Friday, April 03, 2015

How can this be "Good" Friday?

Good Friday at 7pm

It is Good Friday the day Jesus died for us and for our sins.

I don’t have to tell you what death looks like. You have seen it with your own eyes all too often. When we look at the cross and its suffering we know that we have done the same a hundred times with our loved ones and our friends.

This week on PBS almost as it it came timed perfectly, we had the opportunity to watch the most recent KenBurns masterpiece; “Cancer: the Emperor of all maladies.” More than once, if you were like me, we fought back the tears as the relentless and conniving cancer cells found their way around so many promising clinical efforts to treat the disease. 

And so we fix our eyes tonight on Jesus. Seeing him upon the cross once again is a reminder of just how ugly sin can be, particularly when it joins with death in its consummation.

The experience reminds me of the finality of coming to a brick wall, or the frozen icy grave of winter’s long and relentless grip. 

Oh God!

That is all we have left at that moment; God!

A wise nun once taught me a lesson I shall not soon forget about Good Friday. Begin, she said, by making a list in your heart of the ten most important things in your life. Don’t think you have to come up with all ten right now but the list might contain your spouse, your children each by name, your career, your faith, friends, God, Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit, hobbies, travel, savings and investments, your mind, your memory and your intelligence. Everyone’s list will contain specifics that are peculiar to your own personhood.

Now, imagine that it is the last ten days of your life and you have to give up one item on your list of ten most important things each day. 

You come to the last day and you must now give up that one last and most precious thing. This is where Good Friday becomes very, very Good indeed. That is because even if you may have forgotten to put Jesus or God or the Holy Spirit on your list; God cannot forget to put you on that list.

As life slips away the Great Mystery of Good Friday is that we fall into the hands of God.

I received a phone call one day from a doctor whose family was gathering at a local hospital in Euclid, Ohio where I was serving at the time. They were members of the Church of Mar Thoma, a church that shares full communion with the Episcopal Church. 

When I arrived at the bedside of the dying woman she gave me a look of recognition as to why we were all so lovingly gathered together. I said the prayers prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer “At the Time of Death”. I anointed her with oil, I gave her communion. And then we awaited the final moment. During the vigil we sang the songs she taught her children when they were young; “Jesus love me, this I know.” We recited the Psalms she loved; “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help”, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear though the earth be moved and thought the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea”. And on and on it went until her last moments came, and she gave up her spirit and she breathed her last. 

At that moment the eldest daughter looked up as if heaven were contained within that room and exclaimed; “Look, there goes Momee into heaven!” There was a paroxysm of grief and the family embraced one another and I said the final commendation. There were tears of gratitude for the love and care that was in that room and throughout the life of that family.

But more than that we all found our faith again even in that darkest moment.

Good Friday is very Good indeed.
Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again

And now may the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen

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