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Sermon for Good Friday 2021

2nd Apr 2021


Good Friday Sermon 

 

 

When we speak of ‘Good’ Friday perhaps we are very uncertain about what this ‘good’ means. The following verses of a medieval Good Friday carol rejoice in the Cross as showing the world a true and real love, and in this showing, the saving death of Christ and the life of the singer become involved in one another as though they were partners in a dance. The medieval Christian mind could conceive of these things and draw strength and joy in their expression in a way I think we might find quite strange. He sings:

 

Sing, O my love, O my love, my love, my love;

This have I done for my true love.

 

For thirty pence Judas me sold,

His covetousness for to advance;

“Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold,”

The same is he shall lead the dance.

 

Then on the cross hanged I was,

Where a spear to my heart did glance;

There issued forth both water and blood,

To call my true love to my dance.

 

Sing, O my love, O my love, my love, my love;

This have I done for my true love.

 

Good Friday sees God’s love shown in giving his Son to a fallen and a largely ambivalent world. Christ dies in a Jerusalem swollen in population to ten times its normal size, and busy and preoccupied in coming to Jerusalem for the Passover. Nothing particularly new there, for even this morning as our Good Friday walk of witness wended its way around the King’s Cross churches, you passed working scaffolders, joggers, men delivering beer barrels, a boy practicing his basketball skills and a speeding ambulance passing by with screaming siren. Christ comes to us in the thick of life and speaks to us there. And in the crowd this morning, the crowd of Christians making this walk of witness were Christians who know all too well that if Christ is the God who dies for love of you and me he is the One who dies for all that we have to suffer and for all we have to understand and to bear, of all those things that have caused us pain and disappointment and loneliness as well as those things which bring us that joyful and self-confident exuberance which we find in that medieval Good Friday carol. This morning the Good Friday King’s Cross walk of witness turned out not to be just a mere ritual but one in which the wooden cross wended its way around the district with us following as in a dance, and where life and death and everything else in between finds a partnering of the ambivalent world with the passionate expression of faith, of the Jesus who gave himself not just for the Christian gathering, but also included others in the dance, too, even those who were not strictly paying it much attention.

 

Good Friday does something which we do not feel that good about. It takes us to a place in which we may know Christ only in the fact of his suffering and death. In this way is God leading us to know the Cross as a sign of contradiction. The Cross comes to shatter our illusions about a God we enjoy calling the God of love without responding to that love which ‘searches us out and knows us’. And in that searching and knowing is the plain fact of our mortality with the accompanying fact of its beauty and trajedy and with the existence of faith as a kind of longing and the recognition of life as ‘unfinished business’. The Spanish Mystic, St John of the Cross tells us that

 

 “…we too must have our Cross as our beloved had his Cross until he died the death of love”. 

 

St Paul was certain that to be Christian at all was to share a Cross with the One who dies on the Cross. His Christianity was also a longing,

 

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. Philippians 3.10

 

We come before God wounded, vulnerable and broken. That is our Cross. And it is Christ, who lies before us in this church dedicated to the Holy Cross who tells us this. And the teaching we receive from the Cross is the teaching that issues out of Christ’s own manner of living and dying, as the Letter to the Hebrews informs us: 

 

“…during his life on earth, Jesus offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard”. 

 

We all have our crosses to bear and they are not little ones. We are cross bearers too. Many people come to this church in King’s Cross defeated by life. One of these visitors said to me that she had come into this church because prompted. For out of all her suffering came a prayer, which appeared out of apparently nowhere. It was one which told her that something that to give, something had to be done. But this prospect was awful because with it the terrible realisation of all that had gone before and what had brought her to this place. The pain was numbing and deadening. But she came into church as many at rock bottom do – to come to a place of seeming truth. And her coming into this church and the sense of communion with God had helped to addressed and exacerbated the pain. This is the scope of the Cross.  ‘It is after all a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Terrible, because all is caught up in God, even and especially when no easy resolution lies in sight…life as unfinished business, the painful waiting for a deliverance which lies beyond immediate reach, the pain of remaining where we are in the midst of so much that is intractible and insoluable with the possibility of the healing of past hurts and their memories… This is a true Cross. 

 

But this is not to be the end of the matter. In this church of Holy Cross,  the Cross is the same one of which the medieval caroler sang all those hundreds of years ago. It is proclaimed sadly and yet joyfully, for it has become our true centre, the revelation of divine love, and the arrival at the place of truer witness. This is the Cross through which the pain of this world’s living and longing can be held and channeled and healed. All is being drawn into the Cross as he said “When I am lifted up I shall draw all things to myself”. We are to bear the Cross as the Cross bears us, for in it the promised Resurrection to new life is already being made. In this divine and human at-one-ness is the true ‘good’ which we celebrate and honour and mourn on Good Friday. 

 

 

Amen.