Good Friday 2015
In any consideration of this day, there has to be a moment of account. None of us comes to this liturgy without a thought for what it is that we are doing here, and none of us should leave this afternoon without having been moved into applying the emotions and feelings we’ve come with, to the impact which this liturgy makes on our life today. No matter that we’ve already lived through many Good Friday liturgies, no matter that we think we know the story, it is this liturgy today which matters because it speaks to us in the present and not the past. All of us without exception will be concerned about something that is happening in our lives right now, and we can’t simply experience this commemoration of the passion in isolation from that thought and what that means. How each of us does this well that ‘s down to us, but it’s worth a moment of reflection – how does the cross fit into my understanding of myself and of my relationships. Is it meaningful in a way that helps my understanding, enabling me to grow and to come to terms with what it implies. We are here with our thoughts. It may be the stress of caring for a loved one, say a husband or wife suffering a chronic or terminal illness. It may be the anxiety of sitting at the bedside of a very poorly or dying relative and wondering whether they will recover or how their death will come. It may be a concern for the welfare of a vulnerable person we know. It may be the prospect of a change in circumstances, and of how to manage and cope with that change. It may be a personal feeling of depression, loneliness or isolation. It may be a concern for the country at this time of change. It may be concern for the state and plight of fellow Christians in perilous conditions. What ever it is, we are here literally at the foot of the cross with these and so many other thoughts, and to think about them alongside the passion of Jesus draws them into a narrative reality which speaks a very particular language – the language of the cross; the language of suffering. Can we apply this language of the cross, using the words and deeds of Jesus which he speaks to us today, to bring us a perspective which gives us help and encouragement in dealing with the things which concern and worry us at this time?
At first glance in St John’s gospel, the words of Jesus from the cross, seem quite sparse and limited, but we should note three things which derive from them: a loving care for the community, a personal concern for each one of us and the imparting of a precious gift to the world. The community which Jesus forms from the cross is the church, and it is important to know that its birth is from this moment of sorrow and distress. As members of the church we are forged from this moment and in our giving of selves we take on the mantle of Jesus. The church must therefore be the way and the means by which the mercy and love of Jesus is made manifest. Its consolation and compassion must in essence derive from the act of love which he showed us in his act of self giving. As he did on the night of the Last Supper and as we copied last night so we must continually affect it in peoples’ lives. Those we love, those we care about, those we are closest to, yes of course but also to the marginalised and the unloved, the stranger and the outcast. To those who suffer because they feel abandoned and ostracised by the church and society, these too long to experience the care and fellowship which draws us in and unites us in love. Each family in its journey to the Father must in its suffering feel supported and cared for by those walking alongside it.
As individuals we must also know and feel that we matter and are of value. Jesus thirsts for love of each of us, he desires to know us, to know our hopes and what we aspire to. Just like the woman at the well, he wishes to endow us with that living water which will well up and quench and satisfy our ambitions as well as soothe our fears. He knows our lives are not straightforward, just as he knew the complications of that Samaritans woman’s life, yet he also knows that if we place our concerns with him the burdens we carry are lightened for us. That he thirsts for us from the cross shows the depth of his love for us. In spite of how harshly we treat him, in spite of how far we may wonder from him, that desire to call us back remains, even from the depth of his own suffering.
The totality of his love is climaxed through his gift of the spirit. When he has exhausted all that he can bodily achieve. After all that can be done to him by the world has been done to him. After he has poured out from himself the last breath of love in him, the Father, with the Son, continues to love the world. When it is accomplished the spirit is given, handed over to the world. It is the Spirit given at the moment of greatest crisis and suffering that comes to us in our time of need, to console and to give strength, but also to endow us with wisdom. To show us the way ahead, to show us how to overcome our fears for the future, to show us how to trust in the God who loves us to the end.
We have today made a conscious choice to come to this little church today and to this very particular liturgy with our own thoughts and concerns, with our own anxieties and personal difficulties in other words with our suffering. We place them at the foot of the cross and in a moment we will proclaim that on this cross hangs the saviour of the world. This may seem inexplicable to many. That Jesus of Nazareth, a man done to death 2000 years ago in the most gruesome of means known, should be our redeemer, the one who can take up all our sufferings and expiate them. It is because in this man is the fullness of God’s revealing love, a love which goes to the depth of our human suffering and overcomes it. The Son’s task is now accomplished, so that the Father’s will begin, and lead us through suffering, to the Resurrection.
We adore you O Christ and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.