Elizabeth L. Windsor, DMin. Good Friday 2020 April 10, 2020 John 19: 16b-30
A Good Friday World
It is Good Friday. Traditionally the Christian Church marks the day of Jesus’ crucifixion by walking the Stations of the Cross, or meditating on his last words. Over the course of centuries, these rituals have allowed us to witness and mourn Jesus’ death. But, no rituals are required on this particular Good Friday.
In the midst of a world-wide plague, we need no reminders of sacrifice and death. Our nation and the world suffer. As it was for Jesus’ disciples on that day so long ago, our illusions have been shattered, our hope has been overwhelmed and our futures are unknown. We live in a Good Friday world.
For those of Christian or Jewish faith, our religious practices re-focus our attention on plague this week. Our Jewish siblings began Passover at sundown two days ago. They remember their experience of slavery in Egypt and tell the story of God’s liberating participation in their communal history. Their lintels marked with the blood of a lamb, the Angel of Death passes over God’s people as the first-born sons of the Egyptians die. It is the last in a series of calamitous plagues that finally convinces Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Christians, too, remember these plagues as we tell the story of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday. Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and that is the meal he shares with his disciples on the night he is arrested.
The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s campaign for Moral Revival, reflected on plagues in a recent essay in Sojouners Magazine, “ . . . Plagues expose the foundations of injustice.They tear down the flimsy, whitewashed walls of false narratives to expose the foundations of injustice . . . when the powerful double down on inequality, violence, exploitation, and deceit - God speaks . . . through plague to force us to see the truth of sinful injustice in our society, remove oppressors from power, and repent. “
Covid-19 has revealed the brokenness of our Good Friday world more clearly than we can bear. All of our world’s unjust structures of power and privilege have been made visible in ways we can no longer ignore. While the virus strikes people of all walks of life and of all social statuses, the effects of it do not. The privileged shelter in place and work from home, while the poor continue to work or go without. The emergency gives cover to the authorities to use their power to further exploit the system to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. The deceit of our Good Friday world is ugly. Our failures to love God and our neighbors publically hang on the cross. We cannot hide from them.
But Good Friday is not the end - even though it may feel that way to us, and it certainly felt that way to the disciples. The late Barbara Harris, the first woman elected Bishop in the Episcopal Church, preached over and over and over again that Christians are “Easter people living in a Good Friday world.” Easter people know that resurrection waits beyond the cross. Easter people know that God’s power – love’s power- cannot be contained by death. Easter people know that God’s power working in us calls us to faithfully respond to the injustices of our Good Friday world.
Easter people choose to participate in the resurrection that is both already here and yet is still coming. Dr. Theoharis invites us to live the resurrection even in the midst of the horrors revealed by Covid-19, “. . . the lesson from our sacred traditions is that . . . the basic demands of justice, cannot be temporary.Plague in the Bible is not a storm to be weathered before the return to normalcy. It is a call to come together in new ways in order to survive, to hold the powerful responsible for their unjust policies and the lies they tell to cover up injustice and to rebuild on foundations of justice and love.”
Rebuilding our Good Friday world “on foundations of justice and love” is the work of Easter People. On this terrible Good Friday, may we be the Easter people our suffering world needs. Amen.