St Mark’s Episcopal Church Good Friday 2017
In the Name of God, our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Comforter. Amen
Our Holy Week services recall to us the central events in Jesus’ life. They also enable us to participate in those events, participate in our time God’s saving work, as we walk with Jesus through the events of this last week of his earthly ministry.
We as Christians proclaim that God is at work in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We proclaim that God is at work in these events, reconciling us to God, overcoming everything that can separate us from God.
These services enable us to proclaim with Paul that there is nothing in death nor life, in the present nor the future, neither heights nor depths, nor anything in all creation that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As we move through he services of Holy Week, we understand how this is so. How it is so, is a mystery. How, in the event, the gesture, the suffering, the dying there is victory, there is freedom, there is new life, there is wonder, is a mystery.
We try to get our minds, our ideas, our imaginations, our explanations around this mystery, but we fail. Language fails at the edge of this mystery.
Tonight, we are at the heart of this mystery. Tonight, we walk with Jesus to Gethsemane as he is betrayed by Judas. We walk with him to his trial and to his condemnation. We pick up our crosses and walk with him to Golgotha. We are with him in his crucifixion. We are with him as he dies, and as his body is laid in the tomb. Like those before us, Jesus dies. Like us, one day, Jesus dies. There is no aspect of human life that Jesus does not know.
Language fails at the prospect of this mystery.
Let others speak for us this night, let poets who were priests speak for us.
George Herbert: THE AGONY
Philosophers have measured mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.
Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man, so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skin, his garments, bloody be.
Sin is that Press and Vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through every vein.
Who knows not Love, let him assay,
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.
SINCE Christ embraced the cross itself, dare I
His image, th’ image of His cross, deny?
Would I have profit by the sacrifice,
And dare the chosen altar to despise?
It bore all other sins, but is it fit 5
That it should bear the sin of scorning it?
Who from the picture would avert his eye,
How would he fly his pains who there did die?
From me no pulpit, nor misgrounded law,
Nor scandal taken, shall this cross withdraw, 10
It shall not, for it cannot; for the loss
Of this cross were to me another cross.
Better were worse, for no affliction,
No cross is so extreme, as to have none.
Who can blot out the cross, which th’ instrument 15
Of God dew’d on me in the Sacrament?
Who can deny me power, and liberty
To stretch mine arms, and mine own cross to be?
Swim, and at every stroke thou art thy cross;
The mast and yard make one, where seas do toss; 20
Look down, thou spiest out crosses in small things;
Look up, thou seest birds raised on crossed wings;
All the globe’s frame, and spheres, is nothing else
But the meridians crossing parallels.
Material crosses then good physic be, 25
But yet spiritual have chief dignity.
These for extracted chemic medicine serve,
And cure much better, and as well preserve.
Then are you your own physic, or need none,
When still’d or purged by tribulation; 30
For when that cross ungrudged unto you sticks,
Then are you to yourself a crucifix.
As perchance carvers do not faces make,
But that away, which hid them there, do take;
Let crosses, so, take what hid Christ in thee, 35
And be His image, or not His, but He.
But, as oft alchemists do coiners prove,
So may a self-despising get self-love;
And then, as worst surfeits of best meats be,
So is pride, issued from humility, 40
For ’tis no child, but monster; therefore cross
Your joy in crosses, else ’tis double loss.
And cross thy senses, else both they and thou
Must perish soon, and to destruction bow.
For if the eye seek 1 good objects, and will take 45
No cross from bad, we cannot ’scape a snake.
So with harsh, hard, sour, stinking; cross the rest;
Make them indifferent; call, nothing best. 2
But most the eye needs crossing, that can roam,
And move; to th’ others th’ objects 3 must come home. 50
And cross thy heart; for that in man alone
Pants downwards, and hath palpitation.
Cross those dejections, 4 when it downward tends,
And when it to forbidden heights pretends.
And as the brain through bony walls doth vent 55
By sutures, which a cross’s form present,
So when thy brain works, ere thou utter it,
Cross and correct concupiscence of wit.
Be covetous of crosses; let none fall;
Cross no man else, but cross thyself in all. 60
Then doth the cross of Christ work faithfully
Within our hearts, when we love harmlessly
The cross’s pictures much, and with more care
That cross’s children, which our crosses are.
O BLESSED bodie ! Whither art thou thrown ?
No lodging for thee, but a cold hard stone ?
So many hearts on earth, and yet not one
Receive thee ?
Sure there is room within our hearts good store ;
For they can lodge transgressions by the score :
Thousands of toyes dwell there, yet out of doore
They leave thee.
But that which shews them large, shews them unfit.
What ever sinne did this pure rock commit,
Which holds thee now ? Who hath indited it
Of murder ?
Where our hard hearts have took up stones to braine thee,
And missing this, most falsely did arraigne thee ;
Onely these stones in quiet entertain thee,
And as of old, the law by heav’nly art,
Was writ in stone ; so thou, which also art
The letter of the word, find’st no fit heart
To hold thee.
Yet do we still persist as we began,
And so should perish, but that nothing can,
Though it be cold, hard, foul, from loving man
Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward
LET man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th’ intelligence that moves, devotion is;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day, 5
Scarce in a year their natural form obey;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl’d by it.
Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul’s form bends to the East. 10
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see 15
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees God’s face, that is self-life, must die;
What a death were it then to see God die?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink. 20
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood, which is 25
The seat of all our souls, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg’d and torn?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye, 30
Who was God’s partner here, and furnish’d thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom’d us?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They’re present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and Thou look’st towards me, 35
O Saviour, as Thou hang’st upon the tree.
I turn my back to Thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity; 40
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I’ll turn my face.
George Herbert: Love III
Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
In Jesus’ cross, love calls us. In the dark of night, Jesus calls us to watch with him one hour. In the way of the Cross, Jesus calls us to follow. At Jesus’ banquet table, Jesus calls us to break the bread and share the cup as his memorial. Jesus calls us into community, a community of love. Jesus calls us to share his ministry of servanthood, reconciling all the world to God.