Sermon for Year C, Good Friday
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
March 29, 2013
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
I always try to be careful about how much to say at these moments …
I don’t want to make out that I have a lot of answers, or even a lot of words …
We know what we have seen, and what we have done.
We have walked the Way of the Cross with Jesus.
And in doing this, we have perhaps been too quick, as always,
To identify with Jesus or his followers or his family,
Or those who weep over him,
Or at the very least those who do not wish him harm.
It is not in our nature to identify with those
Who condemn him to death
Or who beat him, bruise him, spit on him, mock him, crucify him,
Expel him from the city, pierce and scar his flesh,
Cast lots for his clothes,
Or, at the last, allow him to be taken down and taken away
With a casual wave of the hand.
All of that seems somehow less than human,
And we like to be on the right side of things – on the side of the good guys, as it were.
We don’t like to imagine that we’re on the wrong side of things,
Even and most especially when we are.
It’s always more complicated than just being a good person or not.
Somehow, in all this mess of living and dying, God is speaking to us,
Turning the cross into the chair of a teacher,
And the tomb into a temporary resting-place.
Teaching us. Teaching, perhaps,
That one of the most incredible things we will ever get to do in our human journey
Is to choose how to think and how to behave in the world.
Some say it’s all mapped out for us; that our real choices are severely limited for us,
And to some extent that’s true.
We live where we live, when we live, with whom we live,
And all of that conditions us.
But we are given the chance,
Especially when we step into this moment,
Which is one of the most crucial in all of history,
To weigh for ourselves
How our actions and words will impact others and the environment around us,
Both in the short term and in the long term.
So no matter whom we identify with in all that has just happened,
And no matter the fact that it is a moment now passed,
There is one small shining thing we can all do in light of it,
And that is to choose to take the teaching that has been offered.
The teaching is this: to Forgive.
You know, even just saying that word puts a lump in my throat,
A weight on my shoulders, a butterfly in my stomach.
Yet we hear this request, the cry of Jesus from the cross:
Father, what they do, forgive.
And we have to live with that, wrestle with that, contend and strive, and make peace.
Forgiving someone who has done us wrong
Is about the hardest thing we may ever have to do,
If we take the teaching from the cross seriously.
Just as it’s human nature to assume the role of the good guys at the crucifixion,
So also is it human nature not to allow oneself to go back
To a place where pain can be revisited.
By the way, I’m speaking today of what has already been done to us;
If you are in a place right now where there is abuse of any form going on,
Psychological or physicial or spiritual or financial or sexual,
Please know that the first step to forgiveness is getting out of that situation for good.
You can come and find me or call the police or do whatever you have to do to change it.
I will tell you that forgiveness is even possible in these situations,
But change the situation first by removing yourself from it.
No matter the situation, forgiveness is costly
Because it demands that we wake up each new day
And remember what happened,
And recommit: Oh, that’s right. I forgive you.
By God’s genius and nature’s design,
A deep wound does not heal quickly; it isn’t supposed to;
It takes a long time to get whole.
First we have to get out the infection,
The poison of hate and callous remembering and stuckness;
And then we must bind up the wound.
And then we wait with discipline and rehabilitate the muscle over and over
As we say within our hearts over and over,
And sometimes out loud, when it’s safe, right to the person, I forgive you.
We must move slowly in this process so much of the time,
Exercising great charity and patience with ourselves,
Knowing that even something as amazing and urgent as a divine resurrection
Can’t skip the grave.
And even then, after all that, scars remain.
Will remain so long as we walk around in this bruised, hardened skin.
Will remain to remind us that forgiveness has to be practiced all over again
Every time the sun comes up.
Those scars remind us of the journey we’ve taken
In this long act of moving toward canceling one another’s debt.
In the most significant moment yet, Jesus hangs between life and death
And he asks his Father to forgive those of us who have placed him there.
What more godly trait can there be –
What gift more befitting him as our king and high priest in the sacrifice of his hour –
Than to offer him the gift of a contrite heart freed from any other burden?
What better way to do that than to forgive?