Overcoming the reluctance to get involved!
Good Friday: 30th March, 2018
Fr Greg Davies, Priest Assisting at St Peter's, Eastern Hill
When some drama or incident happens near or around us — perhaps we are simply a witness to some crime or incident — we often hear the response — "Oh it has nothing to do with me — I could not possibly get involved — look it is really none of my business." Understandably perhaps — this reaction comes from the fear of the unknown — the risk that we might get caught up in something over which we have no control — the risk that this will take a lot of time — the risk and / or fear of publicity, exposure and that we may just have to do something — that we may suffer too in some way by getting involved. Perhaps some of these feelings and fears are what drove the disciples and many others to abandon Jesus when he was arrested and brought before Pilate. Again — not wanting get too involved especially when it exposes oneself to risk, threat or danger.
But for us as followers of Jesus and on this day of all days — as hard as it may be — we are here and by being here we acknowledge that we are all involved intimately and inextricably like those first disciples in this extraordinary drama, that is at the same time both horrendous and painful yet hopeful and freeing — it is both death and life, life and death. We are like those first disciples invited and called to be a part of — emeshed even, in this plan of God in and through Jesus, a plan for the whole of humanity.
We are involved in Christ's death at a number of levels. First at a personal or individual level as we bring our own suffering, our own pain, trials and struggles to the cross and in doing so this connects us more closely with Jesus' suffering and pain. Of course it needs to be said that our own pain is always intensely personal — no one else can actually know or feel what you are going through, yet what we cannot do, God does in Christ, who on the cross chooses to be involved in our pain and indeed the pain of all people — for all time — and in the cross does so in a way that is at the same time confronting, uncomfortable and disturbing and yet also comforting for we know in all of this we are not alone, God is with us [even at those times when we don't feel it].
Secondly — we are involved in Christ's death as we recognise that not only do we bear and suffer pain but that we also inflict it upon others. As human beings both individually and collectively we hurt one another, some times in the cruellest of ways. We find ourselves caught up in the ways and power structures of our society and either intentionally or through neglect we inflict suffering and pain on those around us. As we hear again the story from John's gospel of Christ's passion we too can recognize part of ourselves in the various characters — like Pilate wanting to wash his hands of it all — wishing it would all just go away, but lacking the courage to do what is right and succumbing to the crowds, or like Peter being overcome with fear and denying having anything to do with Jesus when the pressure becomes too much, or just being one of the crowd who joins in the cry — 'crucify him, crucify him'. We too are involved and caught up in the fear of our own time, the darkness and evil that can so easily lead us to actions of betrayal, revenge and even violence.
In one sense you know we are involved in this divine/human drama of Christ's death and resurrection whether we like it or not because we are alive — we are part of God's creation. Of course we can ignore it, we can refuse involvement and we can say as many do that Jesus’ death does not really have anything to do with me. But for us here this morning, that is certainly not the case for otherwise we would not be here. We gather for this solemn liturgy of the death of our Lord because we are involved and want to remain involved with Jesus together with all its ugliness, suffering and sadness that is played out on the cross because even if we cannot fully understand it, in our hearts, in the depth of our being, we realize that in the end we can only endure, transform and transcend our own pain and that of our world around us, in and with Christ. In his death and resurrection we learn like the disciples — oh so slowly perhaps, that in Jesus the light has indeed come into the world and in the words of John at the beginning of his gospel, ... and the darkness did not overcome it. Thus — this is Good Friday.
It is the words of Rowan Williams that I think best sums up what it is for Christians to be involved in the Passion of Our Lord when he says and I quote: "But he[Christ] will not wipe the tears from our eyes until we have learned to weep."
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St Peter's Eastern Hill, Melbourne Australia.