Another Kind of Birthday
The Rev. Jennifer Adams – Sermon preached on April 3, 2015
I’m coming down here in the aisle to preach, because this is where I want to be today. Not alone up there, although it never really feels like that. You’re never very distant. But today I want to be right here, so that we can reach out to each other more easily. So that we can huddle if we need to. So that nobody is alone, because today, of all days, nobody should have to be.
I actually think that is the message that’s tucked in to the story of Good Friday. Nobody is alone in this. Humanity’s not even alone in this. “This” meaning life, “this” meaning death, “this” meaning hurt or suffering or injustice. I think that’s the message tucked in to this story of Good Friday. And I think that ‘s the message that Good Friday wants to tuck inside of all of us.
“Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” The beloved disciple was with them too and while none of them have gotten the fame that Judas or Peter or Pilate have gotten over the ages, they were right there at the foot of the cross, together.
And while they were standing there on what had to be the most painfully complicated day of their lives, they were given something. Standing there by the cross, they were given one another.
“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home,” the gospel says. So on this of all days, the people at the foot of the cross became family for each other. And none of them had to be alone on this day or any day.
And so sometimes I’ve wondered if Good Friday is actually the birthday of the church. I know we have resurrection coming, so rebirth is on its way. And our numbers are higher on that day so in every way it’s more celebratory. But on that day the women and the disciples all just ran in lots of different directions, frightened by the empty tomb. I also know that traditionally we acknowledge the church’s birthday on Pentecost fifty-three days from now – because that’s when we celebrate that the Spirit came upon the disciples. And so I promise that on Pentecost, we will celebrate birth.
But I wonder if today is a birthday too, or we should at least let it be. This is that moment in the story when some of the people who loved Jesus sat together, close enough to reach out to each other, aware of the needs of the other and present to the suffering of this world. Together they watched the sky go black. They experienced their leaders’ fears. They knew the disciples’ struggles. They shared their own pain and confusion and the unknowing of it all. And in the midst of all of that something amazing happened.
Something holy happened.
As they sat there, God was not only present in Christ, but God was present to them too. And this is a miracle not to lose today. God was present to them – redefining their way of being together. God was showing them how to love and giving them to each other. They became household right there at the foot of the cross. I would argue that in many ways, they were at least beginning to be church.
And so I want to say that as hard as this is, we’re OK here today. We’re beginning again here today. We have been called to be church here in this place, maybe to help rebirth the church as a people who know our place among the suffering of this world.
Here at the cross God is showing us how to love. God is giving us one another. So remember to stand close enough to reach out to one another and to others too. Behold our brothers, our sisters, our kids! Behold one another as church! Because from this place, maybe most especially in this place, God is holding us.
From this place we can become the kind of household that redefines what it means to do love in this world.