If, on this Most Holy Day of cruelty, fear, anguish, and unnerving contemplation - - if, still couched in medieval darkness, the church has reduced you to a groveling sinner, cowering in your unworthy human nature, there is good news, hallelujah, for the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God loves you just as you are, the way you are, notwithstanding this horrific event at human hands.
Yes, we preach Christ Crucified, but “The Gospel” is not the sacrifice of Calvary in which the Church has reimaged and reimagined a standard capital punishment from that era of bestial Roman cruelty, into a unique and unspeakable crime against the Creating God, plunging humanity into darkness, and separating us from the love of God, and raising the specter of Hell to bully frightened faithful into obedience. That’s not it.
That’s not it: the gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s deliberate offering of himself, because you see, our incomprehensible Trinitarian doctrine (BCP 864) is not that God the Father cowardly sends his meek, innocent, and obedient Son - - but that The One God Himself comes Incarnate, comes to teach us to love God and love each other, and God suffers the life and fate of any human (Carl Jung says the crucifixion was God’s penance for the divine atrocity against innocent Job). Regardless, the Good Friday gospel surprises us on Easter morning with the resurrection news that God loves us no matter what. No matter what we do to God, no matter what we do to ourselves and each other, we cannot escape the loving presence of God. God lives, God loves, God comes again, and God finds us wherever we are.
This week I preached the funeral of a family friend of seven decades. One of the readings his family selected was Psalm 139. An ancient Jewish hymn of which Easter Day is ultimate proof, Psalm 139 is just as much Gospel truth as our Resurrection story: Psalm 139, listen to a couple verses —
LORD, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
You trace my journeys and my resting-places
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,
but you, LORD, know it altogether.
You press upon me behind and before
and lay your hand upon me. …
Where can I go then from your Spirit?
where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in hell, you are there also.
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there your hand will lead me
and your right hand hold me fast.
The Holy Gospel is that even the agonizing horror of Good Friday did not, can not, does not separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Do not leave this place today feeling heavy, guilty, stomped into the ground: the Church no longer preaches from the Dark Ages, you are not guilty. You did not crucify. You have loved God, you have loved your neighbor, God is not obsessed with your sins, but with agápē, your faithful, gracious lovingkindess.
Although our liturgy for Good Friday requires a Confession of Sin before Communion, the celebrant may withhold an Absolution on this day, leaving you stunned in suspense. But the Love of God transcends Divine Liturgy and the Church, and I declare to you that your sins are forgiven. Forgiven, forgiven, forgiven, and you are right with God, saved by the Blood of Jesus.
Behold the Cross of Christ: come -- touch -- claim your salvation, Hallelujah!