Good Friday

John’s DIY service for the morning.

A reflection before the cross by Revd Ian Tomkins

In the Church of England’s readings for Morning Prayer during this Holy Week, a couple of the Old Testament readings at the beginning of the week were from the Book of Lamentations. The author of this book was probably the prophet Jeremiah. It was written soon after the fall of the city of Jerusalem to Babylon, after which the people of Jerusalem were killed, or taken captive.

Lamentations is a sad song for the great capital city of God’s people. The temple was destroyed, the king is gone, and God’s people are now in exile. There is more to read and understand for another time about why this happened. But lament is part of biblical tradition and practice—when God’s people cry out in their sorrow and anguish.

In our current time, with everyone confined due to the Coronavirus, many fearful and anxious, many ill and grieving, there is a palpable sense of lament. The theologian Tom Wright speaks of it this way, ‘There is a reason we normally try to meet in the flesh. There is a reason solitary confinement is such a severe punishment. And this Lent has no fixed Easter to look forward to. We can’t tick off the days. This is a stillness, not of rest, but of poised, anxious sorrow.’

He then commends our rediscovering this tradition of Lament, when, as we look more broadly at the suffering of the world rather than just at our own problems, we ask ‘Why?’, but we don’t find an answer, however much we might try and rationalise or explain everything.

In the Bible, the Book of Psalms, alongside hymns of praise and thanksgiving, contains songs of lament. At St Matthew’s over these past few weeks of Lent, we have been focussing on psalms, one of which is particularly poignant when we consider the cry of lament in a confused and frightened world today.

This is Psalm 22Open Link in New Window, which begins with the words, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

Today is Good Friday, when Christians remember Jesus Christ dying that awful death for all humanity on the cross.

Just before he died, ‘Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – Which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

Jesus cried these words of lament from Psalm 22Open Link in New Window. Many people today must feel as though they are forsaken.

Yet in all the psalms of lament, and indeed also in the Book of Lamentations, there ends up being light after the darkness, ‘a fresh sense of God’s presence and hope, not to explain the trouble but to provide reassurance within it.’ as Tom Wright says.

The point being, that God laments with us for the brokenness of the world he loves, for the pain and the sorrow.

If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. In Jesus we see the most attractive beautiful, loving, caring friend and brother you could ever know. Jesus was fully human—so he lived and experienced all that we live and experienced—the sorrows and the joys. He was also fully divine, God come to be with us, and to show us the path to righteousness and truth. ‘I am the Way (to God), the truth (of God), and the Life (with God),’ John 14.6Open Link in New Window said Jesus to you and me.

We can’t explain everything, but we can lament—and that is fine, for the Spirit of God laments with us, Jesus cried out in lament on the cross.

And perhaps as we do so on this particular Good Friday—with millions of others alongside us, we may discover our souls resting more in the presence of God alone, who knows us, shares our lives, and can show us—through and out beyond this time of trial, new ways of living, giving and loving—as Jesus loves you and me.

There is a video presentation for the service and a podcast of the Sermon.

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