Sermon from the Vicar 25 March 2016 Good Friday

Good Friday 2016 Isaiah 52: 13-53: 12, Hebrews 4: 14-16, 5: 7-9, John 18-19

Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.”  On Good Friday we witness to that love in all its fullness in Jesus death on the cross.

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?  Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.

I think of these words when I walk in the corridors and wards of the hospital. I think of them when I visit the prison.  I think of them when I hear about people in our own city beset by unresolved earthquake claims, when I read in the paper and watch coverage of world events such as natural disasters, wars, influxes of refugees, and so on.  The pain that surrounds us seems overwhelming, and, if you are anything like me, passing by without looking too closely is the safest option.  That way we don’t have to confront the sorrow.

In reality, people’s suffering isn’t ‘nothing’: it is something and each person’s sorrow is unique.  Jesus could not walk by sorrow and suffering.  Loving as Jesus loved means going to where the pain and sorrow are most intense.  This is the way he loved people, by healing them, by raising them, by freeing them.

Jesus reflected the pain and sorrow so that the leaders of the temple and nation could not possibly miss it, by parables, by teaching and argumentation.  In doing this he not only consoled individuals and families, but he confronted the evil one the Devil; indeed the reason that there are people who are poor, oppressed, captives and blind.    Those in charge of the current arrangements didn’t like what Jesus reflected to them of reality.  They decided that by killing Jesus they could destroy his message and the hopes of people who believed in it.  Loving as Jesus loved means telling the truth and bearing the cost.

Chris Trotter’s opinion piece this week in The Press included comment arising from last December’s (COP 21) Climate Change Conference in Paris.  An American Journalist interviewed a scientist working for the Tyndale Centre for Climate Change who said, “So far we simply have not been prepared to accept the revolutionary implications of our own findings, and even when we do we are reluctant to voice such thoughts openly…many are ultimately choosing to censor their own research.”  When asked why, he continued, “What we are afraid of doing is putting forward analysis that questions the paradigm; the economic way that we run society today…We fine tune our analysis so that it fits into the economic reality of our society, the current economic framing.   Actually our science now asks fundamental questions about this idea of economic growth in the short term, but we’re very reluctant to say that.  In fact, the funding bodies are reluctant to fund research that raises those questions.”

Loving as Jesus loved means telling the truth and bearing the cost. We have to realise that the kingdom of God that Jesus speaks of is just as alien, and difficult to conceptualise, as a response to climate change and global poverty that involves a different economic and political paradigm.

Pilate said to Jesus, “So you are a king?”  Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king.  For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  Jesus also said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

On Good Friday we are called to face the truth:  The truth about ourselves and our family, the truth about our city and our nation, the truth about our world.  We recall the awful cost of bearing the truth in the cruel suffering and death of Jesus on the cross and how this was integral to the office of Messiah.  On Good Friday we proclaim the freedom that comes from knowing that truth.  The truth is that God loves us and when we know that truth it will set us free.  This is the atonement that Jesus accomplished on the cross.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.”

Loving as Jesus loved means showing the world, and that means everybody, how much God loves them and laying down our life for them.   

Emil Brunner wrote, “Only at the Cross of Christ does man see fully what it is that separates him from God; yet it is here alone that he perceives that he is no longer separated from God.  Nowhere else does the inviolable holiness of God, the impossibility of overlooking the guilt of man stand out more plainly; but nowhere else also does the limitless mercy of God, which utterly transcends all human standards, stand out more clearly and plainly.”

We move shortly to the Veneration of the cross.  In venerating the cross we do not adore the material image, but rather what it represents. In kneeling before the crucifix and kissing it we are paying the highest honour to our Lord’s cross as the instrument of our salvation. The Cross is inseparable from His sacrifice that he made once for all.  In reverencing His Cross we, in effect, adore Christ. On Good Friday is customary not to celebrate the Eucharist.  This veneration of the cross, this adoration of Christ precedes our reception of communion from the Sacrament, reserved last night.  In the veneration of the cross and by receiving communion we continue to proclaim Christ’s death until he comes again.  Loving as Jesus loved means being raised from the dead.