Good Friday

Apr. 2nd, 2010 01:02 pm
gwyn_bywyd: Photo of a yellow orchid. (Orchid)
Halfway through Good Friday. One service this afternoon, but I have no responsibilities for that one. Reeeaaally missing naps today.

It is such an odd day, so emotionally draining, but with this incomplete quality to it. (Which is quite conscious and deliberate in our tradition, you don't have a blessing at the 'end' of a service from Thursday right through to the first Mass on Easter morning, because it is one long service, that stretches the whole three days.) The feeling of the day is of a held breath, or perhaps of the moment just before the sun breaks over the horizon at dawn.

I thought I'd post my Good Friday sermon for anyone who is interested:

 

Good Friday Sermon )
This is the first time I've made one of my sermons available on the web, I feel vulnerable even giving people copies when they've asked for them. But I have to be brave sooner or later!



gwyn_bywyd: Photo of a yellow orchid. (Default)
Well, I knew that already.

But this particular incident relates to today's Gospel, Luke 13:1-9, in which Jesus discusses two tragedies that had occurred, and also talks about a fig-tree a bit (as one does.) Everyone else seems to be grimacing and trying to change the subject. A parishioner joked this morning that it was like some kind of comedy challenge, "here, try to get a good sermon out of that." But I asked to preach on it, because I actually rather like it. Granted, the language Jesus uses is quite heavy on the repentance and what-not, but he is portrayed here as an apocalyptic prophet, the imagery is of his context and time. But still, it remains one of the passages I tend to quote more frequently.

Because, in it Jesus is told about people who have been tragically killed. The assumption of those listening to him is that tragedy is a punishment from God for some sin. Or maybe not even that person's sin, it might also have been their parents' or even further back. And Jesus says, in today's language "Cut it out you lot, no-one deserves this sort of thing anymore than anyone else." He is warning his listeners against blaming the victim. Of course, this is a wonderful corrective to hateful f*ckheads who give the rest of us a bad name when they slime out of their crevices after, it seems, every natural disaster to claim that it was God's judgement. Interestingly these people seem to think that God is startlingly indiscriminate in his smiting. Like some slimeball who claimed that Hurricane Katrina was a punishment for New Orleans letting some famous lesbian live there. Who from memory, wasn't killed. Anyway. Jesus says in this morning's Gospel that this is crap. No-one deserves those sort of things.

But it is actually the other victim-blaming I'm thinking about more, because most people see the blatant stuff as the rubbish it is. But there are more insidious kinds at work all the time. "If you thought positively you could overcome your clinical depression." "Despite the fact 3 generations of your family have been unemployed you should instinctively know all the things that go with getting and keeping a job." and so on. And it is also stunning and saddening to see how much of this thinking has been internalised. So often I see people in times of grief or pain and loss and they say "I don't know what I've done to deserve this." The answer is nothing: No-one deserves this, ever.

So yes, there is reason #5834 why I'm odd, because I do a happy dance at this morning's gospel!

gwyn_bywyd: Photo of a yellow orchid. (Default)
... and to dust you shall return.
Ash Wednesday has been one of my favourite days in the year for a while now. Sitting in the sanctuary these words become a mantra, said over and over as each person comes forward and a cross of ashes is made on their forehead. At the second service this evening an organist played softly during this time, I actually prefer silence, and just the words over and over.
Remember you are but dust, and to dust you shall return.
I find something intensely comforting in the repeated phrase. Perhaps it is a reminder that nothing is ultimately reliant on me, everything will carry on as it needs to without me there, I am but one part of a much greater whole. It reminds me of my relationship with the earth, and with all the people and plants and animals and bugs and stars that have come before me, and all those that shall follow me.
Remember you are but dust, and to dust you shall return.
I'm always reminded of a meditation we did when I was doing a unit on Meditative Practices during my Studies of Religion major. Our teacher had us reflecting on the decay of this body, with the aim of distancing ourselves from it. I was intensely uncomfortable with the practice at the time, because I felt it had been such a long road for me to try to be an embodied being, that to then try to distance myself from body once more would be counter-productive.
Remember you are but dust, and to dust you shall return.
In contrast with that meditation this mantra tends not to leave me feeling distant from my body, but closer to it.
In recent years there has been an element of acknowledging physical frailty on this day. It's ok that my legs don't always work
Remember you are but dust, and to dust you shall return.
for everyone's body is ultimately fragile.
I've only ever wanted to be cremated, but since I started burying people, I find I rather like it - where I stand I can see lower into the grave than the phoney plastic grass that undertakers place so no-one will get upset by the sight of earth. From where I stand I can see the walls of the grave, plain earth, without prettying up or pretence. I'd like to be able to sprinkle some actual earth on the coffin, but all I'm allowed by undertakers is some nice, sanitised sand. I'm somewhat sad to think I won't have that earth surrounding me, or the patter of earth on the lid of my coffin. But by then, of course, I shan't care.
Remember you are but dust, and to dust you shall return.
Because any contemplation of mortality is for the Christian coupled with the belief in God's invitation to all creation to enter into eternal life. The fierce conviction that love is stronger than death peals as an echo behind the mantra.
Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return.

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