Good Friday, March 25, 2016
There are many pathways, many journeys to God’s truth. God is revealed to us, to Christians, through his son, Jesus.
Sitting with a friend, eating breakfast at the hideaway bakery the other day, I mentioned to her that I had accepted an offer to preach on Good Friday at my church. My friend reached in her bag and retrieved a Biblical Scholar’s critique on the four gospel passion narratives. Imagine that. Thank God for friends and for scholars. The author is Raymond Brown, a highly respected Biblical Scholar. His small book on the four Passion Narratives in the Gospels depicts three different sides of Jesus.
This is our story, this is where we start to see our connection to God. It all starts with our story. We heard the gospel of John tonight. John’s Jesus knows where he is going and goes willingly. Because John’s Jesus walks with his head held high and his identity grounded in God the Father, I think that it is safe to walk along with him on his journey. John’s Jesus carries his own cross. We though, at times may need a few Veronicas to wipe our face as she wipes the face of Jesus in our Stations of the Cross over there on the wall. We will also need many Simons of Cyrene to help carry our crosses. Walking beside a Jesus who knows where he began and where he will end, knows that God is the alpha and the omega, this Jesus will lead us in the right direction. John’s Jesus will lead us to God. I think that we are safe here. This is Love’s Journey. This is the journey of God’s agape Love.
Before we start our trip tonight, let’s hear what Raymond Brown says about the Jewish role in Jesus’ crucifixion. He tells us that we must, when hearing the gospel proclaimed, reckon with the implications inherent in the fact that God is revealed to us in the words of men and however explicable in the times in which they originated are wrong attitudes to be repeated today. If Jesus was treated harshly by the literal minded religious people of his time, it is quite likely that he would be treated harshly by similar religious people of our time, including Christians. Now back to our trip with Jesus.
At first I thought that it was presumptuous of me to imagine accompanying Jesus on his way to Golgatha. Then I thought maybe Jesus would want us to do just that. Maybe he wanted us to learn from him along the way. Remember his words in Matthew.
Come to me all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; learn from me;
for I am gentle and lowly in heart.
This message of learning from Jesus seems to be an invitation to join him, even on the way to his death.
We will need Veronicas on our way. We will need someone or a community of someones to wipe our face as we meet with obstacles on our journey.
I spent my first twenty years in upper Up State New York near Canada where winters are cold and windy. Buffalo is situated on Lake Erie and the icy winds blow off the lake from Canada. When I was eight years old my mother and I took the bus downtown on a Thurs. night to do some shopping. Department Stores were open on Thurs. night till 9:00. We had finished shopping, it was dark and the temperature was below freezing. The icy winds were hitting us as we waited for a bus to take us home. I became extremely cold. I loudly expressed my pain with noise and tears; the bus wasn’t in sight. Without words, the others at the bus stop gathered together and encircled me with their warmth and shielded me from the wind. That happened 67 years ago and I still remember the love and caring of my Veronicas. They asked nothing of me or my mother. This gift was given freely as was Veronica’s in our Stations of the Cross. God’s grace is freely given as we travel on our way.
Was it the divine light within these people that caused them to reach out to a little eight year old? I believe so. We may not be conscious most days of that divine indwelling, that core of God’s love, that spark of Jesus’ Spirit within us but it is there none the less. Was this Jesus’ message, his teaching? Did he want us to know that we don’t journey alone but with others who possess his light? Does he teach along the way that our very own light is always available to connect us to God? Is that the light that caused Jesus to walk with assurance on this journey? We were after all created in God’s image. All of us here were so created. Even in our difficult times, even when we feel disconnected from God, even if we don’t recognize that core of the true self, it is always there.
In John’s gospel Jesus says to the gathered crowd
I Am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness
but will have the light of life.
Also in John’s gospel Jesus says to his disciples before his arrest, before Peter denies him three times and when Thomas says to Jesus, ” Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus says to them all,
I Am the way, and the truth and the life
I will lead you to my father because he is in me and I am in him.
Our connection to God of course brings much joy and also sorrow and pain. A deep awareness of one causes a deep awareness of the other. The mystics know this. Teilhard de Chardin, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, St. Paul all knew that joy and sorrow are one. Jesus knew this more than anyone. After all he knew the sorrow, the pain of the whole world. God always knows this pain and promises that in amongst all the pain will be God’s presence and his love. We too know this. We know that there can be tremendous love shown by friends, family and complete strangers. Ask anyone in a Children’s Hospital oncology ward. This hospital community suffers together and they also cry with joy together. That spirit of joy and love does pass all understanding. Jesus’ Holy Spirit certainly is present. This in some way in also connected with Jesus’ walk to Golgatha. If we are not afraid we can walk along side and learn from him all the time.
In John’s passion narrative we have his mother Mary, Mary’s sister and Mary Magdalene at the foot of his cross. Also and only in the gospel of John we have the Beloved Disciple. The Beloved Disciple is never identified. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple, whom he loved, standing there, he said to his mother,
Woman behold your son
and then he said to his disciple
Behold your mother
At this moment Mary, the mother of God, becomes the unidentified disciple’s mother and the community we now belong to was formed. I believe that the Beloved Disciple represents all of us, all who attempt to follow Jesus’ teachings. This is our story.
Jesus gives us a new commandment which is to love one another as he has loved us. His agape love for us is unconditional and everlasting. This is how Jesus tells his community to live. This, Jesus says is how others will know that you are my disciples. They will know me through your love for each other.
This is our story. Tonight is a dark time in our story. Tonight we are still walking beside Jesus and remember these words of the Taize chant we sometimes sing before communion, before receiving the body and blood of Jesus.
Our darkness is never darkness in your sight:
the deepest night is clear as the daylight.