Good Friday 2015
Were you there the day the sky turned black? Were you there the day the sun hid its face, the day when the air grew cold and the birds stopped singing?
A fortnight ago, many of us were there, witnessing a partial solar eclipse, feeling the chill in the air as our shadows grew long. Of course, the sun was so bright that we were told not to look at it directly. So with clever telescopes and free glasses, with pin-hole projectors and old colanders, many of us watched in awe as the moon blocked out the sun.
Were you there the day the sky turned black?
Many of us here will remember a time, may still be experiencing a period, in which it feels as though the sky has turned black. Many of us will have felt the sharp sting of bereavement, the loss of a loved one and the feelings of desolation that are unearthed in death’s wake. Many of us will identify with W H Auden, whose grief gave birth to the poem ‘Stop the Clocks’ and the words:
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood. For nothing now can ever come to any good.
For some of us, it may not be grief that has darkened our lives but the heartache of a broken relationship or the tragedy of constant loneliness; the spectre of guilt and shame or feelings of hopelessness; an experience of mental illness or the sheer mundanity of life. For these reasons and a whole lot more, many of us will have uttered words similar to Christ on the cross when he cried out ‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’.
We are told that on that day, the day we so laughingly call ‘Good Friday’, the sky did turn black as creation grieved for the death of its saviour. God had come amongst us as babe in a stable and teacher on the streets. He had come to party at weddings and weep when his friends died, to challenge the powerful and break bread with the outcasts, to bring joy, give healing, and show God’s love for all people…and for this he was mocked and condemned by the religious, abandoned and denied by his followers, tortured and killed by the state. So the sky darkened; the cosmos groaned; God died.
Like the solar eclipse, our attempts to look directly at this event are blinding. For we are unable to give one easy explanation as to why things had to be this way. We can only glimpse, squint, pick out shadows of understanding. Some say that Jesus absorbed all sin, took on God’s righteous judgment of us and died in our place that we might live. Some say that God wanted to show that nothing, even death on a cross, could limit God’s love, forgiveness and grace. Some say that Christ’s death was the inevitable consequence of God living out a radical, compassionate life in a broken, violent world. But whatever the whys and wherefores, on the day that he was killed, the day the sky turned black, Christ felt what it is to be alone and in pain; Christ felt what is to see relationships falter and loved ones lose hope; Christ felt what it is to face mockery, rejection and death. And because of this, he is with us in our pain. Because of this, we may experience his presence in our loneliness, his love in our loss, his hope in our desolation. Because of this, light overcame the darkness.
For, just as with the solar eclipse, the sun shone again once more.
But this is to come. The joy of the empty tomb, the hope of resurrection, the victory of love will be witnessed but not today. Today we sit at the foot of the cross. Today we remember the darkness of that day, the death of our saviour, the suffering of many. Today we wait, we walk, we weep, together. Amen.