Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father,
and our crucified Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Why did Jesus die on the cross?
The answer, according to the Gospel of John,
is partially contained in a verse immediately before what we read this morning.
In Chapter 17, Jesus continues a prayer to his heavenly Father regarding his disciples.
Jesus prays: “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me, may be in them, and I in them” (17:26).
The story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is about love!
Jesus lived his life, died and rose so that we all would receive God’s love,
and that Jesus would be in us, in our hearts.
Jesus did what he did, so that we would know him and thereby know God.
Because when we see Jesus, we see God!
And when we see God, and know him, then we will be one,
as Jesus and God are one.
The mutual indwelling of Jesus and God
is transferable to the community of God’s children.
The unity, community and connectedness of Jesus and God,
links us all together as siblings of Love.
The only way to understand what Good Friday is about,
is to understand the identity of Jesus.
Who is this man on the tree?
This is essential to grasp, and is the reason behind the two trials,
one in front of the high priest, and the second in front of Pilate.
Both Jewish and Roman authorities want to know who Jesus really is,
why he can say what he says, and do what he does.
The accusers want him tried and executed on the basis of him saying he is a worldly King, someone in direct opposition to the King of Rome.
But they get it all wrong.
Jesus sets the record straight: “My kingdom is not of this world.”
Jesus’ mission is not to overthrow the Roman Empire and set up shop as the next world ruler.
No, his aim is to have people see God through him,
to come into a deep, indwelling relationship with the God that is Love.
And he aims to show them this
by being tortured and executed in one of the most cruel and painful ways imaginable.
And it bears mentioning,
that the physical suffering and death of Jesus is not unique.
Hundreds of thousands have been crucified besides Jesus.
Some people have suffered more!
And esp. in this time of pandemic there are people who are hurting, perhaps even more than Jesus did in his last 6 hours of his life.
But the difference,
the uniqueness of Jesus’ suffering is of course related to his identity.
Jesus’ death is not just another death, but it is the death of God!
Jesus died for us and with us,
so that we may believe that we may see God through him.
Jesus took control of his own death, finished his mission, completed it all,
so that we may believe!
Fulfilling scripture, it is accomplished that we can be at one with God,
That all is destroyed what can separate us from God,
It is accomplished that we are redeemed,
and all is not lost.
Because of Jesus’ incarnation, because he is fully divine and fully human,
Because he is the Word made Flesh,
He has taken on all that being human entails,
sickness, disease, quarantine, suffocation,
We can be fully united and connected through him.
Jesus is the original social medium,
The connecting video messenger with whom we see God and connect with God and talk with God.
Jesus is God’s FaceTime.
And this is only possible because Jesus is God fully incarnate.
Only God could do it.
Only God could accomplish it.
What makes the Passion of Jesus so important for this time of pandemic and social isolation,
Is that we can focus on Jesus’ isolation and loneliness on the cross.
Jesus was forsaken by all but four courageous women and one unnamed male disciple when he was crucified.
In the Psalm normally appointed for Good Friday,
(and reported in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s Passion reading),
The Psalmist screams out
My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me? (Ps 22)
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
The laments: the cries, of “My God, my God,” are increasing worldwide,
as the global death toll approaches 100,000.
The suffering is increasing, and in much of the world,
there is no end yet in sight.
It’s OK to cry out to God!
The Psalmists did.
“God can hear our fear, our frustration and our fragility”.
God can take the accusations, and the anger.
God knows how we are alienated and separated from God, neighbour and ourselves.
Esp. in this Holy Week, where Christians normally gather together physically to celebrate and remember the most important parts and stories of our faith,
we are longing for God’s presence found in the community of our fellow parishioners, and fellow Christians.
We’re not used to this yet (even though it’s been only a few weeks now).
Our sense of grief and loss heightens our need for connectedness!
We are apart from each other and God!
We long to be closer.
And on this Good Friday we bring to mind Jesus,
abandoned and lonely on the cross,
with his mother at his feet and the beloved disciple,
“2 or 3” are gathered,
and Jesus asks the disciple to take his mother into relationship,
to take her “among his own.”
What is the community of Jesus today?
This is the question we ask ourselves,
in this time where we are not together, physically.
If the original meaning of the word “church”
means “gathering” or “assembly”,
what does it mean to be church and community in all this disruption and loss caused by the coronavirus?
It’s harder to follow Christ when we are separated from community.
Because we all support each other with our presence,
(and technology, while helpful, is not a full substitute.)
What is the Call to discipleship at this time?
How do we embody being a disciple in these challenging days?
We are not together,
and I’m reminded of this as I speak these words with empty pews
staring out at me.
Our lives are disrupted and we are at a sense of loss right now.
Our routines are displaced,
We can’t rely on our schedules, or our comfortable habits
to keep our focus, to keep our lives on track.
We struggle to find patterns to ground ourselves,
Distracting ourselves with TV and alcohol,
We need to grasp on to some practices to root ourselves.
The earth is shaken and we are disrupted like never before.
Our world has crumbled, just like on that day when Jesus died.
But, we must remind ourselves, that we’re in this together!
The story doesn’t end on the hill,
But continues in the garden.
The garden, which is the place of community,
where Jesus and his followers often met to talk, sing and pray.
The garden where Jesus rests awhile, a few days.
And those of us fortunate to have a garden, or a backyard,
this oasis is balm for the soul, a place, esp. on sunny warm Spring days,
where everything almost seems to be normal for a few moments.
And perhaps this Golden Hour is a garden of peace for you,
a place where we can gather, to cry out, sing, listen, and pray,
with our virtual and unseen Christian neighbours throughout the Waterloo Region, and beyond.
These dark days of April, where we are still on the downward spiral and controls are tightening,
we don’t know when the end will be in sight,
It is a time of hopelessness,
We are waiting and watching, and isolating,
Cowered with fear and confusion like those first disciples,
traumatized by the events that moved far too quickly,
from the excitement and buzz of the triumphal entry to Jerusalem,
to all of a sudden: arrest, trial and execution.
Yet, we see and ponder the extent of God’s love for us,
We remember that nothing separates us from God’s Love in Christ Jesus!
We remember that in Jesus, we see God, and in God we see Love,
And that Love takes root in our hearts because Jesus, human and divine, bridged the gap in his own body and life,
Demonstrating that God is never far off and that God understands all that we have to endure.
God knows suffering, and the nature of being human,
esp. at times like these.
God knows us
and God loves us.
Dear God, You call our name, help us return with hope and trust to you.
Stretch our your hand in blessing, in pardon and in peace. Amen.