Good Friday Sermon 2015

Good Friday 3rd April 2015, St Paul’s Canterbury

Preacher: The Reverend Jonathan Chambers

Church Calendar Date: Good Friday

Lectionary Reading:

So what is it about today, Good Friday, which draws us to church, to follow Jesus in this story of his suffering all the way to the cross?

Why have you come today?

Perhaps it’s a sense of duty, something that you always do. Maybe it’s the symbolism of coming forward, as you will be invited to do later, to kneel and actually touch the wood of the cross, which gets you in touch with Jesus suffering.

Maybe there is something about Jesus suffering and unjust treatment which, though painful resonates with something of your own story. By entering into Jesus hurt and betrayal you know that you are not alone; that the Jesus Christ whom we worship knows and understands what it’s like to be human.

For whatever reason you have come today, as I asked last night, have you come expectantly?

Are you expecting that God will speak to you? And if not Why not?

This a time to reflect deeply on Jesus’ Story …..and your own story.

The God who loves you deeply honours your journey and wants to bring wholeness of life. So be aware of each thought that comes into your head, every bodily sensation which surprises you. This is how God breaks though our natural resistance and Jesus’ invitation is to ponder what these revelations might mean for your own healing.

At last night’s service when we remembered Jesus last meal with his disciples. I talked about boundaries and how Jesus, because he was comfortable in his own skin, was able to reverse social convention and wash his disciple’s feet.

As I’ve reread the passion narratives this year I’ve been struck by the extent to which Jesus pushes the boundaries claiming truth for himself and those on the margins, but that he does it in a way that is not retributive.  He gently but firmly stands up for himself, pointing to the truth, claiming his ground.

For example when he is arrested, he is taken to the high priest who questions him about his teaching.

Jesus responds so eloquently and reasonably

He says “I’ve spoken openly to the world, I’ve always taught in synagogues and the temple, where all the Jews come together. I’ve said nothing in secret.

“Why do you ask me?

Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said”

To this one of the temple police struck Jesus on the face, saying” Is that how you answer the high priest?”

Jesus answered “If I have spoken wrongly, tell be what’s wrong, but if I’ve spoken rightly, why you strike me?

Beautiful isn’t it. A similar response to the one he gave to the religious authorities who dragged the poor woman, before him who was caught in the act of adultery.

Trying to catch him they said, “The law states that this woman should be stoned to death. What do you think?”

And Jesus says. “Let whoever is without sin, cast the first stone”; and they all left starting with the oldest.

In contrast, before the Jewish authorities Jesus could have retaliated. Having been hounded by them over a long period, trying to catch him out, he could have let Peter use his sword and fought back or he could have verbally abused the High Priest for his hypocrisy.

Alternatively he could have been lost for words or thrown himself on the ground and pleaded for mercy, promising to never preach again.

But he does neither of these, he simply states the truth. By doing this he demonstrates his humanity and his divinity.

How did Jesus do it and why does John the Evangelist who writes this account, tell the story this way?

Because in Jesus own words he “knew he came from God and that he was going to God”.

When our boundaries are threatened our normal response it to either Fight or take Flight. These responses are the normal way that we humans have learned to keep safe from sabre -toothed tigers. To Fight or run away!

Jesus offers a The Third Way that is Neither Flight nor Fight. He doesn’t lose his boundaries, but he doesn’t defend them aggressively either.

He has Compassionate boundaries treating all as children of God

Fight

Because we are afraid – Fear of losing what we have, our voice, and our security. In our retaliation we however run the risk of becoming the very evil which we condemn. We see this when a country goes to war in order to fight for peace. We see it with some criminal justice systems where punishment seems to be more about retribution than restorative. If we answer might with might, even if we are the victim, we run the risk of being no better than the primary offender. We may excuse ourselves by claiming “well he started it”; but in reality it’s an argument which is morally bankrupt.

Flight

Because we are afraid- of being hurt we give in to the one with the loudest voice and deny our own Truth. We usually know what’s right, what’s fair, what’s honourable, what we would like to happen to us, but we aren’t able to claim it because we fear the consequences.

Usually learnt how best to survive in our childhood. If we fight we become no better than the one who started it. If we beat them, what have we proved? Whose right or who is stronger? If we don’t speak our Truth, we run the risk of losing ourselves.

Jesus takes The Third Way. As Richard Rohr explains:

“Jesus let go of his identification with his divine self; he “emptied himself” of his divinity, but he didn’t lose it all. In fact, through this act, Jesus revealed divinity on a whole new level

This seeming contradiction is true for us as well, but from the opposite side. We have to let go of our identification with being merely human–and all the humiliation of our human faults and limitations–which is a lot of letting go.

 In letting go of your shame, guilt, and powerlessness, you do not lose yourself, but fall into your foundational and grounded self.

This is your True Self, or divine self in God, which now stands revealed, substantial, and infinite–as you–your own unique amalgam of quite ordinary humanity and divine DNA.”

Jesus showed us the way to be human and Godly at the same time. If we can claim our divinity, our godliness, knowing we are a loved child of God when our boundaries are threatened, we can speak our Truth without fear. Jesus showed us the way.

That’s how he saved us.

They key is knowing and remembering that God loves you that much.

The Lord be with you.