The church is dark and barren; the sacrament that was reserved for the sick is gone… There are some places where the earth is still and quiet, perhaps our own hearts and minds are quiet; I wonder what Peter and the others were thinking in these dark hours, how afraid they were and how they grieved their teacher, master, and friend. Just last night they ate supper together and he washed their feet. And then suddenly everything went horribly wrong. It was a long night of interrogation and torture, and today he was nailed to a cross like the criminals he was murdered with; the difference is he was not a criminal. He came from the Father to teach us what it meant to live in the kingdom of God; he came to forgive our sins and to bring us into eternal life with the Father… and this is how he was treated. What was so threatening to them, to us? Healing the sick, feeding the hungry, touching the unclean, raising the dead… these were the things he did, and they were afraid, they were angry, and so, they crucified him.
Today, in this dark church we take the time to put ourselves in that place to witness his death and also his love. Today as then, we will have nothing left to us except for our prayers, and so, we will pray. In the midst of the darkness that surrounds us, we will pray. The people who witnessed the crucifixion were either the people whose country was occupied, or the people who were the occupiers. Mortal enemies somehow united in this one wish – to get rid of this trouble maker Jesus. Like their time and place, there is much darkness that surrounds us. The war in the Ukraine, gun violence that kills innocent children, racism that infects our hearts and leads to the murder of black men and women, anti-semetism, substance abuse, domestic violence, poverty…the list of soul crushing situations and behavior seems endless, and it feels endless. And sometimes the weight of it all seems impossible; and so we pray. We turn to prayer because we have nothing else. God’s love, God’s truth, God himself came to us in the life and death of Jesus. Can we truly understand what has happened? We cannot. It is one of the great mysteries of God, that Jesus died for the world. So, today we pray for the whole world that he loved enough to die for. We pray for peace, we pray for healing, we pray for the easing of our many griefs, we pray for light in the darkness. We pray so that we might hope, even a little. The glory of God’s Easter is still present reaching back to us in the darkest of days, but it is hard to see it with all of the heaviness around us, heaviness and sin, some of which we appear to be powerless over. We are Easter people in a Good Friday world. And while the media and others criticize us for our “thoughts and prayers”, what they don’t know is that when we truly pray, our hearts, our minds, and even our bodies are awakened to the kinds of actions we must take. Kingdom actions that might not be popular, but actions aimed at serving God’s beloved people. Jesus took all of the poverty, hunger, destruction and death that people have suffered through, and he brought it all with him to a hill called Golgotha, and there it was nailed to his cross. Like the first disciples we might wonder why it happened this way. The prophecies foretold it. But it is still so difficult to understand.
Beloved, spend these next hours in prayer; we should not run too quickly to the next chapter of the story, because this one is so very important. We should stay with the darkness and the grief and offer up our most sincere and necessary prayers. He will hear them; from the cross, and from the tomb, he will hear them. We should stay with the darkness that I hope brings up feelings of gratitude for what Jesus has accomplished for us this day; our sins are forgiven, nailed with him to a cross on Golgotha. His church has been borne in blood and water from his pierced side. May we go forth from this place that we might carry his light into a darkened world. May our love for him help us to see those whom he loves that we might love them too. May the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding be with us this holy, dark night, and always.
Malcolm Guite, Jesus is taken down from the cross