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The Paschal Triduum: Good Friday March 30, 2018 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
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GOOD FRIDAY 2018
Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Ps. 22: 1-11; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1–19:42
 
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Friday, March 30, 2018
The Rev. Janet Campbell
 
The Coming, by R. S. Thomas
 
And God held in his hand
A small globe.  Look, he said.
The son looked.  Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour.  The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
        On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky.  Many People
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs.  The son watched
Them.  Let me go there, he said.
 
                               
                                R. S. Thomas, Anthony Thwaite, ed.,
                                Everyman’s Poetry, J. M. Dent, London, 1996, p. 72.
 
He did come here.
Born a creature
          into the world
                   of his own creation . . .
 
the eternal, infinite One
          become finite, as we are,
          bound to his own particular time and place . . .
                  
And in the
particular situations and conditions
          of his own life
experiencing
          the deep mystery of human being:
 
the manifold sufferings, dyings, risings                
          written into the life story
                    of every one of God’s children . . .
 
every human heart,
fragile and vulnerable,
bearing within itself
          the wounds of countless losses,
          the scars of our battles with life.
 
 

Jesus experienced
that fragility,
that vulnerability . . .
         
He did not steel himself against it,
but opened to it,
willingly entered into it . . .
 
In the particular chaos and cruelty
          of his own time . . .
moving among,
          loving and serving,
                   suffering with,
                             his own suffering people . . .
 
with the poor and powerless,
defenseless against
the vicious oppression
          of their Roman occupiers,
the weakness and corruption
          of their own leaders . . .
 
and,
we must remember this terrible grief
with which Jesus lived
and died:
 
                  

these, also:
the emperor, Pontius Pilate,
          their brutal soldiers,
the fearful, compromising
          chief priests and elders,
                   
these in all their error,
           and all their evil,
also beloved children of God . . .
         
_______
 
Jesus was never fully understood
          even by his closest companions,
despite all that he had taught
          and shown them,
 
At the last he was betrayed
          by a trusted follower,
 
tortured by his captors
and unjustly sentenced to death . . .
 
abandoned by all
but a few . . .
 
 

As his time of suffering drew near,
he knew moments of doubt and fear:
 
“Now my soul is troubled,
and what shall I say?
Father, save me from this hour?”  
                                                         
                                                                (John 12:27)
 
No, he would not say that:
 
to give in to doubt and fear
would be to deny the truth of who he was
          the truth of God’s purpose for him . . .
 
          the truth of the kingdom
          of mercy and justice
          of reconciliation and peace
                   he had come to proclaim . . .
 
          to an impoverished and imperiled people
          who daily held out their thin arms
          to the saddened Palestinian sky
                   in a  gesture of pleading and hope . . .
                    
 
“No, it is for this reason
that I have come to this hour.
Father, glorify your name.”
                                               
                                                                (John 12:27-8)
 

He gave himself over
to the mocking and abuse of the soldiers,
the public humiliation of his struggle
          through the streets of Jerusalem
                   under the weight of his cross,
the torture of crucifixion,
          agonizing, shameful death . . .
 
Rome’s harsh example to any
who might presume to
question or challenge
          the political realities
                   of an occupied land . . .
 
He was a martyr to his time.
 
 
But against any and all expectations,
he was raised from the dead . . .
 
for the power of empire to kill
was no match
          for the power
                   of a loving, creating God
                    to bring new, transformed life
                   out of death.
 
“Unless a grain of wheat
falls into the earth and dies,
it can bear no fruit . . .”
                                     
                                      (John 12.24)
 
 

Jesus’ Passion
happened once
in a particular time and place.
 
The Paschal mystery of
his suffering, death,
          and resurrection
is
an ever-present spiritual reality
eternally active, we believe,
through all space and time,
 
especially present and accessible to us,
the assembled people of God,
as we celebrate the liturgy of the Paschal Triduum,
in these sacred three days.
 
 
We enter this Good Friday evening
into the second part
of that liturgy.
 
May we approach the cross tonight
with the same vulnerability
that was in Christ Jesus,
 
the vulnerability
that lies at the heart of the Paschal Mystery.
 

May we stand at the foot of the cross tonight
in wonder and awe . . .
hold out our thin arms to it
in pleading and in hope . . .
 
allowing
the many passions,
          large and small,
of our own lives,
          to be subsumed anew
                    in the one great passion of Christ.
 
The cross,
barbaric instrument of political execution,
symbol of death’s attempt
          to have the final word
                   with Jesus,
                   with us,
 
now the sign to us
of God’s power
          to bring new life out of death.
 
 
In the monastic Rule of Life 
of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist,
 
in the chapter entitled “Holy Death”
we read:
 

“Week by week,
we are to accept every experience
                   which requires us to let go
as an opportunity for Christ
          to bring us through death into life.”
 
“We are to accept every experience
                   which requires us to let go
as an opportunity for Christ
          to bring us through death into life.”
                                               
                                                (The Rule of the Society of St. John the Evangelist,
                                Chapter 48, “Holy Death,” p. 96)
 
Our sorrows, our losses,
our failures, fears, distresses, sins . . .
acknowledged, grieved and offered to God . . .
 
these are
opportunities for Christ
          to bring us through death into life.
 
 
Tonight we honor the cross
which reveals this to us . . .
 
shows us the truth of who we are,
          God’s beloved,
                   imbued with the very life of the risen Christ . . .
 
shows us the truth of God’s purpose for us,
          to continue in the risen life of Christ
                   and in the work which Jesus began,
 
the work of the kingdom of God.
Gathered as the body of Christ
around this symbol of
Christ’s dying and rising,
our dying and rising,
the world’s dying and rising,
 
may we allow ourselves
to be vulnerable
to our sorrow and weakness
that we may be open to this power
          that seeks to take on new life in us . . .
 
God’s relentless desire  
to being life out of death,
 
that in us God’s purpose and will
for us and God’s world
may be fulfilled . . .
 
Look at the cross
planted on that faraway, long-ago hillside,
O children of God,
and see there
the seed of the kingdom
to come . . .
 

The Kingdom   by R. S. Thomas
 
It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man
Is king and the consumptive is
Healed; mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back; and industry is for mending
The bent bones and the minds fractured
By life. It’s a long way off, but to get
There takes no time and admission
Is free, if you will purge yourself
Of desire, and present yourself with
Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf.
 
                                (R.S. Thomas   from H’m, p. 34 Macmillan Press Ltd. 1972)