Good Friday

So when we bend and venerate the cross on Good Friday, there are several things that I think we must be clear, if John’s gospel is right, that we are not doing. We are not assenting to ongoing injustice, violence, or abuse in our world: that would be negligence or cowardice. We are not voting for a passive acceptance of the misuse of power: that would be masochism. We are not saying that human agony and suffering are alright after all, or that by some magic of mind-over-matter I can grit my teeth and see them through to the other side: that would be stoicism.

No, when we make this bodily obeisance each year, we are saying in the only way we can – not just with our mind (which is often confused and doubting) but with our whole being – that all our hope resides in something already done, done by the God/Man on a dark hour long ago and once for all. Often we cannot feel it for the darkness, let alone see it. Often we are overwhelmed by our own pain and that of others, our own sin and that of others. But God has done what only God can do, and in the eye of the storm there is already that still place of triumph which John calls Jesus’s cosmic “glory,” and which he holds out to us also. It is the “finishing” that Jesus does, which is not just a finishing but the reaching of the goal.

–Sarah Coakley

Thursday in Holy Week

Is not this, then, why Jesus give us some very specific things to do in order to “re-member” our dark past into his future of love, to re-educate even the flesh beyond the distortions of competition and conquest? And so, before he goes out into the dark to confront his own unspeakable pain and agony and loneliness, the authentic marks of his humanity, Jesus first opens the door to the mystery of how transformed memory and love can, in him, coincide with perfection; how, through the love commandment that he gives us, and the special act of memory he demands of us in foot-washing and bread and wine, we may find our way back into the vineyard of love that we have repeatedly despoiled but long to re-enter.

–Sarah Coakley (more here)

 

 

Wednesday in Holy Week

If betrayal is so deep a part of human sin, and so profoundly entangled also with the story of love and salvation, then it cannot actually be betrayal per se that must be repressed or obliterated in the Passion. Rather, what is held up to us is the amazing possibility that even betraying, as well as being betrayed, can become part of the terrible stuff of being “handed over” to the full and deepest meaning of Christian love. God can make love, excessive love, even out of human betrayal. On this view Judas’s tragedy was that – unlike Peter – he despaired of that possibility; he could not conceive of that excessive sort of forgiveness.

–Sarah Coakley (more here)

Tuesday in Holy Week

We now stand in this lush fragrance of the ointment that reminds us again of the original vineyard of love: we step forward hesitantly, wondering what it will mean. We bring all our own excessive, broken, damaged and lost loves and we see anew, and with wonder, that Jesus accepts them; and not only accepts them but makes of them the necessary stuff of the opening of his Passion. Only Good Friday will show that, rightly understood, such excessive gift is not marginalized as “feminine,” nor is it an invitation to abuse or be abused, nor even a misplaced form of idolatry, but rather a “deeper magic” beyond all human calculation, a divine rationality beyond all human reason. But for now we leave our own hopeless and excessive gifts of love, like wasted nard, at Jesus’s feet, and wait for the unfolding of his new meaning. Amen.

–Sarah Coakley (more here)

Monday in Holy Week

Think of this entry into Holy Week, then, as an invitation: perhaps not to a mere drama after all, but to a Passion to end all dramas; not to a story of justice and deserts, but to a story of divine love so exquisite as to exceed and upturn all justice as we know it; not to a theological conundrum to be solved, but to a dangerous and life-threatening journey: a journey of pain, death, discovery and new Life. This is a journey that can only be undergone, and our undergoing it can only start with a profound lament for our ongoing resistance and aversion to its strange meaning.

From a meditation by Sarah Coakley. Read it all here.

Anti-Judaism and Holy Week

Last year, I posted some thoughts on the topic:

One of the central issues facing Christians during Holy Week (in fact it’s central to Christianity itself) is the pervasive anti-Judaism in the Christian tradition and in parts of the New Testament. It’s particularly prevalent in the Gospel of John and reaches its highest intensity in the passion narrative (John 18 and 19). It’s traditional that John’s Passion Narrative is read on Good Friday. The raw power of the story of Jesus’ betrayal, trials, and crucifixion that culminate with the silence of the tomb, combines with the larger liturgical context to confront worshipers with the enormity of the crucifixion and with human culpability in it.

Killings in Overland Park, KS

The news of the shooting deaths of Jews in Overland Park, KS is deeply distressing, especially on this day as Christians begin Holy Week and Jews prepare for the celebration of Passover. I mentioned in my sermon today the anti-Judaism in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death. The deaths today are a reminder of the violence and hate that plague our culture; a reminder, too, of our duty to proclaim and work for a gospel of peace and love.

We should also pray:

Loving God, Welcome into your arms the victims of violence and terrorism. Comfort their families and all who grieve for them. Help us in our fear and uncertainty, And bless us with the knowledge that we are secure in your love. Strengthen all those who work for peace, And may the peace the world cannot give reign in our hearts. Amen.

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.