Sermons and Talks

Good Friday Homily 2016

A Reflection on Good Friday

Let me just sit for a moment.  I need some time to pull myself together.  You see, I just left church and for some reason, that I can’t quite fathom, I am feeling unsettled.  I have made the journey through Holy Week more times than I would like to admit, stopping on Good Friday to hear again the events surrounding the crucifixion and death of Jesus.  However, today those words touched a cord deep in my heart.

We call Good Friday ‘good’ because we know how the story ends.  Today though, I am feeling anything but good.  I feel trapped in time, left gazing anew at the horrific events that fill this day.  The prophet Isaiah’s words stung when I heard them: ‘despised and rejected’, ‘struck down by God’, ‘oppressed and afflicted’, ‘led to the slaughter’, ‘we have all turned to our own way’.  The scenes painted in John’s passion account shook me to the very centre of my being: ‘Betrayed by Judas, one of his own’, ‘Peter’s denial, not once, not twice, but three times’, ‘the slap across the face by one of the Temple police’, ‘flogging at the hands of Pontius Pilate’, ‘the horrific death by crucifixion as Jesus is nailed to a wooden cross’.  I want to cry out, “How can any of this be good?”.

I know full well the answer to this question.  It lies at the heart of our understanding of God’s gift of salvation.  Jesus took upon himself all of our sins, so that we might be forgiven and live in God’s Kingdom forever.  But today, this day, I don’t want to go there.  I am compelled to stop, and instead of turning my face to what I know happens on the third day, I want to stay in the moment and let the depth of these events sink into my very being.

World without Suffering

Oh for a world without suffering, especially suffering brought on by one person’s or one group’s inhumanity to another.  It is bad enough that our lives are touched by events, over which we have no control, that bring with them suffering, pain and grief.  Over three-quarters of a million people die each year from mosquito-borne malaria.  We watched thousands die in the last Ebola breakout in West Africa.  Fifty-four years ago in June I woke up paralyzed from the waist down, the result of a viral infection that changed my life forever.  Hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, and earthquakes all bring terrible suffering to those who are afflicted.  The death of a loved one, the diagnosis from a doctor, or the anguish of living with a mental health disease, both for the person and for his or her family and friends, all bring anguish and pain.  ‘How can any of this be good?”

Even worse is the suffering we humans bring on one another.  The dead body of five-year-old Aylan Kurdi last summer drew the world’s attention to the plight of millions of Syrians who had fled their homeland because of civil war, oppression and fear of death.  The Aslan family, that we are helping to sponsor, left everything behind and literally fled with the shirts on their backs after death threats from ISIS forces in their hometown of Hasaka in Syria.  Terrorists set off bombs in places like Paris and Brussels and Ankara, killing hundreds of innocent victims.  It has taken years for our Canadian Government to take seriously the need to investigate the increasing number of missing aboriginal women, to say nothing of how the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s report seems of fallen on deaf ears.  Hatred, bigotry and prejudice taint the current presidential campaign in the United States and fill the hearts of millions of people around the world.  “How can any of this be good?”

And here I sit, knowing that all this hatred and suffering, that touches my life and yours, also touched the life of Jesus over two thousand years ago.  Perhaps I’ll wait a little longer before I move on.  After all, Jesus waits for me, patiently molding and shaping me through all the twists and turns of life, nurturing the seed, planted in me in my baptism, to grow and bear fruit in God’s Kingdom won for us on this day.  Yes, there is much that is not good in this world of ours, but today, in the midst of all of that, it is good.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Author:  Bishop George Elliott