SR 3-25-05 Good Friday Meditation

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SR 3-25-05 Good Friday Meditation Powered By Docstoc
					                                     ALL SAINTSCHURCH
                                        PASADENA, C ALIFORNIA

                               TO DRINK OR NOT TO DRINK?
                              A Meditation by The Rev. Susan Russell
                                 Good Friday - March 25, 2005

        “Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kedron ravine. There was a garden
there, and he and his disciples went into it …” And we know the garden’s name :
Gethsemane. And we know what happens next – we know where this familiar Good Friday
story leads – know where we will leave it when we conclude this three hour service of prayer
and reflection, story and song. We know that Jesus dies: that the life -- the promise -- the
light that shone so brightly will be extinguished. All that will remain of the rabbi from
Nazareth will be a broken body and the broken dreams of his scattered followers. The
Kingdom he proclaimed has not come. The powerful remain powerful: the oppressed remain
oppressed, and where there had been hope there is only despair.

         This is the stark truth of this day we call "Good Friday" -- a crucial point in the
symphony that is Holy Week. Palm Sunday was our overture: touching on all the themes to
be played throughout the week and leading us into the subsequent movements. And now
we've arrived at Good Friday: in some ways the adagio of the piece. In the hours between
now and the allegro of Easter, we sit in the silence and contemplate the power of this story
that is ours.

         And yet, let’s be honest -- we already know that this is not the end of the story. We
gather today for this liturgy of Good Friday with the Easter dress hanging in our closet; the
flowers ordered; the brunch planned and the candy ready to go in the baskets. We've peeked
at the last chapter to see how the book comes out. We've seen this movie before and know
that there's a happy ending.

       So one question might be “How can we be present in the reality of Good Friday,
knowing that Easter happens?” Another question: “Why bother?” Couldn't we just skip Good
Friday? Clearly that's an option. Look around you: I think I'm safe in saying that there'll be a
few more folks with us on Sunday morning, folks who go straight from Palm Sunday to
Easter Day without the Holy Week stuff. Couldn't we just skip this part -- why dwell on it?
We just heard the story of the crucifixion on Palm Sunday: just like we've heard it every
year. Can we hear it today in a way that isn't just "the same old thing"?

        Garrison Keillor tells the story of his uncle who, at annual family gatherings during
Holy Week, would read the story of the passion and death of Jesus. And each year, when he
came to these verses describing Jesus' betrayal, he would burst into tears. The family would
sit awkwardly until the man was able to continue the reading. Keillor commented that his
uncle took the death of his Lord "so personally." He'd pause in his story, then add: "The rest
of the church had gotten over that years ago."

DATE OF MEDITATION: 3-25-05                                                          PAGE 1 OF 4
        And I fear there is truth in that. It seems to me that the Church, over the centuries, has
gone to great lengths to exercise two really viable options for “getting over” taking Good
Friday personally. One option is to ritualize and sanitize the story so that it rema ins at a safe,
historical distance: the Institutionalization of the Passion.

         The other extreme is to so focus on the agony of the cross that the glory of the
resurrection becomes practically incidental: to make how Jesus died more important than the
life Jesus came to show us how to live. And neither option truly enables us to do what I
believe we have been called to do as members of this thing we call the Body of Christ: to
take both the death AND life of Jesus “personally” – to hear these stories of Lent and Holy
Week and take them personally enough to be changed by them. Don't we get it? Who was it
that was upset by Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead? Who was repelled by the teachings
of Jesus? Who felt that Jesus was teaching false doctrine? Who wanted this man to "go

        It was the righteous; the orthodox; the people who knew how to do it correctly. It was
the keepers of the Law. It was the people who knew the rules: and knew how to make sure
everyone else kept them. How can we hear this message -- this story -- and not be confronted
by that? By the sin of self-righteousness in the voices who cried "Hosanna" and turned so
quickly to the crowd which cried "Crucify Him". And crucify him they did. The crowd got
what they asked for.

         I don't want to be part of that crowd. I don't want you to be part of that crowd. But
that's the risk we run if we skip Good Friday. If we fast-forward to Easter, we avoid
confronting in ourselves our own self-righteousness, our own certainties, our own fears. We
also avoid being transformed by them.

        Robert Shahan, when he was the Bishop of Arizona famously said, "Faith is what you
are willing to die for. Dogma is what you are willing to kill for." Jesus didn’t come to give us
dogma to kill for -- he came with a willingness to die for the sake of the message that the
Kingdom of God is at hand: the Reign of God is about to be realized. It is here. It is now. He
came with a message of inclusiveness and compassion: compassion in the truest sense of the
word. The Latin word for passion means "suffering": the combined form of "compassion"
means "with suffering." It is an invitation to join, to be a part of something requiring sacrifice
and often pain. For us, it is an invitation to join and be part of the crucifixion story not in a
way that leaves us stuck in the agony of Good Friday but in a way that leads us to the Glory
of Easter.

