Home Sermon Good Friday: Silence

"Yo Mama's Pieta," a photo by Renee Cox, as seen in "Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People," a film by Thomas Allen Harris.

When I was very young I went to the noon Good Friday service with my Mother, and sat in the pew listening to cries of crucify him. And I didn’t understand.

I didn’t understand why it was called Good Friday when, as far as I could tell, there was nothing good in it. Only betrayal, and blood, and death, and sorrow.

As I grew older I watched over and over again stories of blood, and death, and sorrow unfold throughout the world; and always it seemed they were met with more blood, and death, and sorrow. And one day, sitting in a dark church interior, listening to the shouts of crucify him, and the ringing silence at the end of the Gospel reading, it hit me.

The only reason we call today good is that for once: blood, and death, and sorrow were answered with silence. With a long, breathless moment. Creation waited for the fist and instead, on that lonely hill a bird sang and the sun sank beyond the horizon and every blessed human being went home to their supper or their tears.

And there was silence.

We are waiting for the fist, because it is what our species knows. It seems sometimes it is all we know. Violence answering violence in a cacophonous spiral of blood and death that drives us on and on.

There is the sound of the wind through the branches of a spring bare tree, scattered petals crushed under foot, the fruit still a dream.

There is the sound of women weeping, comforting one another, raging against the heavens.

There is a flurry of wings, bright eyed birds watching.

And there is no fist, there are no rockets falling, no air raid sirens, no explosive roar. There are no shots in “self defense,” no ringing of a sword leaving its scabbard.

And every year, we try again; like children seeing how far they can push their parents.  We wove antisemitism into our sacred stories, we justified slavery, we stole children from their parents, and land from it’s people all in the name of the Good News as if…

As if once, on a lonely hill outside an occupied city a man in whom God walked and talked and ate and laughed and cried wasn’t executed by a violent despot and there was no fist. We were not, every one of us struck down straight up and down through all of history.

Instead there was the flutter of bird wings, and a sun sinking, and women weeping and a great, long silence. A space. A waiting. A call.


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