Here is our blog post for the Good Friday service at Digby Baptist Church. The whole plan for the service, including the dramatic reading of the scripture, can be read in the Bulletin for this service. Below, you can find the text of the Pastor’s reflections (each beginning with a children’s message) and two videos from this part of the service.
Luke 23:1-25 Real People
Let me speak first to the children.
You probably know I live in the house next door.
If I drew it, I might do this…
Think about where you live.
Can you draw a picture of your house?
You will probably draw some of the people and animals that live there, so we can know it is your home.
Jesus had a home too. He grew up in one village.
He moved out and lived in a different town.
He was a real person, from a real place.
We live in Digby County; Jesus lived in Galilee.
Maybe some time you could draw a picture of what you think Jesus’ house looked like, long ago.
Now, let me chat with the adults.
Making the Bible stories of Jesus come alive and be real can be an important part of our discipleship, following. The Jesus events were real, and He is for real people now.
Four years ago, this short item appeared in The Washington Post, by Alexandra Petri [April 12, 2017].
Crucified man had prior run-in with authorities
I guess this is how we are writing up the victims of crimes now. I did not realize that when you boarded a plane you gave away the right to have your past remain your past… In accordance with this new house style I am writing up an incident whose anniversary some people are celebrating this week.
The gentleman arrested Thursday and tried before Pontius Pilate had a troubled background.
Born (possibly out of wedlock?) in a stable, this jobless thirty-something of Middle Eastern origin had had previous run-ins with local authorities for disturbing the peace, and had become increasingly associated with the members of a fringe religious group. He spent the majority of his time in the company of sex workers and criminals.
He had had prior run-ins with local authorities — most notably, an incident of vandalism in a community center when he wrecked the tables of several licensed money-lenders and bird-sellers. He had used violent language, too, claiming that he could destroy a gathering place and rebuild it.
At the time of his arrest, he had not held a fixed residence for years. Instead, he led an itinerant lifestyle, staying at the homes of friends and advocating the redistribution of wealth.
He had come to the attention of the authorities more than once for his unauthorized distribution of food, disruptive public behavior, and participation in farcical aquatic ceremonies.
Some say that his brutal punishment at the hands of the state was out of proportion to and unrelated to any of these incidents in his record.
But after all, he was no angel.
Real events of real people. For real people today. We face pain and death head-on this morning. This week my heart and mind have been filled with a few losses.
Sixty, seventy years ago, there was a young fellow who was brought to Sunday school and Church here. He sang in the children’s choir. Later, his own children came here too. The man moved away, out west. In recent years he lived back here in Digby. A couple years ago he became ill, with that terrible disease we just call ALS.
He died yesterday. His name was Jack.
Jesus’ real suffering and death was for him – and for us.
About two years ago, a young fellow was coming here on Sundays, bringing his little foster sisters and brothers. A few times his older cousin came with him, and she brought her children. Her name was Sammy. This past week a vehicle went off the road in Roxville. She lost her life; the children lost their mother.
Jesus’ real suffering and death was for her – and her children.
For years now, I don’t know, likely about fifteen, a senior man has come to worship here. A quiet man, with his sweet wife – they got married here when they were about seventy years old. They have not been in their usual pew over the past twelve months – we’ve missed them.
A couple weeks ago he ended up in hospital. His wife did not get to visit him before he quickly died. His name was Nelson.
Jesus’ real suffering and death was for him – and for all.
Luke 23:26-43 Nonviolence
Let me talk to the children again.
One of our children’s activities this past Sunday was to take a piece of paper, and trace our hand and fingers on it. Then make it into a picture of whatever we wanted.
Today, we could trace our hand, and let it be our hand. You could even draw your fingernails.
What if we got hurt, and needed a bandage?
Today, we remember that Jesus got hurt.
His hands got hurt.
No one gave him a bandage.
This happened before He died.
Lots of us have hurts; we get hurt, once in a while.
Sometimes, when we hurt, we feel like hurting back!
Someone hits us, we want to hit back.
In our story of Jesus, He never hits back.
Jesus’ story will help us not hurt people who hurt us.
Now let me talk to the adults.
Father Richard Rohr (May 3, 2017) says:
We are generally inclined to either create victims of others or play the victim ourselves, both of which are no solution but only perpetuate the problem. Jesus instead holds the pain—even becomes the pain—until it transforms him into a higher state, which we rightly call the risen life.
The crucified and resurrected Jesus shows us how to do this without denying, blaming, or projecting pain elsewhere. In fact, there is no “elsewhere.” Jesus is the victim in an entirely new way because he receives our hatred and does not return it, nor does he play the victim for his own empowerment. We find no self-pity or resentment in Jesus. He never asks his followers to avenge his murder. He suffers and does not make others suffer because of it. He does not use his suffering and death as power over others to punish them, but as power for others to transform them.
