glory, why do we boast in the cross of Jesus Christ: because all of our shame, all of our sin, all of our weakness, a failing, our anger, our bitterness, our grief, our loneliness and loss is nailed there. Jesus Christ, the son of God, the servant King takes upon his shoulders and into his heart, the very stench, sourness and horror of it all and makes it love. Because God is Love, in Jesus Christ crucified we have the perfection of love. Total self sacrifice. There is then no option for the Christian pilgrim, there can be no avoiding this reality, to avoid the cross, to not nail our lives to the cross, to not place the cross at the centre of everything we are, is to be something less than human and very far from home. There is the mystery and the reality, that in embracing the Cross of Christ, unifying our suffering with his, is to be most at home, and more human. Are we human when we are bitter and angry, are we human when we are jealous and condemning, are we human when we take the easier options and choose not to serve.
When Christ is at the centre, when the cross is planted firmly in our lives, when we nail everything to that cross we become more beautiful and human than we can possibly imagine, because the tree of death has become the tree of life.
‘Without beauty, without majesty we saw him, no looks to attract our eyes; a thing despised by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, a man to make people screen their faces; he was despised and we took no account of him.’
And yet there is nothing more majestic and beautiful. We might think of our sufferings and difficulties as ugly and harsh and something to be overcome. If we offer them, if we unite them with Christ if we nail them to the cross they will make us beautiful, they will make us human. We might think our past, our sins are too much. We may think we can never be beautiful, or confident or hold our heads up to the world. The harsh condemning world, the judgemental, unforgiving, low standards, high shaming world. The world we contribute to. That is the tempter at work, underming us, seeking to prevent us from believing in the glory and wonder of our Saviour Jesus Christ, because in him we can boast and hold our heads up, whatever our past, whatever anyone elese thinks of us, whoever else has condemned us. God does not condemn us. We condemn ourselves to being less human, less beautiful if we deny ourselves the lover made perfect, nailed to a tree, a tree with roots that run deep through creation and can transform us all.
There’s a song – We found love in hopeless place - I love listening to the kids on our project singing it – none of us is a hopeless place, because love has made every place, hope filled, every person no longer a problem but a possibility.