A Sermon from the Episcopal Parish of
St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts
Preached by the Rev. Timothy E. Schenck on April 15, 2022 (Good Friday)
One of the most moving Good Friday images I have ever witnessed was longtime parishioner Mary Ellen Hatfield coming up to venerate the cross on her last Good Friday on this earth. Her son Steve helped her slowly navigate the chancel steps on the long journey towards the altar. He stayed by her side as she knelt down and kissed the rough wooden cross that is placed just inside the communion rail. And then he helped her slowly and steadily return to her pew.
Partly it was her determination, that literally nothing in the world would stop her from encountering the cross on Good Friday; partly it was Steve’s love for his mother playing out in such a tangible way; partly it was Mary Ellen’s deep faith as she literally went to the foot of the cross knowing that she would soon be with her Lord in paradise; and partly it was Mary Ellen’s deep and infectious faith. It transcended hardship and physical pain and entered the world of the joyful and mystical.
It’s this spirit of walking with our Lord that feels like a holy thing to reflect upon on Good Friday. For Mary Ellen, that walk through the church to venerate the cross was both literal and theological. It was both an arduous pilgrimage and a mission of conviction. And the point is, that short walk was a journey. A journey with and to her Lord.
And for us, Good Friday is also a journey. A journey with and to our Lord. The crucifixion of Jesus reminds us that this is not always an easy journey. The life of faith is littered with disappointments. We die to all sorts of things in our lives. To sin, hopefully. But how often do our hopes and desires perish before our very eyes? Dreams go unrealized and wither on the vine. Aspirations fail to come to fruition. Relationships fade away and fall apart. Our mortal bodies betray us, and sometimes so do our minds. Death is as much a part of life as breathing.
Jesus is intimately aware of our suffering, of our broken dreams and broken hearts and broken bodies and broken lives. His own body wasn’t broken in order to make us feel better, but to walk with us in our brokenness. To join us in our struggles. To love us as we wobble our way through our lives — hesitantly, haltingly, helplessly.
On this day we aren’t merely passive observers of Jesus’ death, we are active participants in the journey. Because Good Friday is an integral part of our own journey. The pain is our pain; the death is our death; the grief is our grief. And so, we grow weary right along with Jesus as he makes his way up to Calvary. We stumble right along with Jesus as he falls under the great weight of the cross. We are mocked and reviled right along with Jesus as he faithfully follows the will of his Father. We are in his struggles and he is in ours. Walking with us, comforting us, loving us. Like Mary Ellen, we journey with and to our Lord.
The good news of this day, the “good” in Good Friday, is that we will get to our destination. Our journey leads us directly to the foot of the cross. It leads us to Jesus. And it is in Jesus that we can lay our burdens down. It is in Jesus that we realize we don’t have to bear this heavy load alone. It is in Jesus that we can find rest for our weary souls.
Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” It is at the foot of the cross that we find rest and refreshment, even amid the struggles of the journey.
We have made it to the foot of the cross. Our journey has led us to Jesus.