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St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1789

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca

Office hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10:30 am - 1 pm

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

Worship Times

Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am


Contemplative

Eucharist

Wednesday 7:00 pm


Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Sermon

April 19th Good Friday 2019                       John Marsh


Introduction:


There are many ways of considering and expressing the meaning of the cross – ultimately, it is a mystery, by which I mean, an event beyond definition, haunting us for good or ill. Depending on one’s personality, culture and worldview, some expressions of the cross will speak more than others. Each hermeneutic expression is different, many are of value, some are irredeemable. This homily is but one voice, part of the theopoetic process luring a multiplicity of responses.


~


A story offered in hope of preparing our way…


In the early morning of April 15th, 1912 – 107 years and 4days ago - the unsinkable sank. On that morning, the Titanic hit an iceberg and within hours became legendary. As the ship began to take on water, the ship’s orchestra set up their instruments and began to play. They continued playing as the ship sank. As courageous as this may have been, it would not be wrong to ask – What was the point? Wouldn’t it have been more practical for the musicians to help women and children into the life boats? Perhaps they were hoping that their diligence to duty would result in a pay raise or greater job security? If so, their actions were pointless. Could it be that they sensed a ‘thin place’ in which god opened their eyes and extended their vision? All we can say with any certainty is that, thin place or not, theirs was to become a very wet place! Perhaps all we are left with is the folly of the action, the madness of the music. (See 1 Corinthians 1:18 - 25) As death approached, could it be that the music was a freely offered gift…


~


Some things we know…


Jesus was a wisdom teacher of renown…


He was a compassionate healer…


He was an itinerant rabbi who rubbed shoulders with the poor and the powerful inviting them to live differently within the sacred ‘mess’ called life …


Perhaps foolishly, Jesus invited all to open to visions of a new heaven and new earth, daring them to embrace new ears, new minds and new eyes; he embodied and pointed to an alternative way of life lived responsively within the presence of that which we name as ‘god’¹…


Perhaps not surprisingly, he ultimately failed…


To be more correct, he was defeated²…


He was betrayed, abandoned, arrested, charged with sedition (treason and blasphemy), sentenced to death by crucifixion and duly executed…


The powers won! (They usually do!)


This day presents us with the stark reality of the violence of loss, suffering and defeat…


Jesus loses…


Jesus is killed…


That which we name as god loses and possibilities of new beginnings are stillborn…


This day is a stark existential truth, a mystery we may not like; a mystery we may wish to repress, deny, or sublimate, but regardless, Jesus loses and is killed…


And if we are honest, even for a moment, we know the truth of this – after all, we’ve lived it…


We know the defeat of the loss of health, the loss of home, the loss of hope, the loss of employment, the loss of innocence…


We know the wound of violence in all its forms: the wound of abuse, the wound of segregation, of

reservations and humiliations…


We know the ‘crucifixions’ of cancers, addictions, dementia, hunger, disrespect, indignities and despair…


And while we may never face execution, sooner or later, we will all face the stark reality of death….


This day is a stark existential truth, a mystery we may not like, a mystery we may wish to repress, deny, or sublimate, but ultimately, it is a mystery we all know…

(A note to readers – remember to breathe)


On ‘good’ Friday god was defeated yet, if it is not too strong or too hopeful a statement, perhaps, just perhaps, all is not lost….


In the defeat of Jesus, human agency was necessary…


Humans chose to betray him, to abandon him, to hate him, to refuse the offer of renewed life…


Humans refused to hear or see the promise of a transformed life preferring instead the known paths of dominance and violence, succumbing to the ‘safety’ of subservience, bowing down to the flattening experience of ‘normal’, normal hiding a variety of sins…


So perhaps, just perhaps, we can open to a call of the holy, a song of the sacred – we were not compelled, and we are not…


‘god’ did not desire or require Jesus’ death - humans did³…


So, if choices were made which condemned Jesus and ignored the spirit of that which we name as god, perhaps other choices can be made…


For spirit blows where she wills…


She dances where she dances, sings where she sings, and calls who she calls…


Energy is released and hopefully worked with…


And so, risking a response to a haunting call: a word is spoken…a hand is offered…a brow is wiped…a cry for help is answered…an invitation is received… a refugee is sponsored…a companion appears… a program is created… a treatment is found… a killing is met with justice… a story is told - laughter unfolds and tears flow down… recognition comes… truth is spoken to power…a job is found… a wound is bound… a girl is taught… corruption is named… sacred silence is practiced… a soul is transformed… the innocent are freed… stomachs are fed…creation is honoured… a war is ended… a generous  understanding of beauty is celebrated…a well is dug… a community is housed… a song is sung… a heart is healed… a memory redeemed… a whale is saved…the dead are mourned - their memory honoured… art is created… a life is changed… a meal is shared… reconciliation is dared… a life is saved…eternity is gained⁴..


Some things we know…


Jesus was a wisdom teacher of renown…


He was a compassionate healer…


He was an itinerant rabbi who rubbed shoulders with the poor and the powerful inviting them to live differently within the sacred ‘mess’ called life …


Perhaps foolishly, Jesus invited all to open to visions of a new heaven and new earth, daring them to embrace new ears, new minds and new eyes; he embodied and pointed to an alternative way of life lived responsively within the presence of that which we name as god…


And ultimately, with a madness stretching credulity, we may hear traces of a call and respond, perhaps acknowledging that the cross does not pay off a debt but puts us in debt, making us responsible for the promise of the kingdom of god coming true.⁵


I say perhaps because historically and systemically, we’ve sucked at such living…  


A final note:


‘…the ‘ikon’ of the god in the kingdom of god (which is always coming) is an unjustly crucified man who forgave his executioners and whose disciples scattered in the moment of maximum peril.  The kingdom whose coming he announces is not sustained by a show of might but by a certain and weak force’⁶….


‘The folly of god is to make so much depend upon the folly of the cross. The folly of god is to require our courage to take a risk on god.’


Enough said.



¹ The presence of god is not a prestigious presence which commands or compels. Such a presence would too much resemble ‘the powers and principalities’ always contrasted with the folly of god in sacred scripture. (See 1 Corinthians 1:25). The presence of god is more a call which haunts and invites us than a commanding presence compelling a response.

 ² That the one seen as the messiah of god was defeated has always been disconcerting to those who sought to follow. The degree to which it is allowed to remain disconcerting is the degree to which we may hear and respond to the good news.

 ³ I pray that you repeat this line as often as necessary in order to see differently.

 ⁴ This inadequate list is my list, so I invite you to consider your own but as you do – as you flip between this list and yours – pay attention for you may notice a ‘thread’ which may become the tapestry of your vocation.

 ⁵ John Caputo, The Insistence of God: A Theology of Perhaps, p. 150

 ⁶ John D Caputo, The Folly of God, (Polebridge Press) 2016 p.116

 ⁷ Ibid, p.119