Good Friday Sermon 2024 – It is finished

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

I remember some years ago hearing someone speaking about what made people compatible.

I think that it was someone who was a statistician who was making quite a living by advising people who were designing dating apps on what questions to ask people which would give the greatest likelihood of a match working out.

And they reported that there were two questions which were way ahead of other questions in predicting people’s compatibility. And they were rather odd.

The first one was about how long you had ever lived abroad. His statistics seemed to show that couples were more likely to get together and last if their experience of living abroad was similar. Someone who had lived away from their own country for a year or so was surprisingly likely to find someone who had done the same thing attractive enough to form a relationship with them.

And the other indicator was a simple question but which is the focus of what I’m thinking about this afternoon.

It was – how much you liked horror films.

Somehow there was a greater possibility of compatibility amongst people who had a shared tolerance of horror movies.

Well, I don’t know whether I’m giving away all my secrets this afternoon, but I’ve lived abroad a few times for three months each.

And I can’t stand horror.

Put me in a room with a horror movie and all I can long for is for it to be over.

When will it be finished is the only thing I can think about.

Good Friday does not come to me easily.

Some people within the Christian faith believe very strongly that there is meaning in suffering. I tend towards the view that suffering means that meaning is stripped from life.

I don’t think that suffering and pain are righteous, holy, necessary or God willed.

No God I believe in could will the suffering of anyone.

And so there’s a lot of the theology around the cross and around Good Friday that I find rather hard to stomach.

Indeed, I find Good Friday rather hard to stomach.

The images from Scripture are horrific. The emotional abandonment of the end of the Maundy Thursday service I find considerably easier. Our Lord ends up alone, betrayed and with the crowd baying for his death. Clearly the popularity of the mob last Sunday when he entered Jerusalem turned rather quickly into something rather frightening. A reminder of how easily any of us can be swayed by the mentality of a mob.

But the abandonment and loneliness of the Saviour on the Thursday evokes pity in me.

The experience of today, I experience as horror. Stomach turning horror.

And it is hard to know what to do with it except for allow that horror to tell its truths to me.

For Christ is crucified when unjust systems condemn people to death for their beliefs.

Christ is crucified when war is seen as a pathway to peace.

Christ is crucified when children starve of hunger.

Christ is crucified when people are abused.

Christ is crucified when inequality triumphs and ruins human potential.

Christ is crucified when patriarchy has its all too familiar way.

I can see the crucifixion in all these things when human action and inaction cause suffering, pain and despair.

But I can see the experience of Christ on the cross too in things which don’t have human action behind them. Tragic heath conditions lead sometimes to unimaginable pain.

My fear of horror movies makes me want to look anywhere you see but look at the cross on Good Friday.

I’d rather relate to horror that I can explain or horror that I can pity than simply look at the horror that is played out on the crosses on the hill as Christ and the others crucified with him are put to death.

Some see his words, “It is finished” as marking some moment of triumph but I’ve never been able to hear them that way.

The absurdity of the death penalty wasn’t finished by this. It carried on killing and carries on killing in many part of the world still.

The tragedy of those who think that a sharp violent death surge can keep the people in order has its obvious echoes in many countries today.

The pity of an unsettled world where violence seems so often to have the upper hand seems to go on and on and on. That wasn’t finished by any of this.

I watch as civilian populations in Israel and Gaza have been weaponized over the last few months and I feel utter despair. The reality of apparent war crimes being carried out in Gaza is on screens we all carry in our pockets. The brutal cruelty of terrorist acts is played out in our time lines on every device we look at.

Who needs horror movies anyway these days?

But there I go taking my attention away again – seeing it all through the lens of what we see happening in the news. And what we forget is happening too – the things we don’t get to see in the news – forgotten wars, forgotten injustices.

The horror is in front of us today on Good Friday.

A young man strung up and all for what?

For telling us we were loved?

For sharing wise stories and pithy sayings to live by?

For not being the leader of the militant faction that so many hoped for?

What was the point in his death.

What is the point of the horror.

And what does he mean when he says it is finished?

Dear Lord Jesus on the cross, believe me when I look back at you and shake my head. It isn’t finished at all.

The horror movie goes on playing. The violence goes on being justified. The pain goes on being felt.

The horror is too awful to bear.

We make it more palatable with our silences and with our music this day. And we sit in a relatively safe and beautiful space to think about these things.

And here we abide, with the story of a crucifixion playing out in our inner souls.

And here we stay and here we think about the dear young saviour on the cross for whom it is now finished.

And here we stay and here we think about those places and those people whom we know for whom it is not.