Good Friday 2020
There is really not much more to say after this reading we’ve just heard, (the Passion of Christ According to John, chapters 18 & 19), save this:
Today we are separated, kept apart by a virus pandemic. Many of our life experiences and rituals have been affected, especially those experiences and rituals surrounding death.
We are no longer able to visit our aged or infirm loved ones as they near death if they are in a hospital or nursing home. Although some arrangements may be made for the next of kin in some of these places, it is only in the very final stages of dying, often too late to communicate our presence and our love with certainty that our loved one is aware that they are not alone in that moment.
Today we are denied what are normal mourning rituals as well. Funeral are verboten, and even graveside services are limited in size and scope. We are not able to give or receive the comfort and support that is so important at times like these.
As Jesus hung on the cross, most of his loved ones were hidden away in the upper room, his followers scattered for fear of their lives. Jesus died alone, forsaken on the cross. He shares our experience of isolation in that moment. And yet, he gives us hope.
That hope first comes in the awareness that we are not alone in our grief or in our dying. As Jesus took on flesh to join us in our humanity, Jesus dies alone and forsaken so that we might know we never will be; we are accompanied through every moment of our lives and our death by a God who loves us so fiercely, that he is there with us, suffering alongside us, comforting us with the promise that this is not all there is.
While our story today is one of death and sorrow, we cannot forget that the resurrection looms just around the corner. We can’t go there yet, it’s important for us to linger in the shadows of the reality of the cross for a time, but for those living on this side of the cross, Jesus’ own death brings promise.
Jesus dies on the cross but is not defeated, and neither are we. Jesus will go on to glory showing us the way to everlasting life. Jesus demonstrates that this suffering and loss will not be the end of us, and it will not go on forever, but instead will give way to the new life that is ours through the love and steadfast mercy of a God who will welcome us all home.
While living through loss without the blessing of final goodbyes and without the essential and comforting rituals we have come to expect, we are reminded that these losses will not have the last word; one day we will come together in our mourning and in our celebrations, in our sorrow and in our joy.
The good news is that in wherever we are along that journey, we are never alone.