        “This is the cup God has given me; shall I not drink it?” Jesus asked in the Garden.
Was it a rhetorical question asked by the one who saw unfolding before him the events that
would lead to the death he had been born to die -- the sacrifice of the sinless one for the sins
of the world? Or was it said hoping-against-hope that there was still another way to make
known to the people of God the love of a God who was willing to become one of them -- to
show them how to walk in love with God and with each other?

        I believe it was incrementally the latter. I believe that even more important than the
death Jesus died was the life Jesus lived – a life so in alignment with God’s will – God’s love
– that he was “obedient even unto death.” Not, I submit, obedient to a vengeful God who sent

DATE OF MEDITATION: 3-25-05                                                                 PAGE 2
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Jesus as a blood sacrifice but to a death that was the inevitable result of humanity’s abject
sinfulness for which we should still wallow in guilt and shame.

        Rather, I believe, our Lord was obedient to the love of a God so great that it not only
transcended death in the glory of the resurrection on Easter Day but enabled Jesus to
transcend the FEAR of death as he walked the way of the cross on Good Friday – as he chose
to drink the cup he had been given even as he questioned up until the very last moment
whether there wasn’t another way to accomplish the work he had been given to do.

        To take it personally is to commit to continuing that work – work that we don’t have
to look very far to see is far from done. To take it personally is to choose to drink from the
cups we are given to drink from time to time as we work to proclaim good news to the poor,
to liberate the captive, to live our own lives in alignment with God’s will for us and for the
world – in spite of the sometimes substantial cost. “To drink or not to drink?” that is the
question – and for our friend Bishop Gene Robinson, the answer to that question is taking the
life and death of Jesus personally.

        “The fact is, at least for me, the resurrection makes all the difference in how I live my
life. The resurrection is how I can ‘be not afraid,’ but instead be a bold and active witness to
the love of God. As I strapped on my bulletproof vest just before [my consecration as Bishop
of New Hampshire] I remember feeling blessedly calm about whatever might happen. Not
because I am brave, but because God is good and because God has overcome death, so that I
never have to be afraid again.

        “That is the power of the resurrection. NOT in what happens AFTER death, but what
the knowledge of our resurrection does for our lives and ministries BEFORE death. I am not
worried nearly as much about life after death as about whether or not there is life before
death! We are no longer prisoners to the power of the fear of death. We don't have to be
worried about how all of this is going to turn out. We know the end of the story. God reigns.
Death is vanquished. We are given life eternal in the company of a merciful and loving God
and all the saints. Believing that, knowing that, can and does empower us for ministry in
God's name.” (

         That, my friends, is what a faith to die for looks like. What we have to proclaim is a
Gospel that can truly enter into those places of darkness and suffering where compassion is
the only gift we have to give. It is ours to give, as the Body of Christ, because our Lord went
there first. It is ours to give when we reach out to the oppressed and the persecuted. It is ours
to give whether we proclaim the Gospel to those who have never heard it before or to those
who have never before heard that the Good News of God in Christ includes them.

        Few of us will ever be called to strap on a bullet-proof vest for our faith, but “to drink
or not to drink?” is a question that we answer every time we take the life and death of Jesus
personally – every time we are faced with the choice of whether or not to speak out against
injustice, to advocate for inclusion or to rage against the machine. “To drink or not to
drink?” is the question I hear echoing in this poem by an unknown author, given to me by a
friend and parishioner when I left for seminary in 1993.

DATE OF MEDITATION: 3-25-05                                                                 PAGE 3
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        It’s called, simply, “Crocus:”

          It takes courage
          to be crocusminded.
                                                       Well, I'd rather wait til June.
  Lord, I'd rather wait til June
  like wise roses                                      Maybe things will work themselves out
  when the hazards of winter are                       and we won't have to make an issue of it.
  safely behind
  and I'm expected                                     Lord, forgive.
  and everything's ready for roses.
                                                       Wrongs don't work themselves out
  But crocuses?
                                                       Injustices and inequities and hurts
  Highly irregular                                     don't just dissolve.

  Knifing up                                           Somebody has to stick her neck out,
  through hard frozen ground and snow;                 somebody who cares enough to think through
  sticking their necks out,                            and work through hard ground
  because they believe in spring                       because she believes
  and have something personal                          and has something personal to say about it.
  and emphatic to say about it.
                                                       Me, Lord?
  Lord, I am by nature roseminded.
  Even when I have
  studied the situation here                           Could it be that there are things that need
  and know there are wrongs that need righting         to be said, and you want me to say them?
  affirmations that need stating
  and know that my speaking out                        I pray for courage. Amen.
  might even rock the boat.

       And may God who gives that courage give us also the grace to take personally the death of Our
Lord on this Good Friday -- even as we prepare with Joy to Celebrate His Resurrection on Easter Day.


        DATE OF MEDITATION: 3-25-05                                                            PAGE 4
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