We are here to remember

Sermon for Good Friday

A couple of hours ago, I and the children of the Cathedral Sunday school told the story of Jesus’ last days in a modified way of the cross service. At each station, we used a refrain:

Why are we here?
We are here to remember.

We are here to remember this story. The story of how Jesus of Nazareth – a good man, an innocent man, a holy man, God’s chosen one – who healed the sick and taught with authority and responded with love and compassion to all he encountered – of how Jesus of Nazareth was betrayed and arrested, denied a fair trial, tortured, and executed by an oppressive state.

We are here to remember the story of how religious leaders can become so consumed by the need to protect themselves and what they value that they lose their way completely. The story of how occupiers deal out violence and death because it is convenient for their purposes. The story of how crowds can turn into mobs and bystanders into colluders. The story of how fear and the desire for power destroys humans – body and soul.

We are here to remember this terrible, dreadful story.

Wouldn’t it be nicer to just skip it? To just jump to Easter, year after year? That’s the end of the story, after all – we know it’s coming; why dwell on the ugly part that comes before? Aren’t we, after all, an Easter people, filled with the joy of the knowledge of the resurrection?

Well, thanks be to God we are an Easter people – but we are not only an Easter people. We are also a Good Friday people – a people gathered at the foot of the cross where our Lord and Saviour is executed by powers that continue to shape our world. Because the story, so gloriously ended on Easter, is at the same time tragically ongoing.

Lives are still being destroyed, people are still being killed, by oppressive regimes, by corrupt structures, by selfish and careless participants in evil systems.

So we are here to remember the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. The indigenous women murdered in our own country. The people blown apart as collateral damage. The Christians slaughtered in Kenya. The young black men shot by police officers. The children abused by people they should be able to trust. The exploited workers on plantations and in factories in Côte d’Ivoire or Bangladesh. The mentally ill people cast out into our streets to fend for themselves as best as they can. The queer youth abandoned by parents and churches. The refugees fleeing from civil war and despair.

All of these people, and so many more, need to be remembered. Being remembered is their only hope – is our only hope.

Because even if – and let’s be clear; that is a big, presumptuous if – you and I are largely buffered from the most obvious consequences of these evils, we are not unscathed.

Our lives and those we love are touched by violence, by despair, by division and dishonesty and betrayal, by being made less than human, less than worthy, less than loved. All humanity – all creation – suffers under the weight of the evil that nailed Jesus to the cross.

We are here to remember.

A small friend of mine has asked me on more than one occasion this Lent to explain why we can’t say the ”A” word. I eventually came up with an adequate kid-level answer : we give up the “A” word to give us time to say other words we need to say – words like “I’m sorry.” And “please help”. We need to make special time for these words because they are hard words – words we’d rather skip past. We’d rather pretend that we don’t need them – that everything is good all the time and that we never do anything wrong or need any help.

But that would be a lie.

So we set aside these forty days of Lent to face the truth, to get us ready to come to this moment, to remember this story – because faced with this story, those are about all the words left to us. “I’m sorry” “Please, help”.

And so we are here to remember the depth of our need – our need for forgiveness and our need for salvation. On this day, nothing else is needed. Nothing else is possible until we first find ourselves at the foot of the cross – “I’m sorry.”   “Please, help.”

We are here to remember.

We are here to remember that we are not alone. That we are not forgotten.

We are here to remember that Jesus remembers us, willingly taking up our cross, carrying in his broken body our burdens of guilt and fear, revealing the height and breadth and width of his love for us.

We are here to remember the power of that love.

For the love that keeps Jesus on the cross, suffering with all those who are the victims of hate and greed and corrupt power and evil indifference, that love is the same love that brought everything that is into being; the same love that sets all creation free by the power of the resurrection.

The cross is a promise – a promise that is always and already fulfilled – a promise that we are both redeemable and redeemed, loveable and loved. A promise that there is another way – a way that rejects violence and vengeance in favour of God’s peace, God’s justice.

Thanks be to God that we are a Good Friday people – called to see the world as it really is – broken and despised, fearful and violent, loved and redeemed. Called to the foot of the cross in penitence, in need… and in thanksgiving. “I’m sorry” “Please, help” “Thank you”

Why are we here?
We are here to remember.

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