Good Friday – St Stephen’s & St Giles

Stronghold by Sieger Koder
Good Friday 2012  Deep Waters
(with gratitude to the wonderful ideas of Walter Brueggemann)

We sit before the cross
We take some time to be in vigil.
The scriptures claim it took 3 hours for Jesus to die
We are part of that 3 hours today where the chaos rises up against Jesus and against all that we hold dear.
Let us sit before the cross in the quiet… (music plays)

Prayer: God we are here.  On this day where chaos rises against all that is good we maintain vigil.  We do not ask to be comfortable – we know that we live in a world where the chaos threatens so many – terror, violence, poverty, the poisoning of the earth, hopelessness, darkness, despair and disorder – these forces seek to have their way with us and people like us… we cannot sit here and ignore this… and we cannot help but see the cross as your identifying with us… so wait with us.  We are here God, and you are here – that is your promise.  So we wait in the name of the crucified one – Jesus.  Amen.

The psalmist gives voice to what it means to be in the midst of threat
Read Psalm 69:2, 14-15
“I sink in deep mire
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me…
Rescue me from sinking in the mire:
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up
or the Pit close its mouth over me.”

The psalm speaks of deep waters rising and sweeping over
How many of we and those before us have experienced such deep waters… near drowning in grief, in anger, in fear, in despair, in depression, in feeling helpless in the face of injustice, brutality, uncaring institutions, and apathetic neighbours.

We know these deep waters.
But on Good Friday they rise higher than we have experienced – the threat of them reaches even to the throne of God – these primordial, elemental, untamed, chaotic forces rise up against the dry land of creation… the Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann puts it this way: “the power of death does its worst work on this day.”

And there up against this power and this chaos is Jesus.
Can we boldly say that the voice in the psalm today is that of Jesus.  Crying out and giving voice to his fears as he hangs on the cross and struggles for breath as the chaos rises and surges against him seeming to have its way… “Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me…”

The image above, the Koder painting, contains a curious mixture of images – Jesus pulling the sinking, drowning, Peter out of the water, as he and the disciples, many of whom are hardened fishermen, are fearing for their lives.  That is there, but maybe also there is Jonah being rescued, God’s hand coming to him representing the large fish, but maybe also the psalmist and his cry is in the image, as the deep waters threaten to overwhelm, and, of course, it could be Jesus being held as the waters rise…with us looking on from the boat… we need him to get through this!  The artist leaves us the room for imagining.

Have you, some of your own stories of sensing God reaching out to you?
In the silence before the cross I invite you to bring those stories to mind.

We sing in faith and hope ‘O love that wilt not let me go.’

In the midst of chaos faith finds its voice: the psalmist is not in despair – frightened and overwhelmed, but still hopeful and trusting.  Was Jesus also this way?  Surely.
Jesus lived out before us what it means to live into God’s big picture – the reign of God among us, within us, and coming at us.  He lived and breathed this version of reality.  Surely the line in the prayer he taught would be the line he held to on the cross… ‘Thy will be done.’  ‘If it is your will that I drink from this cup, then I will drink it.’

We see something of God’s big picture in the psalm… the pray-er is hopeful, calling out to God to rescue him.  He believes in God at work… in something more powerful and more abiding than the chaos.  “This very act of prayer is an affirmation that the watery chaos has limits, boundaries, and edges because the waters butt up against the power of God.”  (Walter Brueggeman again).

The chaos does its very worst to Jesus, but he replies with a word of triumph – a form of ‘Thy will be done’ – he cried out – not in despair but in triumph – “It is finished!”  It is decided.  It is accomplished.

And does he hear in his dying breath the word of God spoken to Isaiah?  “Do not fear, I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, and you are mine.  When you pass through the water I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” (Isaiah 43:1b-2a)

Is there an ‘Amen’ in his ‘It is finished!’  A ‘so be it.’ A ‘thy will be done.’  Yes there is – he has the audacity and nerve to trust that the waters will recede and life in all its fullness will begin again, on Friday towards Sunday.
And in that moment, surely the deep waters of chaos are transformed into the rescuing, saving, baptising waters of the Jordan.
Yes, we believe it.  For him we believe it.  And therefore for us and whatever is ahead of us.  So be it!

Prayer: In these next few days gracious God, we journey in your Friday to Sunday,
all our struggles and fears and longings we carry with us – looking for your day of all being restored.
We identify that there might be stones you might roll away.
We recognise that there are ways about us that we might need to let go and submit to you.
We walk in trust and hope for the new day because of Jesus’ willingness to bear the chaos once and for all.  Amen.
If it be your will by Leonard Cohen (from Live in London sung by the Webb Sisters)
If it be your will that I speak no more and my voice be still as it was before
I will speak no more I shall abide until I am spoken for
If it be your will, if it be your will
That a voice be true from this broken hill I will sing to you from this broken hill.
All your praises they shall ring if it be your will to let me sing
From this broken hill all your praises they shall ring
If it be your will, to let me sing
If it be your will, if there is a choice let the rivers fill, let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill on all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will, to make us well
And draw us near, and bind us tight all your children here in their rags of light
In our rags of light all dressed to kill, and end this night
If it be your will, if it be your will.


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