We enter Good Friday and Holy Saturday before we can come to Easter. I offer you three reflections, including the first one by guest lay preacher, John Endress, for whose offering of himself I give thanks.
Reflection by John Endress Good Friday Morning Prayer
The Gospel according to John 13:36-38
Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.
In our Gospel today, it is reasonable to assume that Peter knew the relationship he had with Jesus was about to change. The time Peter spent with Jesus was special. I think he knew it and that it’s not hard to empathize with Peter.
I remember special times too. I remember the feeling of Christmas Day as an eight year old boy, and telling my parents that I didn’t want the day to end.
● I remember a trip to summer camp on a late Friday afternoon. It was special because for the first time, I was driving.
● I remember the whole day that I asked my wife to marry me.
● I remember watching children receive their diplomas.
All of those moments were special.
Although I remember them visually, I also remember the sounds, and the smells, and especially the people who were around and close to me at that time. I wanted to hang on to that feeling with everything I had.
I don’t think I would offer my life to stop time. But, I realize that sometimes things are special because they do not last.
Mother Elizabeth’s reflection on Good Friday
Good Friday Liturgy
Normally I would preach of betrayal and abandonment on Good Friday. In acknowledging how most of those who loved Jesus best and the crowds who once cheered him either called for his crucifixion or ran away from Jesus and his punishment and death in fear of their own lives. It remains a useful exercise to examine betrayal and abandonment in our own lives, both when we have experience each and inflicted each.
Hearing John’s reflection above during Morning Prayer today I choose to reflect upon shifts in relationship and our desire to hold on to what we have right now as it is.
Judas sought a social and political revolution and hoped to spur Jesus to action through his betrayal – at least that is plausible to me.
Peter, though he was close to Jesus, really did not believe that death would come from following the path of love. This was not at all what he planned or expected. His life had been turned upside down once. What was this turn of events about?
The Jewish religious authorities wanted to keep business as usual. They ran the temple, made and enforced rules of daily life and were pretty comfortable with all that. Who was this Jesus challenging their ways as no longer true to the ways of God? As the writer of Hebrews notes the blood of goats will not take away sin.
Instead Jesus calls us to a new relationship with God and with one another that requires staying true to the path of love and keeping one’s heart open to others and to God not matter the difficulties along the way, no matter that the path is not one we wish to take. It is in staying open to love and trust in God and to loving in the face of everything that we discover new and deepest life.
But today we cannot yet see new and deeper life, we can only trust and love. In the time of COVID-19 and shifts in our worship, our daily lives, we can choose fear or love. Fear is a natural response as it was for Peter, but may we following Jesus choose trust and love.
Mother Elizabeth’s Reflection on Holy Saturday
Job asks in Job 14:14 if mortals can die, will they live again? He offers sense that there is no enjoyment of life on earth (certainly he current experience would confirm that) and doubts a future communion with God. Death is death. Unlike trees which can sprout new growth when cut down, humans do not. Job longs for ongoing communion with God, for death (Sheol) to be a resting place until such time as humans can know full communion.
No doubt Jesus’s followers, including Mary Magdalene, John, his mother all wondered this. Most were cowering in fear and sorrow. Jesus on the cross felt abandonment just before his death.
Yet, we see a tether of grief and love which go together. It is this tether which Jurgen Moltmann refers to in the Holy Spirit holding together the love which binds the Trinity which God the Father grieved the death of God the Son, who felt abandoned. It is this tether which held Jesus as he went down to Sheol when Mary Magdalene entered deep grief and a broken heart pouring out love of Jesus. Her love as the love of the Holy Spirit sustained Jesus in his journey to Sheol to death itself.
We, too, are called to be a tether to one another, a tether sustained by the love of Jesus. As Peter writes: Maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.Today I invite us to sit in grief which comes from great love. We cry as the psalmist: my soul waits for the Lord. Perhaps feel the grief in our guts or our hearts as grief causes pain and emptiness. May in that emptiness we discover a capacity to love one another always as our hearts are freed from self-focused desires and open to the tether of love. This tether sees Christ in you and in me.
There is hope.