Saturday, April 15, 2017

When Life Looks Bleak. . .

Good Friday Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC. 14 April 2017
All Years RCL Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22:1-11; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42

Despite how bleak life looks on this dark day, notice Jesus is in charge.
When the mob arrives in the garden, Jesus comes forward & identifies himself. Although his hands are literally tied, it is poor Pilate whose hands are tied. Pilate tries 3 times to let Jesus go, telling the mob, “I find no case against him.”

Notice how much action comes in threes today as we experience this 2nd portion of the 3-part drama of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday & the Vigil, which lead us to Easter:
  • We know Peter says: I'm not his disciple. I'm not. I am not.
  • The crowd cries 3 times for Jesus' death at the 3rd trial Jesus endures. First is an informal trial by Annas, then a trial with Caiaphas the high priest, finally Pilate.
  • Pilate has the inscription on Jesus’ cross written in Hebrew, Latin & Greek.
  • And we have a trio of Marys near the cross: his mother, his aunt, & his friend.
Hanging on the cross, Jesus gives us a 3-fold lesson in being human: he takes care of his family, he thirsts, he completes his work.
1st the Son fulfills his responsibility. He arranges for someone to take care of his mama. He does this hanging on the cross.
Family duties often call us when we feel pulled in all directions. Look to Jesus on the cross.
2nd Jesus says, “I am thirsty.” He expresses his human need which we experience. Notice: Jesus relies on fellow humans to help.
We thirst, feel worn out. Rest. Ask for help. Jesus’ understands.
Notice: His disciples feel bewildered, confused as he is arrested & snatched away. Think of a time you felt this way.

Country music singer/songwriter Sam Baker knows about relying on fellow humans to help after his near-death experience in a terrorist bombing of the train he was on traveling in Peru, as I learned listening to Terry Gross' interview with him on NPR's Fresh Air1.

Sam, who grew up going to church & drifted away, has renewed perspective, faith, & sense of purpose he expresses in songs. In his song, “Steel”, about the explosion, he sings: “No one is just an observer / The same bell tolls for the served & the server / For the strong & the weak / The weary & the brave...”2
Sam teaches us about our common humanity, about mercy & grace & faith in humanity, as he says in his NPR interview. One thing which has changed for him is “the sense that all suffering is universal...we all (suffer)”3 & this has taught him empathy & faith in us humans.

In the 3rd lesson we hear from Jesus, he declares: “It is finished.” His job is done. Humanity’s brokenness can start to heal. The barrier we caused between us & God is torn down.

This is the Good News – powerful news – we have to share . This is the work we have to do to help heal others whether in big or in small ways. . . . . Remember what Romans 10:15 says: “Beautiful are the feet...that bring Good News.”

We washed our feet Maundy Thursday – either physically or spiritually. They are ready for the journey to take Good News to those who need it wherever we live, wherever we travel.

We do not despair because Jesus hangs on the cross today.
As Easter people, we know what happens next!

Bacon, Ed. 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind. Boston: Grand Central Life & Style. Hatchette Book Group. 2012.
Baker, Sam. BlueLimeStone Publishing. Produced by Walt Wilkins & Tim Lorsch Bull Creek Productions. 2004.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
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.
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
Sam Baker: Finding Grace In The Wake Of Destruction. 6 May 2014.

1 Sam Baker: Finding Grace In The Wake Of Destruction. NPR “Fresh Air” Interview with Terry Gross. 6 May 2014.
2 Baker, Sam. BlueLimeStone Publishing. Produced by Walt Wilkins & Tim Lorsch Bull Creek Productions. 2004.

3 Ibid. Sam Baker... NPR “Fresh Air”.

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