Good Friday Sermon
2021 04 02 Alan Storey
Utterly, utterly loving God we gather to celebrate your love:
Your love that is woven into the fabric of the universe that we inhabit,
Your love that punctuates the night with meaning and the day with delight,
Your love that is known by many names and millions of unnamed knowings,
Your love that searches for us when we have wandered far down the tunnels of despair,
Your love that finds us when we are lost to ourselves … when we don’t know who we are anymore,
Your love that reaches out to us when the arms of our own love cannot embrace you or any other,
Your love that joins us when our lives are hand-cuffed to a past we long to leave behind,
Your love that holds us together from the inside without us even knowing we are held,
Your love that rejoices in our presence when we have lost all sense of our own beauty,
Your love that connects us to others who are equally in need of love, reminding us that our need is not only to be loved but also to love. And yet even though we have this need to love we struggle to honour it. We struggle to live it.
Utterly loving God, as we celebrate your love, we trust you to hear and hold our confession regarding our struggle to love…
We have struggled to love in more ways than we can fully fathom and others are hurt because of it. Today there are people who are hurting because of the things we have done or not done – the things we have said or not said. So they are probably in a better position than us to confess our sins because they carry the scars from them. Even so we share a sample of where we struggled to live life lovingly:
We confess that we have ignored people – sometimes purposefully and sometimes not but either way we have caused some to feel invisible – as if they don’t exist – as if they shouldn’t exist.
We have cut people off mid-sentence, undermining their contribution and causing them to think twice about sharing themselves with others again.
We have laughed and mocked when we needed to be serious and we have been dead-pan when we needed to be joyfully engaged.
Our facial expressions have skillfully communicated condemnation and the tiniest of condescending smirks have sent others into a self-doubting silence.
We have rushed past people. Failing to listen with openness and attentiveness. And when we have heard the words spoken we have not always felt the feelings within the words. We make quick assumptions and jump to false conclusions. We secretly think we alone are right and sometimes not so secretly. We prefer the sound of our own voice.
And when we speak we shave the edge off the truth – a little bit here and a little bit there depending on whom we are with. We do so because we fear the truth will not win us the approval we so desire. We lie – more often than not – not in what we say but in what we leave unsaid. We think it is harmless because how will anyone know…and yet it manifests within us as sadness and rage.
We live in our heads – obsessively preoccupied with our own lives unable to meaningfully engage the pain of the world around us – pain embodied by people who are considered by the dominant order to be different and dangerous.
We know these things about ourselves and yet we struggle to self-correct ourselves. Even the things about ourselves we resent we struggle to remove. And often when we try we end up tying ourselves in self-righteous knots. So, utterly, utterly loving God we gather here to bear witness to your love that is ever present within our struggle to love.
And we gather in trust that your love holds us even as we struggle to love … and that somehow – we know not how – your loving hold on us will heal us and ultimately transform us into your loving ways. So be it…
Click on this link Prayers March 15, 2015 if you wish to download this prayer.
Living God source of life, receive our breath as our praise.
We breathe-in your grace and we breathe-out our gratitude.
Grace and gratitude. Grace and gratitude.
We breathe because you have first breathed into us.
Yours is the creative breath that hovered over the formless void drawing creation from the chaos.
Yours is the liberating breath that held up the waters enabling slaves to secure freedom on dry ground.
Yours is the inspiring breath that spoke courage into the heart of a trembling prophet with a silent whisper.
Yours is the comforting breath that covered the distressed and grief stricken disciples with peace.
We know this to be true not only from the testimony of the scriptures but from the experience of our own lives:
When we have made a mess of our lives – we give thanks for how you are able to take our chaos and make something meaningful out of it and even beautiful.
When we find ourselves captive – locked in behind the bars of bitterness or resentment; denial or despair; prejudice or pride; grief or fear you break-in to be with us until we are able to trust that your mercy has already unlocked our prison.
When we compromise our integrity we thank you for whispering the truth to us fanning our conscience into flame once again.
When we are lost in loss. When our own breath is weak, we thank you for breathing over us in ways that resurrect us filling us with hope again.
All this you do without charge. But not without cost.
Remind us Lord that it cost Jesus his life.
Remind us that though we longed for the light we loved the darkness too much to let it go.
Remind us that we needed to be rescued.
Remind us that Jesus would stop at nothing until we were free and that not even the threat of death could distract him from this liberating work you set him.
Remind us that we are somehow complicit in Jesus’ killing. Help us to see that it wasn’t just someone else at some other time who was responsible, but that it is each of us. That the evil we do and the good we do not do are not without divine consequence. Give us insight into how this is so. Introduce us to Judas within us – for where we forsake Jesus for money. Introduce us to Peter within us – for when we deny Jesus for fear. Introduce us to Pilate within us – for when we have Jesus whipped to please the crowd. Introduce us to the hammer and nail carrying soldiers within us – when we simply follow orders without question.
Help us to see that we are not innocent.
Fill us not so much with guilt as with grief. Help us to see that the pathways of our sin are death – within us and around us. Open our eyes to see the extent of the death that we are responsible for. Give us not only the desire but the means to turn towards your ways that lead to life in all its fullness.
Come and roll the stone away that prevents us from living faithfully – for we don’t have the strength to do so. Breathe on us until we come alive for you in all things. Address us with your peace that restores our relationship with you. Call us now to follow you as you did in the beginning, reminding us that we still can.
15 March 2015.