Sermon for Good Friday - April 14 2017

Sermon for Good Friday
April 14, 2017
The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, Rector

Why is this night different from all other nights?

This begins the Passover Seder, when Jews recall the events of the Passover, when God stepped in to enable the great escape from Egypt.

Some 3000 or more years ago, and Jews around the world continue to ask this question every year.

And Christians ask almost the same question – why is this day different from all other days?

In effect, they are the same question – Why do we do this?  Why do we remember these events?  Why are they important?  What is the point?

Because it’s not like the Israelites had it easy after the escape – no one who left Egypt survived to reach the promised land. They all died.

And life wasn’t always easy for them after that, either.

Just as life isn’t always easy for us after the crucifixion, come to that.  The world is still a hot mess.  What were those promises worth?  “Today you will be with me in paradise.” “The Kingdom of Heaven is near. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  Almost here, almost now.

But where?  And when?  They are very … elusive, aren’t they?

So what is the point?

The point is … death.

We are a people terrified of and by death. – whether that is death of dreams, death of hopes, death of friends, death of relatives, death of relationships, death of jobs, and careers, and homes, of our bodies, of our being, of everything we thought we could trust…  DEATH.

I can’t remember the film – it might have been the Return of the King, based on the Tolkien Middle Earth story, or maybe the one with Russel Crowe and the Spartans, though I’m not sure - but there is a scene in some film or other where the underdogs (our heroes) undergo a transformation at some tragic event in the battle, and start crying “Death, death, death, death, death, DEATH, DEATH, DEATH, DEATH, DEATH!”  And the enemy sees the determination on their faces, and quails, and fails, and falls, and flees… and the victory is won, the battle is over and the good guys win…

We want that story.  But just like the enemy in that film – or those films – we too quail, and fail, and fall, and flee from death.

And unfortunately for us, death is all around us.

So why would we revisit the horrible depth of human frailty by taking on ourselves the death, the murder, the execution, the eradication of Jesus – the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Messiah, our healer, teacher, rabbi, friend, the giver of wisdom?

Why would we do that?

For the same reason the Jews recall the Passover every year – to remind us of who – and what – we are.  To remind us of who God is, and to remind us of the lengths to which God is willing to go on our behalf.

Right into death.

And we’re invited along for this walk, these stripes, these tears, this torture, this agony, this effacement, this abasement…this human death of a human body at the hands of humans just like us.

We’re invited into darkness, and the question: If God can die, who can live?

Now what?

What is to become of us, of our dreams, our hopes, our ideas, our beliefs, our trust, our families, our loves, our bodies, our relationships, our very selves and souls, our being … if God can die; if God is dead?

It’s no wonder we don’t want to face death honestly, forthrightly, with humility and weakness.

It’s more than we can bear.

Its’ more than we can bear.

But God bears it.  God bears it with us.  God bears it for us.

Life may – or may not – be a rose garden.  It may be fun and joyful, or bleak and painful.  There may well be wounds, hurts, disappointments, even traumas, from which we may never fully return to our former selves, from which we may never recover.

But today, this rite, this action of our bodies, our voices, our prayers, remembering and retracing the events of this one day some 20 centuries ago – 2 millenia ago – reminds us we do NOT bear it alone. 

And God cannot die – we know this because we remember the rest of the story.  And if God cannot die, then who cannot live, whatever comes of living?

Therefore, the ritual we enact today is an invitation for us to face the worst in ourselves – knowing we are not now and never will be abandoned no matter what, not even in death – and ask ourselves what in US needs to die, to be released into the void forever, so that we, too, may rise with the dawn after our journey into the deepest darkness, all bright and shiny and ready for anything.

I invite you, the ritual invites you, the Church universal in all times and all places invites you, Jesus invites you … GOD invites you:

Enter the darkness. Face the darkness, then let go of what needs to die.

And this invitation is not just for you as an individual but for all of us, together, as a community, as stand-ins for all humanity, for all of creation.  What do we need to let die?  What do we need to put to death?

And then, rise again to live and thrive and love abundantly – not as the world understands these things, but as God gives them in grace and joy and love beyond measure.

The kingdom of heaven is very near and almost now.

Just … here … at the tips of our fingers, where the deepest longing of our souls … touches the divine.


  January 2018  
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