"then wilt thou not be loath to leave this Paradise, but shalt possess a paradise within thee, happier far. Let us descend now therefore from this top of speculation; for the hour precise exacts our parting hence" Paradise Lost, Book XII, lines585-590

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Sermon

As most of you
may know, I work part time as a Chaplain at Mt Carmel West and at Children’s

In the past year,
I have sat with many families
as their loved ones died. 

And I would feel sorry for anyone who gets used to that. 

I’ve sat with the families of newborns
and of ninety-year olds. 
People for whom death was a long time coming, welcomed even 

and people for whom it is the least expected thing in the world. 

Some are better than others,
but the little babies
seem to me to be the hardest to bear. 

Their death is also the death of hopes
and of dreams,
the death of an imagined future. 

Harder still,
for most of the parents,
the first time they ever get to hold the baby,

the first time they ever felt their child’s skin against their own,

the first time even,
that theyve ever hold them so that their faces touch

is as their children draw their last breaths. 

And they continue to hold them
long after
their lungs and heart stop,
unable to let go,
unable to face the reality of death.

So as I take myself to the cross with Jesus on this Good Friday,

I look up at him

and I cannot help but see those little girls and little boys,
and all the others who I have sat with. 

And I see the women at the cross

looking up at him

and I see anew
their anguish at not being able to hold him,

how keenly they want him to not be alone. 

And I see the disciples,

unsure of themselves,
bewildered at the loss of their hopes and dreams,
the loss of imagined futures they felt were so real already,

unable to face the reality of His death;
wanting desperately 
for someone to tell them what to do,

at their own inability to do anything.

For so many of us,
death feels like an unbearable weight. 

It is so difficult to lift
that we cannot imagine
we will ever be able to carry it
and walk again. 

Maybe it should easier for us to bear Jesus’ death knowing what lies in store three days

Maybe it should be easier for us to bear the death of our loved ones,
knowing the promise bought through Jesus’ death. 

But I have to say,

that in my personal experience of death
in the deaths I have witnessed and grieved,

I haven’t seen or felt that. 

It just feels like loss,
Like… emptiness,like a hole
where there should be something tangible and solid.

"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

That’s what it feels like.

In the face of tragedy or pain,
it is easy to curse God
Or to reject God.
To deny God’s very existence

To disavow that we ever knew God.

I am reminded of something a friend said to me once after Good Friday. 
“I just don’t understand why he had to die.”

I think maybe Jesus had to die
because that’s what we do.
We die. 

All of us,
some sooner,
some later,

but all of us die.

And on some level it just feels right to me that God should know,
really know,
who we are –

know our fears,
our hopes,
the joys of life,but also,
the hurt of loss and death. 

So, whatever Christ did,

whatever great cosmological act is encompassed by the Cross,

it seems to me
that it brought God and us together in a way that could not have been conceived of before it happened

and barely makes sense to us now. 

We, God and us,
are bound together,
in that death.

"In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to
So goes the psalm.

God has come through for us before.
God has never forgotten us

In truth,
God has never forsaken us…

No matter how much it may feel like that.

In our deepest pain and anguish,
I believe, we are closer to God than at any point in our lives

because it is in those moments
that everything we believe about our own capability and competence
is stripped away;
and we come face to face
with our dependence upon God.

What else is there? 

Trusting in God's promise,
now we must wait.

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