Good morning Friends,
I trust this finds you well on this Good Friday morning.
A reading from the Gospel according to John.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19.28–30
A reflection for Good Friday
On this Good Friday of 2020 I invite us to reflect upon the cross being a channel of grace amidst this time of tension. Rowan Williams speaks of the Christian disciple’s life being one of openness and expectancy whilst being also one of tension.
He writes of how we live in the middle of two apparently contradictory things. In the middle of the heart of God, with the ecstatic joy of the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and in the middle of a world of threat, of suffering and of pain.
Jesus took his stand on earth, fully human, fully divine right in the middle of those two realities and that is where we are called to follow Him – to take our stand.
Christ, through his death became a channel of grace between those two realities. He loved so much, he felt the pain of the world, he believed in justice and longed for His kingdom to come on earth as in heaven. He gave his life so all may have life in its fullness as revealed to us on that first Easter Day.
The way of the cross is the way of love. As we spend time gazing upon the cross today, the cross sits in that place of tension. And we, along with Christ sit in that place of tension. And today that tension could not be more apparent.
We are acutely aware of the pain in the world but we are also witnessing love in the world. If we allow ourselves to dig deeper into that tension what we may come to realise is that God’s love, and the love of Christ is at the centre of all things. It is love that can span the joy and sorrow of life. It is love that holds the feelings of fear of anxiety, grief, sorrow and abandonment.
It is love that holds us when we are hurting most. Jesus felt all these emotions. It was in his humanity that he felt abandonment most acutely. That love, God love, while it could not take away the pain it did not abandon him. Instead God stayed with him through the pain and the suffering. That call to love goes hand in hand with the sacrificial call of oneself.
There are sacrifices being made every day on the front line, those in the caring professions, those who each day keep our basic needs met and there are many sacrifices being made by families that we will never hear about. Within the offerings being made there is much fear, anxiety and, at times, absolute brokenness – whether that be working on the front line or doing what we are told, staying at home.
Through that fear and brokenness there emerges a channel of grace where love overcomes all adversity. The biggest act of love for the majority of us is to stay at home. For key workers their act of love is putting their own lives at risk in order to serve others
Jesus’ crucifixion became a channel of grace between the cruel reality of life and the bursting open of a radical love that would transform lives. This year more than ever, we are experiencing the pain of the world but we are also experiencing an outpouring of love.
Today we would normally gather together here in The Valley and in the churches to be witnesses, a sign of the new life made possible on Christ. Today our biggest witness is the act of love staying at home and praying for those who are suffering, and for those who are serving. May God bless you on this Good Friday 2020. Amen
The Dawning by George Herbert.
Awake, sad heart, whom sorrow ever drowns;
Take up thine eyes, which feed on earth;
Unfold thy forehead, gathered into frowns;
Thy Saviour comes, and with him mirth:
And with a thankful heart his comforts take.
But thou dost still lament, and pine, and cry,
And feel his death, but not his victory.
Arise, sad heart; if thou dost not withstand,
Christ’s resurrection thine may be;
Do not by hanging down break from the hand
Which, as it riseth, raiseth thee:
And with his burial linen dry thine eyes.
Christ left his grave clothes, that we might, when grief
Draws tears or blood, not want a handkerchief.
Further Good Friday thoughts …
Bishop Steven has written six short addresses entitled ‘Come and See’. They are an ‘An exploration of the Passion of Jesus in St. John’. Each episode includes hymns and a reading. You may want to listen to them and keep the traditional three hours; or space them out across a whole day set aside for prayer; or just use the final two as you keep watch at the cross.
Looking Ahead … Rumours of Hope
Over 100 people, many of them friends of myself and Christine, have come together from around the country – cathedrals and minsters, theological colleges and mission societies, religious communities and Christians of all traditions across the Church of England – to try and offer an online resource to help people watch and wait and pray through the night of Easter Eve.
The traditional vigil has been re-imagined and remixed with fifteen short acts of worship, each lasting 10-15 minutes, that we hope people will use throughout the night. Each video focuses on a reading from the Old Testament and draws out of it rumours of hope in spoken reflections, music, art and contemplative and creative prayer.
Reflections are led by bishops and theologians but also by parish priests and ordinands, as we explore with honesty the hope that we can have in these difficult times. Music and poetry has been recorded specially, with some new compositions and new interpretations of old favourites – recorded in homes under lock-down or beside night-time fires, rather than simply using archive material.
Each video will be available to watch at any time from Holy Saturday evening onwards but we hope many will choose to keep the vigil together and share in the worship on a timetable running from 8pm, with the services starting off and hour a part and getting closer together as we race towards the dawn and a final service of light led from Canterbury Cathedral precincts and ushered in by the Chrysostom Collective’s retelling of one of the most famous Easter sermons of all time. https://www.rumoursofhope.co.uk/
I sense that God is longing to meet with us this Good Friday, that in all of our discomfort and fear and sense of being in exile God longs for us to know his love, to remember and be heartened by what he has done for us in Jesus Christ.
Because we are not in comfortable places this year, and cannot be, we are all the more open to the working of the Spirit. Let’s keep journeying together as we keep journeying with the one whose name we bear, as Christians, as disciples, and as friends.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and give you peace.
Christ of St John of The Cross
Salvador Dali 1951