April 22, 2011

goodfriday Today, across all western Christendom churches have been stripped of their ornamentation, sanctuary candles have been snuffed out, and black linen covers or drapes crosses as we remember the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. For me, one of the poignant memories I have of Good Friday was fifteen or so years ago when at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church our priest at that time, the Rev. Alexander (Hendy) Webb began his Good Friday homily with the words, “So, what have you done today to crucify Jesus Christ?”. Definitely an eye-opener, for sure, but that’s how Hendy was – he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and make people think a little. In my ill-fated process towards being accepted for ordination as a priest through the Diocese of Massachusetts, he was one of my mentors and supporters, and he wrote a very kind letter of support on my behalf which I will always feel honored to have received.

But it wasn’t his sermon that day I remember the most. After the service had ended, he asked me and my good friend Pete Jeffery if we would stay behind for a few minutes. Tradition in the Church states that all the reserved host (i.e., the sacramental leavened wafers that have been blessed) are to be consumed so that on Easter Sunday you start off with all new bread, and Hendy asked our assistance to help him consume all the reserved host that was left in the tabernacle. I just remember how quiet the church was, just the three of us standing at the bare altar, chewing on the wafers until all were gone. No words were exchanged, when all was finished we all left in silence. I found the experience incredibly solemn, poignant, and holy, no other way to describe it.

I like the ending of this homily by Barbara Brown Taylor:

I actually know people who come to church on Good Friday and who don’t come back on Easter. Easter is too pretty, they say. Easter is too cleaned-up. It is where they hope to live one day, in the land of milk and honey, but right now Good Friday is a better match for their souls, with its ruthless truth about the stench of death and the high price of love. It isn’t that they don’t care about what happens on Sunday. They do. They just don’t believe that God is saving all the good news until then.

Today, on the quietest day of the year, we have come to sit in the presence of one who was fully who God created him to be every day of his life–who loved God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength, and with all his mind–and who loved his friends so much that he stepped into the oncoming traffic of death in order to push them out of the way. He furthermore did it all with no more than the basic human equipment–a beating heart, two good hands, a holy vision, and some companions who could see it too–thereby showing the rest of us humans that such a life is not beyond our reach. Whatever else happens on Sunday, here is enough reason to call this Friday Good. Amen.

“O Sacred Head” is one of my favorite hymns for Holy Week, here’s a nice version.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:10 | Comments (0)
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