Good Friday Confession

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee!
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied Thee: I crucified Thee.

(The 1933 Hymnal, 158)

On this deepest and darkest of days — the day we relive Jesus’ suffering and death — this declaration of my collusion in Jesus’ passion, imbedded in the great Reformation Era hymn “Ah, Dearest Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended,” has always been central for me. Beaten-down Jesus, I it was denied You, I crucified You.

But how? How do we crucify Jesus now, in our time, as we live the gift of life given to us by grace?

Answering that question for myself is my annual work on Good Friday. And there is no better answer than a comment I recently read on the website of the Presbyterian Outlook. In part, it said:

“I do not care about religion if religion doesn’t like people enough to feed the
hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, free the captives, and so on. How do I know,
because the Bible told me so, in so many words and in so many ways.”

Indeed, in Matthew Jesus tells us plainly that every time we pass the hungry, naked, sick or captive, we pass Him by. We crucify Him again. Jesus have mercy on us.

It is this teaching that compels us as Christians to give generously to the poor. Yet this comment did not accompany a story about charity or disaster relief in Haiti. Rather, it was a heartfelt response to the church court proceedings recently launched against John Knox Presbytery for approving Scott Anderson, a gay man, for ordination to the office of Minister of Word and Sacrament. (For those who are not familiar with Scott’s situation, you can read more about him in the Presbyterian Outlook here and my recent conversation with him here.)

In calling us to our highest selves as Christians, the commenter in the Outlook then goes on to remind us that Jesus died for love. And that is the heart of the matter. When we fail to love our brothers and sisters in Christ — including the GLBT faithful among us — we crucify Him again. Jesus have mercy on us.

I realize that it can be tempting to ignore the GLBT people among us by turning to other concerns we more readily agree upon. However, there is no virtue in turning away from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians who are so hungry for the love Jesus promises in the church; no virtue in turning from faithful Christians who live captive to fear that we will be dismissed by landlords and employers (including the church) if we are honest about love. Jesus tells us to heal the sick, yet we deny our GLBT brothers and sisters the spiritual health and wholeness of belonging fully in the church. He tells us to clothe the naked and yet we lay them bare, violating their privacy by making their personal relationships a subject for the whole community to examine.

Turning from our GLBT brothers and sisters is to crucify Jesus again. Jesus have mercy upon us.

In all this and more, I am sinning, Lord Jesus; have mercy on me. On this day, as Jesus hangs, nailed to the cross, our only consolation is to drink our sinfulness to the dregs and to sing the hymn to the very end. So join me in this last verse:

Therefore, dear Jesus, since I cannot pay Thee,
I do adore Thee, and will ever pray Thee,
Think on Thy pity and Thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.

(Rev. Johann Heermann, c. 1630)

2 Responses
  • Rawleigh Emmons on April 2, 2010

    At St. Stephens Episcopal Church on the OSU campus, we practice an open table for all who care to join us in the Eucharistic meal. Last night during our Maundy Thursday service, we shared what might have been a meal from the time of Jesus.
    We shared cheese, olives, bread and fruit, with each being blessed as the meal progressed. The room was filled with laughter and conversation mixed with blessings and readings to fit the season.
    Following this meal of community, love, and sharing our lives with one another, we went to the sanctuary and sat in near darkness while “Behold The Lamb of God” was sung and the altar was stripped of candles, linen and all. Then the Altar was washed from top to bottom in preparation for the Great Easter Vigil on Saturday night.
    I find that the Episcopal church being open to GLBT folks encouraging. In fact, with the recent vote in our General Convention to bless Holy Unions, we are having our first union on the Saturday following Easter. I am excited and filled with hope that all hearts will soon be welcomed into the house of God.

  • Janet Edwards on April 2, 2010

    Dear Rawleigh,

    THANKS for sharing the worship in your church on these holy days. To move from the meal with friends, just like Jesus in the upper room, to the dark sanctuary where all is prepared for the momentous events to come, like Jesus in the garden that night, is a wonderful way to prepare for the intensity of Good Friday and Easter.

    That your parish and the Episcopal Church USA are so clear in its welcome of GLBT people places you at the forefront of Gospel witness in our time! Thank you for showing us all the way!!

    And the coming Holy Union in your church so fills me with joy because it is such an act of grace and because my spouse and I were also married on Easter Saturday. I am really grateful for your including us in your excitement and hope anticipating all that is to come in the days ahead.

    Peace, Janet

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