Sermon for April 18,
2014 ~ Good Friday
gathering today could be a memorial service. The setting is subdued; most of
the usual colour is gone. We come on such a day with strong feelings stirred
by our imagination, or we are drawn but don't know what we feel. When we have
funeral services, they are not for the deceased – but for us. Good Friday is
not about distress. Good Friday is about comfort.
funeral that I ever attended was for my high school friend Ricky. He was
diabetic but didn't seem to care. He didn't take care of himself with diet or
his insulin. He stashed away a lot of candy and chocolate and in the end it
all led to his death at 16. I was really angry and confused at the funeral. I
didn't understand what was going on. I don't think Ricky would have either.
I'm not sure who I was angry at. I thought about what could have been. He
could have had a life. Was I angry with others for not preventing this? Could
I have done something? No. I missed my friend who used to make me laugh. He
affected me. He mattered to me. Now he was no more. I didn't know what to
do. Maybe the funeral was trying to comfort me – but I don't remember one
word, only my feelings. It was like the curtain fell before the show was over.
Would something like that happen to me? The question, "Where was God?" really
started a journey for me.
Friday story tells us that Jesus cried out his abandonment using words from
Psalm 22 which goes on to say, "he listened when I cried out to him for
help" (verse 24). Strange how even in his darkest time, Jesus chose to
recite God's words.
In recent years,
using that darkness theme, we have had a Tenebrae service (service of darkness)
on this day and have tried to darken this room. We used paper and cloth as
black-out curtains. We pinned and taped and covered. But it's hard to keep
the light out when it wants to get in. At the service, two years ago, the
paper fell down just before the end and let the light shine through. The
unexpected light affected us all. "Did you see that?" people said to one
another afterward… "Did you plan that pastor?" The falling curtain got our
attention. It gave a message.
We hear about
the tearing of the curtain in the temple at the moment of Jesus' death. It's
part of a series of events that are outlined, telling us that one thing affects
another. The death of Jesus:
- tore down
the curtain of separation from God;
- like an
earthquake, it shattered the foundations of life as we knew it;
- and death
was changed, upset, and disturbed.
affects another. Friendly help brightens us. Feeling abandoned brings
- By carrying
away our sins… becoming sin, Jesus comforts and removes all barriers for
our approach to God.
affects how we think about ourselves and God.
entering death with God's words of anxiety & comfort can change how we
man landed in the hospital. I used to visit him and would often read a chapter
or psalm to him before I left. He was in bad condition. I chatted with him.
He looked at me but didn't say much. I watched the machines that monitored him
and listened to them. Then I said, "May I read to you?" He finally spoke to
me saying, "I was wondering when you were going to get around to that." God's
story affected him when nothing else did. He died shortly afterward with those
words his final friend.
means that even in death or abandonment, God is present. In all our unspoken
fear, lonely feelings, and cries in the dark… God is present. We are received
by the one to whom Jesus let himself go – into the arms of our creator, into
the current of grace.
I don`t know
why Ricky was so reckless… there is so much of his brief life that was a
mystery to me, but Good Friday tells me that because of Jesus on the cross,
God was there. I have not forgotten my friend. His death taught me about the
preciousness of life and caused me to wonder about God. One thing affects
A man dies,
the ground quakes, the temple curtain falls, death is disturbed. Everything is
not "same old, same old" after Good Friday.
nailed down for us on the cross is that God is present, even if no one else
is. A broken curtain tells us that God welcomes… all our feelings: guilt,
despair, rage. In Jesus, God has been there – from the cooing of a newborn to
the cry of lonely suffering. God has been there. God will take us home.
can't understand suffering or know what it is like, when the past is gone and
it is too dark to see ahead… God is there. As Jesus was in life, so is he in
death. Forgiveness, friendship and faith: God is there. We are not forgotten or
This death and
all that follows can teach us how to live again. It's the comfort of this
day. One thing affects another. One person affects another. It's the story
of Jesus and the disciples. It`s your story too.