Rev. Dr. Molly Scherm
This has been the strangest and hardest Holy Week we’ve ever seen: I’m sure we’ll remember it forever. The familiar rhythms of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday and today, Good Friday, have been disrupted and altered, as has everything else in our lives.
What I think, though, is that there’s a great blessing this Holy Week – a way in which it’s perhaps even holier than usual. In the normal Holy Week that we’ve been accustomed to, and that we miss, the events of Jesus’ last days, his last meal with his community, his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, as well as the confusion and fear of the disciples are stories we’ve watched from a distance – they’ve been a rich and powerful drama that moves us, but from a safe distance.
This year we’re living it – the fear and uncertainty, the powerlessness, the grief. This is why it’s been extraordinarily hard for me to prepare this Good Friday homily. I came in for last night’s service and told Heather that I’d been working for hours on my Good Friday homily and deleted, over and over, everything I wrote. I eventually realized that I couldn’t figure out what to say to help us think about Jesus’ death on the cross when we are surrounded by death in the here and now, and trying desperately NOT to think about it. Further, I wasn’t sure that asking us to think about Jesus’ death and what it means was what we most need right now.
So let me tell you a quick story of what’s on MY mind, and I know that all of you have similar stories. This is not a happy story either, but it’s what’s real. My daughter Wyatt’s a nurse, working for Pioneer Valley Hospice and Palliative Care. She got her training in the nursing program right here at GCC. She provides care for patients in the last stages of life and for their families – in both homes and nursing facilities.
Wyatt has a nursing school classmate whom she has stayed in touch with on social media, though they’re not close friends. They’re about the same age, have young children, and do similar in-home nursing care. Wyatt learned on Monday night that her friend’s husband died that day from Covid 19, pretty likely brought home by his wife, who now will be raising their two children on her own. Wyatt couldn’t bring herself to go into work on Tuesday, but she has done so since. She is, understandably, finding it very difficult.
So I said that I wasn’t going to ask you to think about Jesus’ death, but I do want to suggest some connections between that first Holy Week, that terrible-and-beautiful Good Friday, and what we’re living through.
I believe Jesus accepted and submitted to death on the cross to affirm that powerlessness and pain are part and parcel of this life we’re given, and that God does not protect or rescue us from it. But Jesus faced the ugliness and violence of Good Friday out of the deep love that is the nature of God, to show us that God’s love is stronger and more powerful than the worst ugliness and the violence that the world can dish out.
And the world is dishing out some pretty awful stuff right now, and I’m not just thinking of the virus itself, but of the selfishness and self-protection-at-the-expense-of-others that we’re seeing in some quarters.
But God’s love is powerfully present all around us, just as it was on the cross. It is God’s love that we see in the courage of medical personnel and first responders and grocery store workers who continue to do their jobs despite the risk. It is God’s love that fuels creative new ways of reaching out to those in need – making sandwiches and sewing masks – as well as tried-and-true ordinary ways that we can support one another with phone calls and notes. It is God’s love – not something outside of ourselves but something that lives in us – that is helping us to do the right thing - to stay home, to do without, to exercise patience and persist in prayer.
There will be resurrection. There will be renewal and new life. There will be Easter.
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