Good Friday Sermon, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Little Rock, AR, April 19, 2019

Good Friday St. Mark’s April 19, 2019

We are a resurrection people,/ but for today/ we are a crucifixion people. We have come to church in the middle of this day, in the middle of this city, on this most solemn day of the Christian year, to keep watch this holy hour with our Savior on the cross, dying. Today we try to remember Jesus’ suffering and the why of it all as we stand beside Jesus at the foot of this cross. We remember that by his death we learn about a life BEYOND the cross…. Yet Peter Go/mes1 reminds us that Jesus is teaching us that the only way BEYOND the cross is to stand by the cross and GO THROUGH IT.

The story we have just heard from John’s gospel is so familiar that it is difficult to experience it/ and know what going through the cross,/ beyond the cross really means. Perhaps if we look at two of Jesus’ statements in John, we can better identify with this scene.

Jesus’ first words from the cross are to his mother: “Woman, here is your son.” And to the disciple.. “here is your mother.” (John 19: 23-27) Barbara Brown Taylor2 asks if Jesus is looking out for his mother or for his disciple? When the beloved disciple takes Mary home, and when the other disciples come crawling out from under their rocks, they will find themselves in the presence of someone whose contact with the Holy Spirit has been far more intimate than theirs. While the principalities and powers believe they are tearing his family apart,/ Jesus is quietly putting it back together again. /My experience also is that Jesus constantly does this for us. When our sister or brother or mother or father or child is separated from us, Jesus gives us a new and different relationship with them// as well as with another mother or sister or brother—if only we have eyes and ears to see and hear and accept it./

Living through and beyond the cross./

As we try to stand at the foot of this cross with Jesus, I also hear the words of others who have been there.

I think of another friend named Mary. She lost her daughter, Anne, several years ago in a tragic train accident. We met for coffee a few weeks after Anne's funeral. We cried, we laughed. We went over every detail of Anne's service that actually took place in this church. There could have been no more beautiful celebration of her life. Mary then began to talk about the new directions she already felt in her life. She told me how she had spent much time trying not to wear masks in her life, but that this great loss made her even more desiring of not being anything that was false to herself. She was living her life one day at a time. She was not making a lot of plans and was trying to be open to what God had in store for her that day.

She spoke of feeling God's presence throughout the entire tragedy. She wondered how anyone could survive such a loss without love/ and faith/ and community. Then she could barely speak as she softly whispered/ that she had some insight into the thoughts of our Lord's mother, another Mary, at the cross. She could say no more./ Since that day I continue to ponder her words in my heart.

Some of you here this afternoon also know the loss of a child or grandchild. Parents should never have to bury their children. How even more awful to watch your child suffer and die. I think of parents of patients at Children’s Hospital who sit by bedsides as their children die. I have seen there love, sorrow, anger, comfort, helplessness, surrender, as I have never seen in any other situations.

Through Mary and the families at Children’s Hospital we experience a little glimpse of what our Lord's mother might have felt that awful day. Our prayer this afternoon is that each of us may have as both Marys did,/ some awareness of God working in our lives/ even in the face of great tragedy and pain. .

Living through and beyond the cross///

“IT IS FINISHED” is what John records as Jesus’ last words. JOHN 19:29-30a

But, was Jesus’ crucifixion really finished that afternoon 2000 years ago?/ We are gathered here because we are an Easter people. You will notice that all of our crosses in our church are empty, but our world outside is still more like Good Friday. Do we continue to stand at the foot of crosses today and be active observers and participants in Christ’s crucifixion still going on today?

As we try to live into and through this Good Friday, we are to remember that the cross many of us wear is the symbol of an unjust public execution. We more often relate to the resurrection that came out of it rather than to the brutal killing of an innocent man. The cross’ message of resurrection is hope to all who are oppressed; but especially today we must also remember the injustice as well as that great hope our tradition teaches us that can follow horrendous and unjust tragedy.3////

John tells us that after Jesus dies on this cross, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus lay him in Joseph’s tomb. If Jesus were crucified today, might he journey to another place than Joseph’s tomb?

Malcolm Boyd best describes the possible cross bearers of today in the Alleluia Affair.4// Listen carefully with me to a paraphrased version of Boyd’s midrash of what might happen in two hours shortly after three o’clock on this Good Friday, today, when a crucified Jesus leaves the cross.3 //

Jesus will pull his legs free.

The rusty nails that held his feet captive will fall clanking below the cross.

It will not be difficult next to free his left hand, then the right one,

He will slide easily down from the full-size wooden

cross in the sanctuary

of a West Little Rock Catholic church.

Next he walks into the adjoining parish hall.

He passes by Virginia Causey of the altar guild

who faints.

Jesus then washes in the men's room---

He gets the blood off his body--and leaves the building,

He walks down Mississippi to St. Mark’s to the Food Pantry in the Youth Room and later on to St. Francis House.

It is a hot day, so he feels all right in his loincloth.

Jesus has a bit more difficulty disengaging himself from a gold processional cross

in the East Side church in Manhattan,

Yet within just a few moments he is free….

{Jesus} heads south toward the former World Trade Center.

A cab driver moving along Madison Avenue…

sees Jesus, who is still wearing his crown of thorns.

Before he knows what he is doing,

the driver has smashed his cab into the plate-glass

window of an art gallery…./

It is inside a church in Moscow

that an altogether new phenomenon….

is first observed.

Katerina Pavlof has been absorbed in her private Good Friday devotions

inside the Russian Orthodox church.

Now she looks toward the cross…

But to her amazement..

Katerina discovers the bloated body of a young black boy

is firmly nailed to the wood.

He does not look like Jesus.

His face is beaten and swollen beyond recognition.

An eye is dislodged from its socket.

His mother, Mamie Till, like Mary stands at the foot of the cross.

She cries out that this is her fourteen-year-old son, Emmett Till, from Chicago lynched in the Mississippi Delta in 1955./

It is 3:45 p.m. when Carol Kimmel

stops off for a moment of prayer at the National Cathedral

on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington D C.

She is startled to see a woman's body upon a cross,

for she is aware that now all crosses

should be empty.

Drawing closer, she sees that a young child is still clinging to the dark-haired woman.

The tired mother is deeply wailing.

The verger identifies her as a Palestinian Christian refugee living in Gaza.

Twelve hours later inside a Syriac Orthodox church in Aleppo, Syria,

a white youth is found

nailed to an altar cross

that had previously borne Jesus.

The youth tells Doctors Without Borders

that he lives in Laramie, Wyoming….

There are scars of a brutal beating on his body

and his left eye is swollen shut.//



Who is our neighbor? Who is our brother?/

Who is our mother? Who is our son?



AND TOMBS inside and outside of us begin to OPEN UP

AND SAINTS inside and outside of us WHO WERE ASLEEP ARE Awakened.

Joanna Seibert

1 Peter Gomes in The Preaching of the Passion: The Seven Last Words from the cross in Forward Movement Publications, 2002.

2Barbara Brown Taylor, “Mother of the New” in Home By Another Way, pp. 97-99.

3Debra Mumford, “Loving the Word” in The Christian Century (3/14/2018)

4Malcolm Boyd, “The Alleluia Affair” in YOU by Mark Link.