Good Friday—Year C—March 29, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the mediations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.
Christians have many different ways to observe Good Friday. Some walk through the Stations of the Cross, some put on passion plays. Some focus just on the suffering of Jesus, but others focus more on Jesus’ resurrection and triumph—seemingly fast-forwarding to Easter morning.
Tonight our worship falls somewhere in the middle.
From Isaiah, we hear the fourth suffering servant song, which is so reminiscent of the suffering that Jesus endures for our sakes.
In Psalm 22, we hear a psalm of lament and perceived abandonment, which is also reminiscent of some of what Jesus was probably feeling during his arrest, trial, and execution.
But then our reading from Hebrews puts all that suffering into perspective. It reminds us that there was indeed some good that can be seen in the midst of the suffering. In the crucifixion, God shows that there is still a covenant of promise and redemption active between God and humanity.
And that is why we call this day Good. A horrible gruesome death happened on that Friday. But there was something more to that death. There was something more to that cross.
That cross was actually a throne for the King of the Jews, our Messiah.
That cross was actually the tree of life, conquering sin and death once and for all.
That use of the Roman torture device marks the beginning of the end of suffering in the world.
To focus on Jesus’ suffering is important, because it is reminder for us that there is still suffering all throughout the world.
Just this afternoon, I participated in a Good Friday service with the other Christian clergy from around Framingham at MCI, the only women’s prison in Massachusetts. Part of this service was a time of small group prayer and anointing. In each of these women’s prayer requests, I saw suffering. In their eyes, I saw the suffering in their hearts. Many suffered with addition, others with broken relationships, and others with deep inner turmoil.
And this is why we take the time this Good Friday to pray the Bidding Prayer. We set aside time to pray for the world and all the suffering that remains in it. We hold our suffering alongside Jesus’ suffering, and I pray that Jesus’ work on the cross, although it is suffering itself, brings some comfort and hope to you. Some assurance that the end of suffering is in sight, that God is at work in this world, that God is working through us to alleviate suffering all over.
And so we pray for the world, those who share our faith, and those who do not, for creation and our leaders, and for the sick, because God is at work in the midst of all of it and in each one of us.
Suffering still exists in our world and in our lives, but God understands suffering in a very personal and tangible way. God went so far as to suffer God-self to put an end to it. Unfortunately the world is not totally rid of it, and it will not be so as fast as we might like, but God promises that it will! Jesus came to suffer so that there would be an end. This day we will share in the glory of the cross, and one day, we will no longer have to suffer the agony.
It is the last place you might expect to gain healing and wholeness, but the cross does just that. From the cross, Jesus reminds us what it means to love another, to forgive our enemies, to show mercy and love, to rule with humility, and to conquer death.
And that is why we sit in the middle this night, focusing on both Christ’s death and his triumph, which are in fact one in the same.
For it is from Christ’s suffering, that there is an end to ours.
From Christ’s death, we gain life.
From Christ’s cries of pain and agony, we can cry out for joy.