The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Please pray with me this evening, church:
Hold us in our hurt and suffering.
Draw us close to you.
Draw us to the cross.
Draw us in as we behold your suffering and death,
And in so doing, behold our salvation.
Love is costly, dear friends.
As we enter into this night of longest shadows, it’s worth remembering that love led us to this place. Love brought us here, and love will lead us out of here, but for now, they believe they have succeeded in putting love to death.
They did put love to death. Love did die. And so, for now, the powers of this world have succeeded in silencing love. And so we’ll sit here, rest here, in this nighttime of the soul, this gloom of doubt and despair. We won’t rush out of the tomb just yet. We’ll stay here. Watch. And pray.
We’ve been talking throughout this Holy Week about participation. And mostly about our participation in this narrative. Where do you find yourself in the story…how will you make space and be involved in these liturgies…what’s your role here… And Good Friday is about participation, too.
But in addition to our participation and our role in this story, Good Friday is a love story about God’s participation with us.
See, I think it’s good and worthwhile to explore the parts of ourselves that often come up in the Passion story of Jesus. It is true…that there are sometimes when I’m not as awake and attentive to the suffering in the world as Jesus has asked me to be. There are times that I do deny ever knowing the name Jesus…or at least, times when Jesus doesn’t get my full-throated endorsement, or I’m less than forthcoming about the faith that is in me. There are times I’m tempted to trade off extravagant and scandalous love for a few bucks.
What about you? Do you ever find yourself so offended by radically inclusive love that you’d just as soon see that love and inclusion put to death and buried away so you wouldn’t have to look at it or think about it again? Have you ever ridiculed love for being weak and not able to stand against the powers and personalities of this empire that tell you to be tough, have thick skin, and be strong, no matter who you have to step over or step on or crush underfoot to get ahead?
We do participate in this Good Friday story.
But redemption comes in recognizing that this is still a story about God. Good Friday is God’s deepest participation with us and our story…with you and your story. In the crucifixion and death of Christ, God demonstrates the height and depth and length God will go to be in solidarity with humanity…with you, dear child.
There is no place God won’t go, no human experience God wouldn’t go through, to show you just how much God loves you. There is nowhere God won’t go to be in relationship with you.
Christ’s participation in the fullness of our story, in the fullness of our human experience…by dying, God joins God’s self to your human story. God experiences the very deepest parts of human pain and anguish…so that you would know that no matter what your story, no matter your suffering, no matter how grim and gloomy and despairing you feel, no matter your circumstances…God has been there, too.
God knows your pain and hurt. It’s a knowledge that cost Love its very life.
It’s a knowledge that cost Love everything.
But it’s a cost that came along with a hope that you would know just how much God loves you and cares for you…that you would know that even when you feel furthest from love, that God remains by your side…holding you, embracing you, walking with you through this valley of the shadow of death.
Love is costly, dear friends.
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In a moment, you’ll be invited to reflect on this love. We’ve set up Stations of the Cross around our Sanctuary and we invite you to get up and move around, as you are able. You may wish to visit the stations in turn, or you may feel free to visit them in whatever order you like.
I invite you to reflect on this mystery of love incarnate. The mystery of a love that chooses death. Reflect on your participation in this narrative. I bet you’ll find more in common than you think.
We’ve had similar experiences, too.
When have you felt betrayed? When have you betrayed someone else or someone else’s trust?
When have you denied knowing the name Jesus? When have you refrained from inviting someone to experience God’s love? When have you withheld your own love from someone else?
When have you been mocked? When have you been the one doing the mocking?
When have you stumbled under a heavy burden? When have you neglected to help someone who you’ve seen struggling with their own burdens?
When have you felt close to death? When have you looked away from pain and suffering because doing so would have made you responsible for trying to do something about it?
This story is your story, church.
It is the story of your salvation.
Love is costly.
Love does die.
But love can not stay buried away.
Love can not and will not stay dead.