Sermon preached by the Reverend Adam Yates
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, Connecticut
Good Friday – April 22, 2011
This is the coming together of events and actions to a single moment. This is the event through which all future events are shaped and flower forth. Good Friday is the crisis of a recurring drama—the historical drama of Jesus’ life and work, the drama of the Church, and the drama of our own lives. We yearn for God, seek after God, but when God responds, we reject God.
In history it is the drama and crisis of the narrative that began on Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem to the cheers and welcome of the crowd, the crowd who hailed him as their long anticipated savior. The crowd longed for God’s messiah, longed for God to set them free from the oppression of Rome. When God responded in Jesus, it would be the same crowd, along with Rome, that would reject God.
Good Friday is also the crisis of a much longer drama that began with the fall of humanity and stretches across the narratives of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is the story of our ancestors who constantly sought after God, but kept rejecting God. This week marks Passover for our Jewish sisters and brothers, a time when they remember God’s response to our ancestor’s cries from oppression, a response that would ultimately be rejected by our ancestors while wandering in the wilderness for forty years. It is a different story, but it is the same drama, the same crisis.
Good Friday is the crisis of our more recent ancestors in the Church. Our ancestors in the Church longed for God, sought after God. God responded by sending down the Holy Spirit and speaking the development and unfolding of the Church. Our ancestors rejected God’s spirit and killed each other over religious differences.
In our own country, the Church called out for God and God responded by saying no to slavery; we rejected God and continued to profit for the enslavement of our own flesh and blood. Again, the Church sought after God, and God responded by saying that women and men were equal in God’s eyes. We rejected God and refused to ordain women until only 30 years ago. Yet the Church still kept yearning for God, and God responded by saying that all people—straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender—are God’s children and beloved in God’s eye’s. We rejected God and split the Church.
In our own lives, we seek after God, yearning for a relationship with God. God responds by calling us into God work, calls us to let go of our possessions and follow God. But we reject God saying, “That’s not really what I had in mind.” God approaches us on the street, on the train, or maybe even next to us in the pew, crying out to us to recognize that it is God who is before us. But we reject God because it makes us uncomfortable.
Our everyday understanding of time is that it moves forward in a straight line, passing from the distant past into the deep future. However, that is not the understanding of time at play within the Jewish tradition, and therefore the Christian tradition. Instead, the Jewish understanding is that time is a spiral; time is always progressing, but it does so by passing through the same cycles.
When we commemorate important events, we are both remembering them and participating in them again anew. The stories are different, but it is the same, one drama.
We participate in the drama of Holy Week and the crisis of Good Friday every time we reject the overtures of the God for whom we have longed. We do not just remember, but we participate in the Church’s rejection of God’s presence and work through the millennia, we wander through the desert with the our Israelite ancestors, we stand in the crowd chanting for Jesus’ death, and we behold him hung on the cross.
It is the crisis of Good Friday, it is the Crisis of our humanity: we have rejected the God for whom we have longed our whole lives, for all of history.
The crisis has now reached its climax—we have created a cross for our God—what happens next will shape all things to come. We have made our move and now we wait for God’s response, God’s decision. We wait for the response of the God who created all things, seen and unseen. We wait for the response of the God who calls into existence that which did not exist. We wait for the response of the Beckoning God who always calls us forward. We wait for the response of the Living God.