GOOD FRIDAY SERMON
Today is the day when we perform that most extraordinary, bizzarre twists that any religion could have chosen. We feel pity for our God.
It’s unremitting, is Good Friday, this death of Jesus. The Gospels don’t spare us. When it comes to Jesus’ own suffering, we find the crucifixion scene so troubling, that it is tempting to underplay the idea of pain and suffering, as though because he’s the son of God it barely touches the sides. But in the Gospels there’s none of that, no joyful skip on to the end. Jesus is a broken man, who feels abandoned by God, there’s no way out of that. The Gospels take us deep down into those places of sorrow and grief, and show us that Christ, like us, was not spared any pain.
The gospels are cruel to us. They stick our noses into the horror of the real world. Look at death, they say, look at this corpse, look at the evil in the world, look at the suffering of the innocent and the poor, look at the injustices. Dont cover them up by ritual, don’t whatever you do, do that. Make the rituals amplify the hurt, don’t let them be an anelgesic. Don’t find ways of dealing with it, don’t use coping mechanisms, don’t find ways of switching to another channel. Don’t dare look away, says the God of compassion and love, because he knows if we look away we do nothing, and if we look, we can’t bear it. So we look at a broken man we call God, and we feel such compassion for him that we have to do everythign we can to stop anyone else ever having to feel like he did.
The gift God gives us on Good friday is the gift of compassion. Compassion literally means with pain. We are made to feel compassion. Because his whole journey to this place, to this awful, terrible place, this charnel house of suffering, has been an act of compassion on his part. This journey of salvation has been because of his love for us, for his friends, for his enemies, his love for those who were mocking him, nailing him to his death. The compassion we feel for him is the journey of the cross, the purpose of his story. His suffering draws compassion out of us. It causes us to want to help. It makes us better people.
That is why today is so important, as important and as great a feast as Easter. Because Compassion, that essence of love, is the stuff of God. What we feel within us is God at work. When we are moved to help the suffering, the refugee, the homeless, the helpless, the innocent, the poor, when we have to help because we have to do something, that is God at work within us. And every time that happens within us, and in our actions and deeds, then God has been made incarnate, written into that moment, in that place and in time. That moment of God’s incarnation will never be taken away. And we become truly ourselves. In that moment.
And our job as the followers of the ragged God of the cross, is simply to make more moments like that. To be unafraid of compassion, and of love, and to fill the earth with them. And as Christ showed in his last words, we can do that even when the very worst in happpening. Even in the point of cruel, unjust death, love can be made incarnate.
And in that is our hope and our salvation.