The Rev. Jennifer Adams – April 14, 2017 – Good Friday
One of the things I love about Grace Church is that the members of this congregation very genuinely want to help make the world a better place. Now we don’t always agree on how that should happen, but I believe that that intent to “do good,” to do “faithful good” in and for this world is practically (if not absolutely) unanimous in this place.
We want healing to come to individuals, to nations, to humanity writ large. We want reconciliation where there is division and forgiveness where grudges hold. We want freedom, liberation for others and for ourselves seeing all people as “created in the image of God.” Here at Grace, we call pull each other out from different “sides” and meet in places of compassion and generosity. And that is a gift we should do everything we can to maintain. The world needs us!
This is a congregation that does not by any means agree on everything, yet the people of Grace very genuinely want to believe that in the end as the saying goes, love wins. And not only that, but we make efforts from varieties of directions, including outreach and prayer, toward helping that happen in our own lives and as a community of faith.
And so I would safely bet that today breaks whatever heart you have brought with you into this space. This story contains all the “stuff” we hope not to promote, yet alone embody. This part of the gospel in many ways contains all that we fight against and so it is so very hard to hear. This is betrayal, injustice, abandonment, and fear all taking hold on a level that was nothing short of devastating. This is human failure and blatant sin. “Created in the image of God” seems to have been the furthest thing from just about everyone’s mind in this gospel story. Jesus was utterly alone. There was mocking and lying and struggles for power and more grief and confusion than even the strongest among them could manage to behold for long.
And so this is not who we want to be. This is not who we have been called to be.
And yet this is also who we are. And maybe that’s what’s breaking our hearts today. We are a good people here who together make each other better people, and I remain absolutely committed to that project and I hope you are too. But today calls us into a different kind of space, not the kind of space in which we usually come together at Grace.
Today makes room not for who we hope to be or are called to be, but for the parts of each of us and this world that are more broken than they are whole, more fearful than they are strong, more untrue than they are honest, more unjust than they are just. And as hard and painful as it is today, this is our story today. And to deny it would be to miss part of the point.
Today we are given space to weep for the Christ and to weep for this world, because “image of God” just isn’t always in the front of our minds all the time either. This is the day of failing to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is the day of “things done and left undone.” We aren’t here today as the people with the white hats shocked at that of which others are capable; we’re here as a people who when taken in our entirety, run grey. Just like pretty much everyone else.
Jesus was alone on Good Friday and maybe we need to let him be. While just yesterday we became Body of Christ through service and feast, today we are Judas and Peter and Pilate and the crowds. Today we are Nicodemus and the women and Joseph of Arimethea. We are a complicated people and we are part of the mess. And it’s OK to be in that space, not for the purpose of instilling guilt, but for the sake of acknowledging our own truths. And ultimately to receive our own healing, our own redeeming.
What’s so amazing about this story is that Jesus stayed present through it all. Even though alone, he stayed present to them and to us all. Jesus didn’t leave the garden when the disciples fell asleep or forever abandon the ones in the courtyard when they denied him. He didn’t leave the courtroom when truth was denied this world. Jesus didn’t even leave the cross when he was, at the hands of some very horrible versions of what it means to be human, sentenced to death.
And that is the good news today. It’s not the kind of good news that says “Here’s who you can be!” or Here’s who we can be.” It’s the kind of good news that says, “Here’s who God is.”
And it is so very hard, but it is also grace. It is profoundly and utterly grace for us and for this world.
Today we need God because we are blatantly, humanly, and at times terribly disappointingly, not God. We fail to honor that image in one another and in ourselves” on an all too regular basis. No matter how genuine our intentions or how passionate our desires for goodness, we can’t redeem ourselves or this world by ourselves. Even together, we can’t fill a cross with glory; we can’t make this human mess into a glorious battle, nor should we ever try to.
But what we learn these three days is that God can and God will. In some ways God already has because God is here through it all, being God. In ways that we can’t. And so part of the very real goodness of this day is that we are invited to jump into the gospel story whole, heartbreakingly, yet gracefully, whole.
Healing comes, people of Grace. Reconciliation happens people of this world! Liberation breaks through, children of God one and all.
And love wins. Not ours alone, but God’s.