Good Friday 2021
“What have we become?” ©Suzanne Grimmett
We have stored the usual list of secrets,
Of acres of guilt unforgiven,
Of desires too rich to utter.
Beyond that, we have a secret list of hurts,
From ancient days with parents and siblings,
From assorted bullies at playschool
And in adult life;
Some of us overly sensitive,
All of us grown protective
And capable of self-pity.
Beyond that, we have a secret list of hopes,
Some selfish and some noble,
Hopes of new freedom and new reconciliation,
Of new security and new recognition,
Of doing well and being well.
We have so much to keep hidden.
And you know-
You know because you made us and have watched us from the beginning;
You know because you see us in our waking and our sleeping;
You know because you love us right through,
Beyond all of our covert capacity.
So begins a prayer by Walter Brueggeman called “Exposed to Mercy, Truth and Newness.”
Exposure is a good word for today- we may feel over-exposed…the brutality of the cross and its innocent victim, the crowds who have turned on Jesus, the ridicule, the hatred…all can leave us feeling like we have seen too much of that which humanity is capable. For this is what the cross does- lifts high for all to see the result of scapegoating violence that has been part of the human story since the very beginning. What kind of world is it when an innocent man can be nailed to a cross, when crowds can turn to adoration to jeering in a week, when mockery and torture make ugly partners and quick-witted types use the suffering of the victim for their own personal gain? Some gathered there at the foot of the cross, watching the crowds, the mock trial and the way Jesus died must have been thinking, “What have we become?”
There is so much we would prefer to remain in darkness. When I look back at the year that has been since we last stood here, it seems that it has been a year of revealing, of exposure of things previously lying concealed or covered over with half -truths or casual acceptance.
The traditional litany at the beginning of this service was a list of systemic and personal evils that we have witnessed or been aware of in the news since this pandemic began. As the world has shared an experience of pandemic, with the effects anything but equal, patterns of oppression have been much easier to discern. There has been a failure in democracy in parts of the world that has left the most vulnerable suffering the greatest impact of the virus. Nationalism and greed have formed insuperable barriers to the sharing of knowledge, resources and aid. All forms of violence- in thought, word and action- find victims according to gender, sexuality or the colour of their skin. Cultures that objectify, scapegoat, and rob others of their dignity and value have been clearly revealed, leaving us marching under a banner of “Enough is enough!” As we have watched this year and seen all this brought to light, I am sure many of us have thought, “What have we become?”
So today is a day when we see the darkness, when we see clearly what we have become. But the cross has become a symbol of hope not in spite of the revealing of evil but because of it. It would seem the actions of a fool to willingly submit to such a death, but in its weakness and shame is revealed the power of God. When the crucified Jesus is called the image of the invisible God, we are being told that this is what God is like- a God who is all vulnerable…who acts on the side of victims everywhere. We see how enmeshed we are in systems of sin which are always looking for a sacrificial victim, and we see in this sacrificial victim- this God-man on the cross- the one who turns the tables on this whole God-forsaken machinery of violence by giving of himself utterly and pronouncing forgiveness with his last breath. As he prayed in the garden last night, Jesus asked if there could be any other way. As we stare at the cross today and the crosses with all their victims of this past year, we know that evil needs to be unmasked. Violence, our own violence, needs to be exposed so that we know what we are like and see clearly the systems in which we participate.
If this is what we are like, we need the revolutionary power of grace. God endured the shame of the cross so that nothing need ever be hidden again, that all could be brought to light and all can, if we are willing, be transformed by this great and subversive act of forgiveness. Good Friday is about our truth being exposed and opened to God’s oceanic mercy.
The conclusion of Walter Bruggeman’s prayer may be the cry of all our hearts as we see the world in the light of the cross.
And we yearn to be known-fully, without reserve by you:
So we ask on this day,
Courage to match your love,
Honesty to match your generosity
Self-awareness to speak into your awareness of us.
That by the time the sun sets,
We will have rent the curtain of our lives,
And let you into the centre of it all,
There to abide in holy forgiveness.
We pray through your spirit of all truth
That our truth opened to your mercy may make us free.
 Walter Brueggemann, Prayers for a Privileged People (Abingdon Press, USA,: 2008) pp 127, 128