Friday, 2 April 2021

A Homily for Good Friday

 Reflection on the Via Dolorosa, recorded for a Good Friday Service arranged by the SA Council of Churches on SABC2: 

 May I speak in the name of God, who is our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen

 I've been asked to reflect on the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering which Jesus followed on that original Good Friday as he carried his cross to Golgotha, helped only by an African, Simon of Cyrene.

 [Transcript continues below video]

 

For all of us in South Africa and the world, I dare say that we have all been given heavy crosses to carry in this past year. Reflecting on the account of Jesus's walk to the place of his crucifixion in Mark, Chapter 15 verses 16 to 21, it was a journey of betrayal, a journey of suffering, a journey of demeaning others, a journey of grief and a journey of sorrow. 

But in the Christian tradition, drawing on Paul's words in Philippians Chapter 3, verses 10 and 11, we read that journey as one that helps us to know Christ; to share in his suffering by becoming like him in death, and then to know the power of his resurrection. Just as Paul at one and the same time shares both the suffering of the Cross and the joyful triumph of the Resurrection, this has been the experience of all of us, at least in this past year, and no doubt throughout many years for some of us.

We have seen during the time of the pandemic both death and life at work in many different ways. In a Christmas message I said that in the past year my mind and heart have been flooded with the lives, the hardships, the challenges and the resilience of everyone I have encountered; everyone whom I think of, whom I cry for and whom I pray for every day. And I recall especially those who have died, whose names and faces I will never forget; those who died without saying goodbye to their loved ones. I remember also those whose families are going hungry, those who have had struggles beyond the usual challenges they face, and those, dear friends, for whom the stringent lockdowns have brought enormous psychological problems. And let us never forget the victims of gender-based violence, the incidence of which has gone up during the pandemic. 

So we have faced our fair share of trials in the past year, experiencing just a little of what Jesus must have suffered on the via dolorosa: the mocking, the spitting and the beating. Like the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, we have carried these trials, these charges and this suffering. In South Africa in the past year, these crosses were not only carried by Christians. They were carried by people of all faiths, and of no faith. Today, as the South African Council of Churches, the Anglican Church, other member  churches, as people of faith, we pause today and want to say:

“Thank you, God, you were in solidarity with us, for you were in solidarity with Christ in those painfully lonely, dying moments. And you're in solidarity with us through the crosses we carry, for within those crosses lie our redemption and victory and hope.”

We are never alone. We were crucified with Christ and we will be raised with Christ. Paul, in a beautifully poetic manner, says in the Letter to the Colossians that through the Cross of Jesus Christ, God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in Heaven by making peace through the blood of the Cross. 

So my call today, to all people of faith and no faith, is: we are never alone; let us renew our determination, let us remember our resilience, let us bemoan the corruption which brings death, let us weep for the 52,000 people who have died in the pandemic so far. Let us reflect on the thorns around Jesus Christ's head, and remember our own thorns which have brought pain to our hearts and souls during this past year. 

Let us renew our resolve that we will speak out and really speak up for the people of Cabo Delgado in Mocambique and for the people of Tigray in Ethiopia. Let us speak out on the issue of the world's climate, for the changes in climate are impacting most severely those who are contributing least to those changes. 

Let us challenge our government to be transparent and fair in the roll-out of vaccines, for although they will not do away with Covid-19, they will help us as humanity to cope better with Covid. And let us take those vaccines as soon as they become available. Equally, let us join the voices of those who are calling for vaccines to be free, or at least affordable, and easily accessible. Let us challenge the pharmaceutical industry in Africa to manufacture vaccines ourselves – I am sure we can make more drugs ourselves instead of importing them. 

Let us also challenge vaccine nationalism - you can't put a flag on the vaccine and hope that the virus will not cross borders. Let us challenge the vaccine apartheid practised by those who play God and determine who is condemned to suffer and die on the cross of coronavirus. Let us fight against those with money and who are greedy, who put profits above human life, and who determine which people can have access to a vaccine and which not.

Dear friends, as Christians, as people of faith, as people of hope: 

We know that the Cross repaired the damage that was caused by frail and sinful human beings. It transfigured all that our sins had marred. It rescued the lost. It mended the broken-hearted and it healed the wounded. So let us hold onto our trust in God, for Good Friday leads to Easter. The Cross leads to eternal life. The darkness of sin is transformed by the body of Christ. And we too are saved, even in a time of coronavirus.

God bless you, and God bless South Africa. Amen.

 

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