Back in June our worship services all were completely online. I spoke to you one Sunday about ‘The Seventh Story.’ The idea, from Brian McLaren, Gareth Higgins, and others, that amid the six basic violent stories of how humans act, there is a 7th story. A story of peace and grace. A story that is given to us by Jesus the Christ. I read you the whole children’s book, ‘Cory and the Seventh Story.’
I think I will explore these stories in a series of sermons this coming summer. Our stories of dominating others, of blaming others, of running away from other people, of being stuck in self- pity because of others, and so forth, all are overcome by the story of grace and peace. The Jesus story presents another path. A solution to the pain and problems. Perhaps is it summed up in those unforgettable words of Jesus. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)
It is a very violent story we tell in the Church. It is dealing with disaster, head on, again and again. This touches our disasters today. It is a powerful peace we will find, after the crucifixion.
For now, for today, we must stop and face the pain, the evil, our tragic mortality.
Luke 26:44-56 Darkness
Dear children, have you ever felt afraid of the dark?
Lots of people are scared in the dark: youth and adults.
The other evening it was dark.
I went upstairs into our bedroom. It was very dark.
I did not turn on the light.
I walked on the carpet.
Bump! I kicked the cat that was sitting on the floor.
That cat was surprised – and ran away.
(I think cats can see better in the dark than we can.)
I was surprised! I turned on a lamp.
Let’s pretend it is dark now. Take a piece of paper, and make it into a mask for your eyes. Yeah, close your eyes and cover them. It’s dark!
But we are not scared now, right?
Because we know it is not really dark.
When it is truly dark, at night, say, what do we do?
We walk carefully. We carry a light.
We know a path: how to get to where we are going.
We don’t go alone – we go together.
It was a dark day when Jesus died.
Now, He is alive, and invisible, but with us in the dark.
Thank you for listening.
Now, adults… what does ‘darkness’ mean to us?
American pastor and beautiful writer, Fred Buechener, put it this way, when it comes to darkness.
We are… God knows, a people who walk in darkness. There seems little need to explain. If darkness is mean to suggest a world where nobody can see very well– either themselves, or each other, or where they are heading, or even where they are standing at the moment; if darkness is meant to convey a sense of uncertainty, of being lost, of being afraid; if darkness suggests conflict, conflict between races, between nations, between individuals each pretty much out for himself when you come right down to it; them we live in a world that knows much about darkness. Darkness is what our newspapers are about…. Darkness fills the skies over our own cities no less than over the cities of our enemies. And in our single lives, we know about darkness too. If we are people who pray, darkness is apt to be a lot of what we pray about. If we are people who do not pray, it is apt to be darkness in one form or another that has stopped our mouths. (Listening to Your Life, 1992, p. 266)
Look. ‘It is about noon, and a darkness falls over the whole region.’ Whether the sun shines through the clouds or not, somewhere today, the attention of Christians is upon Calvary, and that darkness. Whether we are filled with prayer and thoughts today, or we are empty of such things, we glimpse the dark moment of God With Us.
For me, it is so powerful that God, in Christ, joins us: joins all our pain, our abandonment, our limitations, and our death.
Yet, as Jonathan Wilson, of CBM, preached, back at New Years: there is a strange beauty and light from the Cross of Jesus. Jesus is glorified by His execution.
Second century bishop Melito of Sardis wrote this, about Jesus’ crucifixion:
Nature trembled and said with astonishment: What new mystery is this? The Judge is judged and remains silent; the Invisible One is seen and does not hide himself; the Incomprehensible One is comprehended and does not resist; the Unmeasurable One is measured and does not struggle; the One beyond suffering suffers and does not avenge himself; the Immortal One dies and does not refuse death. What new mystery is this?
(Claiborne, Shane, et al, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, 2010, p. 490)
PRAYER Almighty God, worthy indeed is the Lamb, Your Son, our Saviour. We have entered the story again, the story of Him who died. It is a simple, clear story. It is a mysterious moment in time and space. The power of forgiveness and healing are here. The facing of our fears and mortality are here. Your grace, O God, is here, poured out for the world.
We pray, this day, for ourselves and others. We pray to Jesus, who knows all about our troubles. We remember:
Those who suffer pain each day. Jesus knows.
Those who suffer mental anguish. Jesus knows.
Those who suffer loss, and face tragedy. Jesus knows.
Those who are dying. Jesus knows.
Those who are doing evil and harm. Jesus knows.
Those who are enslaved in some way. Jesus knows.
Those who are treated harshly. Jesus knows.
Those who struggle for justice & fairness. Jesus knows.
Those who are starving for food, or water, or shelter, or friendship. Jesus knows.
He has shown us that He knows all about our troubles.
Now, by the Holy Spirit’s presence, keep us aware of Jesus’ troubles today and tomorrow. Help us watch and wait. Help the world watch and wait. In His name. AMEN.