We Stand at the Cross
Apr 02, 2021
April 2, 2021
The Passion According to St. John
Pastor Jean M. Hansen
Our service today includes the procession of the cross and its veneration. We have not used this service for a number of years, opting instead for the light to darkness theme of the much-loved Tenebrae service. It is faithful, though, to place ourselves before the cross and to reflect on the meaning of the crucifixion for us.
The cross speaks of betrayal, pain, and sorrow, suffering, and death. In her reflection on Passion Sunday, published in a recent Christian Century, Katherine Willis Pershey remembers Good Friday 2020, nearly one year ago. On that day, she recorded her contributions to her church’s virtual Easter service. As if the challenges of sorting out how to do ministry in a pandemic were not enough. She could barely sit upright in her living room armchair because of the searing pain she experienced due to what she described as a “volatile sacroiliac joint.” Her memory is of physical and spiritual agony, she writes.
When, months later, she looked back at her notes for that recording, she saw that she had preached that it only seems as if we were trapped in Good Friday; that is not the end of the story. In truth, last year was a time, for many, that could be described as camping out at the foot of the cross. You have, no doubt, known other times when that was the case and perhaps are experiencing that trapped-in-suffering feeling now.
It is at such times that, to quote Pastor Pershey, “the church (God’s people) can keep vigil. We can bear witness. We can stubbornly refuse to let Christ suffer alone, wherever he suffers – in the garden, on the cross, in the hospital room, in the basement apartment.” (1) Because you see, wherever there is suffering, our crucified Lord is present.
And this we know: the cross speaks not only of betrayal, pain, sorrow, suffering, and death but also of hope, of new life emerging from the ashes. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is described as light, light that shines in the darkness. Tonight, it seems as if that light is extinguished, but we know differently; the darkness has not overcome the light that is Jesus.
As we stand at the cross, some of us can better see the hope than others. So, we stand at the cross for those who see only the darkness: who wish to be here, but pain, weakness, and circumstances keep them away, or who do not know Jesus, unaware that this is not just another Friday.
We stand at the cross for those who are angry: who are victims of abuse, racism, poverty, or who exploit and create trauma for others.
We stand at the cross for those who are hurting: who are ill, dying, grieving, or mistreated and tormented by memories.
We stand at the cross for those who are selfish: who are consumed by greed and bitterness or who always put themselves first.
We stand at the cross for those who doubt: who cannot pray, have lost hope, or struggle with unbelief.
We stand at the cross for ourselves and remember who died there for the sins of the whole world. We stand at the cross as a reminder that evil cannot achieve its goal. (2)
We acknowledge that although our hearts are broken, they are not destroyed; hope and healing are the byproducts of Jesus’ crucifixion. Just hold on until Easter. AMEN
(1) “Living by the Word: Reflection on the Lectionary” by Katherine Willis Pershey, Christian Century, March 10, 2021.
(2) “Our Hearts are Broken, but not Destroyed” by Ben E. Helmer, April 6, 2012, www.episcopalchurch.org