Saturday, March 30, 2013

What is Truth?

What is Truth?
When there is no hope, humans do not speak.
By The Rev. Marcia McRae
2013 Good Friday Message Based on John 18:1-19:42
For Bainbridge Ministerial Association Holy Week Community Lunch
At Nelson Chapel AME Church, Bainbridge, GA
Crucifix from Russia: A gift from my husband  
"Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen."                              (Book of Common Prayer P. 101)

After the Last Supper, after Jesus washes the disciples’ feet & gives them the new commandment to love each other as Jesus loves them, Jesus and his disciples go to a garden. Judas has betrayed him and brings soldiers & police from the religious establishment to arrest Jesus.

When that mob arrives, Jesus comes forward...and identifies himself as the man they have come to arrest. Throughout his trial and crucifixion, Jesus is in charge. Even speaking with the government authority, Pilate, Jesus is in charge.

Poor Pilate tries 3 times to let him go. Three times Pilate tells the mob, “I find no case against him.” Pilate is stuck. He represents the emperor. The people who want Jesus killed manipulate facts so that Pilate has no choice but to do what they demand.

Trying to save Jesus, Pilate has intense exchanges with him. Jesus tells Pilate “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth...”
“What is truth?” Pilate asks. He recognizes there is no truth in the charges against Jesus, yet he gives in to the mob and has Jesus crucified.
Death by crucifixion looks like loss, like weakness, like failure.
The truth about Jesus’ death is the opposite: It is gain. It is strength. It is triumph over evil and the powers of death. Like Jesus bending to wash the disciples’ feet to show the strength of love in humble service, Jesus shows the strength of his love on the hard wood of the cross.
As he draws his dying breaths, he sees his mother standing near the cross, near the disciple he loves. With the great effort to draw a breath, Jesus says: “Woman, here is your son” and to the disciple: “Here is your mother.” He hangs nailed to that cross, yet Jesus thinks about other people. He makes sure someone will take care of his mom.

Then Jesus says: “It IS finished.” It IS accomplished. It IS completed. Death IS conquered. Jesus completes what he has set out to accomplish. Jesus dies so that we can live and have abundant life.
Is all perfect? Not yet. It will be. We have faith and hope for life after death, for the ultimate triumph of good over evil because Jesus speaks peace and love on that cross. That Jesus speaks at all as he dies tells us that what he says IS the truth.
When there is no hope, humans do not speak. Author Tom Long (who teaches at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology) shares this experience of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche communities, as he “describes a troubling the children’s ward” of a psychiatric hospital[1]:

...(It) was a kind of warehouse of human misery. Hundreds of children with severe disabilities were lying neglected, on their cots. There was a deadly silence. Not one of them was crying. When they realize that nobody cares, that nobody will answer them, children no longer cry. It takes too much energy. We cry out only when there IS hope that someone may hear us.[2]

Jesus cries out from that cross. John’s Gospel tells us Jesus speaks peace, love, hope. The Gospels of Matthew & Mark tell us Jesus calls out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He calls out those words from Psalm 22, which is a psalm of hope and trust.
When there is no hope, humans do not speak. 
Jesus speaks in the most hopeless looking death. Jesus gives us hope and assurance that he died for us & did rise again.
Today we ponder the Mystery of Jesus’ love and self-giving.[3] We know the rest of the story. We are Easter people. We call today Good Friday because on this day death dies.
Jesus conquers death.

We know the truth of the Resurrection. We know the Good News.

May God give us the grace to share that Good News. 

May we remember we are Jesus’ disciples.

We are Jesus’ Body, Jesus’ hands & feet, in our time & place.

Jesus calls us to love & serve

as Jesus does.


Bacon, Ed. 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind. Boston: Grand Central Life & Style. Hatchette Book Group. 2012.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. Accessed: 7 March 2013.
Long, Thomas G. What Shall We Say? Evil, Suppering, and the Crisis of Faith. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2011.
Michno, Dennis G. A Priest’s Handbook: The Ceremonies of the Church. 3rd Edition. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 1998.
Mitchell, Leonel L. Lent Holy Week and the Great Fifty Days: A Ceremonial Guide. Lanham, MD: A Cowley Publications Book. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2007.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Eds.: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.
Partnoy, Frank. Wait: The Art and Science of Delay. New York: Public Affairs (Perseus Book Group). 2012.

[1] Long, Thomas G. What Shall We Say? Evil, Suppering, and the Crisis of Faith. P. 147.
[2] Ibid. Long quotes from Vanier’s Becoming Human. Toronto: House of Anansi Press. 1998. P. 9. Emphasis mine on IS.
[3] Michno, Dennis G. A Priest’s Handbook: The Ceremonies of the Church. 3rd Edition.P. 184.