St. Alban’s Church April 15, 2022
Good Friday The Rev. James Stickney
At the beginning of this week called “Holy,” just before the procession with palms,
we prayed that we might “enter with joy upon the contemplation
of those might acts whereby [God has] given us life and immortality.”
On this Friday called “Good,” we’re at the very heart of Holy Week.
We’ve just finished John’s version of the saddest and most tragic story in the world.
We’re about to re-enact an ancient ritual, the Veneration of the Cross.
In this homily, the most I hope to do is negative — not to get in the way
of your contemplation of God’s might acts that we observe and re-enact.
When I was active here as your full-time pastor, we shared most Good Fridays
with our ecumenical brothers and sisters. The Lutherans, Methodists,
Baptists, Roman Catholics, and Presbyterians would share our reflections.
We would rotate around to our various churches, and divide the three hours
into sections of one-half hour each. That way people could come and go,
as their work schedules determined attendance.
For several years we adopted the overall theme of “Personalities around the Cross.”
Nobody would choose the personality of Jesus, of course — too profound.
But the disciple Peter was a very common choice, as was his Mother, Mary.
The villains were also popular — such as Judas and Pilate and Herod.
One year I came across a book of medieval Christian poetry, and discovered
“The Dream of the Cross.” The unknown author recounts how he dreamed
that the actual Cross of Calvary appeared to him and began to speak of Jesus’ death.
I knew that the Cross of Jesus would the “personality” I would choose
to shed some new and different light upon the meaning of Good Friday.
As I recite parts of this poem, I hope you discern its positive tone —
frankly, its heroic portrait of Jesus being eager to embrace his redeeming death
as he confronted the powers of the Roman state and cynical religious leaders.
In this poem, Jesus is not a helpless victim, meek and mild — but our strong Savior.
Then I saw the King of all mankind
In brace mood hasting to mount upon me.
Refuse I dare not nor bow nor break
Though I felt earth’s confines shudder in fear.
All foes I might fell yet I stood fast.
Then the young Warrior God, the All-Wielder
Put off his raiment steadfast and strong
With lordly mood in the sight of many
He mounted the Cross to redeem mankind
When the hero clasped me I trembled in terror
But I dared not bow me nor bend to earth
I must needs stand fast! Upraised as the Cross
I held the High King the Lord of heaven,
I dared not bow! With black nails driven
Those sinners pierced me the prints are clear,
The open wounds. I dared injure none.
They mocked us both I was wet with blood
From the hero’s side when he sent forth his spirit.
Now I give you this bidding O man beloved
Reveal this vision to the children of men
And clearly tell of the Tree of glory
Whereon God suffered for one man’s sins
And the evil that Adam once wrought of old.
Death He suffered but our Savior rose
By virtue of his great might as a help to men.
He ascended to Heaven. But hither again
He shall come to the earth to redeem mankind,
The Lord himself on the day of doom.
And all shall be fearful and few should know
What to say to Christ But none at his coming
Shall need to fear if he bears in his breast
This best of symbols. And every soul
From the ways of the earth through the Cross shall come
To heavenly glory who would dwell with God.