The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks; Good Friday—Year B; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42
This week that began last Sunday with such hope; this week that began with triumph and shouts of “Hosanna!” and a festival atmosphere has come to an ugly, violent, horrifying conclusion. And getting from there to here has led us through, what Cynthia Bourgeault calls, “the hall of mirrors.” All along the way, we have looked in various faces only to see ourselves reflected back. We have seen our courage, steadfastness, and faithfulness; we have seen our cowardice, our naked thirst for power, our vengeance and violence. We’ve anointed Jesus’ feet, and we’ve had him wash ours. We have stayed awake in the garden, for a bit, only to fall asleep in the end. We have hoped against hope that this ending would be different, and we have sold our hopes in bitter disappointment for 30 pieces of silver. We have pledged to stay true, only to throw that promise under the bus when it got too scary. We come limping into this day, exhausted by it all, wondering what else is there to say, what else is there to think, what else is there to do. We, like Pilate, come to this day with more questions than answers. “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth,” that’s what Jesus told Pilate. Pilate could only reply, “What is truth?”
Isn’t that what we all want to know? What is truth? What is true? What is the ground that holds firm beneath our feet? What can we stake our life on? What holds the center while our lives swirl around in chaos? What is the truth that changes everything?
There are so many words today, but in the end, the words fall silent, and there is only Jesus, God in the flesh, arms outstretched holding all the pain and suffering of the world, holding the beheaded and the beheaders, holding the bombers and those they kill, holding the victims of earthquakes and tsunamis and ferry accidents, holding girls kidnapped and their kidnappers, holding all the sin and separation and division, holding all the violence that we can do to one another and to all of creation, holding all of it, taking it into his being, holding it in Divine Presence so that nothing, nothing, nothing need ever be outside Divine Presence again.
If our False Self, individually and collectively, is responsible for nailing Jesus to that cross, the True Self is what gazes back at us in reply—“You can do everything in your human power to cut yourself off from my Love, and my Love will hold you still. Even down to despair and desolation and forsakenness, my Love will hold you still. Even down to your last dying breath and the sheer silence in the moment after, my Love will hold you still.”
God refuses to be kept apart from our suffering—no matter the source of that suffering, no matter the cause of that suffering, no matter if that suffering is understandable or incomprehensible or without any meaning whatsoever—God refuses to be kept apart from our suffering; God drinks the dregs of that suffering, and in taking that suffering into his being, God fills even that space with Divine Presence.
You can’t wrap your head around this kind of truth, you can only gaze upon it and let it change you from the inside, out. You can only gaze upon this cross and gaze upon your life and gaze upon the world, and not just with your eyes, but to stand before this cross with your arms outstretched so that your heart can gaze without obstruction.
So, please stand up. Close your eyes. Stretch out your arms wide. It feels vulnerable doesn’t it? In your mind’s eye, just keep gazing, not looking, gazing—gazing is a heart thing—gaze until your heart recognizes the Love that is beyond imagining that can hold all of it in its arms.
Look long enough, and you notice—the questions fall away, the gamesmanship falls away, the maneuvering falls away, the running stops—all that’s left is to follow where your heart is already being held. “What is truth?” then ceases to be a question you ask because you simply know, “Nothing, nothing, nothing can separate you from the love of God.” Amen.
The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Boone, NC
April 3, 2015