Friday, April 03, 2015

Good Friday: It Is Finished...

Preached at the noon Good Friday liturgy at St. Andrew's Cathedral.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42

Jesus said, “It is finished.”

On Good Friday, it is always John’s account we read of the passion and death of our Savior Jesus Christ.  On Good Friday, then, because John does not include them in his telling, there is no Passover meal, no agony in the garden, no prayer for the passing of this cup, no cry of forsakenness from the cross, no earthquake, no darkness, no curtain of the temple torn in two.

On Good Friday, it is finished.  It is no longer how we got here that matters.  If we must confess our complicity this day, it is with the help of the prophet Isaiah…All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and God has laid on one the iniquity of us all.  We know.  We’ve been trailing ashes and dust behind us all the long season of Lent, remembering and repenting the countless ways we deny and betray God’s will for us, God’s image in us.  Forgive us, we have prayed.

On Good Friday, it is finished.  It is not even exactly what happened there that matters, the heartbreaking, heartstopping details of sweat and anguish and pain and grief.   If we must this day recall the suffering of Christ himself, it is with the psalmist…I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; my heart within my breast is melting wax; my mouth is dried out, my tongue sticks; I can count all my bones.     

What matters today, on Good Friday, the way John tells it…all that matters is knowing who this Jesus is, and who we are because we followed him here.  I am…Jesus has said throughout the fourth gospel.  I am…he has said, echoing the ancient and unspeakable name of God.  I am the bread of life.  I am the good shepherd.  I am the way.  I am resurrection, and I am life.  When they come to arrest him and ask for Jesus of Nazareth, he answers, I am he, and John tell us they fall to the ground.   Did they hear in his voice God from God, Light from Light?  For just a moment, did they know that they were laying hands on the maker of heaven and earth?

From the first words of John’s gospel to the very last verse, we know that Jesus, for all the blood in his veins and breath in his lungs and bones in his body, that Jesus is the living God, who knows all that will happen to him and still chooses to heal the sick and love the sinner and confront injustice and show mercy and go to Golgotha – having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  The story of his passion – and if the word means suffering, it also means a fierce and active and intentional and abiding love – the story of all Jesus ever did and all he ever suffered and all he ever loved begins, in that gospel, long before our denials and betrayals, long before Bethlehem, long before, well…In the beginning, John writes, In the very beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and through him all things were made.  In him was light, and the light was the life of all people.  And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, full of grace and truth.

“The first word,” another preacher has written of the passion of our Savior Jesus Christ, “The first word was Love.  Then the mistakes, the hurts done to us and to others, every good thing, every lost love, every good intention ended badly, every bad choice redeemed, every step in the dark toward an unknown destination: Love had already arrived.  And the last word is Love.  It’s all there is.”   It’s all that matters.

On Good Friday, it is God, the great I AM, the maker of heaven and earth, in whose image even we are made…it is God in Jesus Christ who has followed us here, through all the ashes and dust of our failure, through the pain that is sin’s consequence, to the cross, where love was meant to be defeated, but instead it is finished.  Not “it is ended,” not “it is over,” not “it is done.”  Love, the first and last word, has finished revealing its fullness and faithfulness and fearlessness.  It is fulfilled.  It is consummated.  It is known this day for all its breadth and depth and width.  Jesus Christ, we say in our morning prayers, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that the whole world might come within the reach of your saving embrace.  The work of the cross is finished.  But it is not, sisters and brothers, ended. 

For God so loved the world as to give God’s Son, that all who believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life.  On Good Friday of all days, new life begins, a life of outstretched arms.  An empty tomb will be the sign soon enough, but our salvation begins right here.  Love as I have loved, Jesus asked of his friends, love, he asks of us, and if we thought washing feet would be hard…on Good Friday we know, deeply and painfully and powerfully, that love does not stop with a basin and towel but goes to where life and light and love and grace and truth seem for all the world to have come to an end.  On Good Friday, this is where God is, this is where love is, and that’s what matters.  It is how, trembling, we begin to pray for this ashes and dust and beloved world as Christ prayed for us in the hours before his death.  It is how on this day of all days our prayers end with this one…O God of unchangeable power and eternal light…carry out the plan of your salvation, let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new.  It is finished.  But it is not ended.

Love as I have loved, Jesus has asked of us, his living body.  Love, fiercely and actively and intentionally, and just see what happens when love meets failure, meets sorrow, meets pain, meets even death.   Sisters and brothers, it is begun.  Amen.

1 comment:

Cathy said...