Can anyone this Good Friday look at the world around us and fail to see that all is not as it should be? Wherever one might find oneself, in whatever part of the world, and whatever your faith belief: You cannot fail to know, deep down inside, that this is not how things are meant to be. From Syria, down to South Africa, across to Cuba, up to the USA, back here to the United Kingdom, across Europe, into Asia ... this is not the way things are meant to be.
And of course that’s always somebody else's fault, isn't it?
I grew up in South Africa and throughout my life it has been a country beset with terrible problems. And you know what: the common belief amongst the majority through the 60's, 70's, 80's, early 90's was that "it's all the government's fault." Then the government changed, thank God and praise the Lord; … but 25 years on, the country is still beset by problems, and guess what the common refrain of the majority is: "it's all the government's fault."
And this is the same all over the world ... it's the Conservatives, Labour, Republicans, Democrats, it's the Christians, the Muslims, Obama, Putin, the Parish Council ... it's always somebody else's fault !
And this is nothing new: the three most influential religions in the world today, all begin with the same story:
It's always somebody else's fault.
How easy it is to denounce structural injustice, institutionalized violence, social sin. And it is true, this sin is everywhere, but where are the roots of this social sin? … In the heart of every human being.
And yet present-day society is a sort of anonymous world in which no one is willing to admit guilt and everyone else is responsible.
Good Friday puts the lie to that. At the heart of the Christian message is someone who spoke and lived a different life … a life that was good and it was good because it was different. This man taught and lived a life of love and peace and fellowship ... just what 21st century Norwich, England, Europe, the world needs. He taught and lived a love that loves enemies and prays for those who persecute us; a peace that turns the other cheek, always and everywhere; a fellowship that welcomes strangers in our midst.
And THEY ... the world power of the day, the religious leaders of the day, the crowd of the day ... THEY killed Him.
No !!! .... we killed Him, just as we would kill anyone who came with such ideas today, particularly if he suggested this as a political and social solution to the problems that face us; love with a love that seeks the best for my enemy???? (I wonder if Christians would even vote for such a party or person) ... we would crucify such a person at the polls. And how far would a party/person get whose response to acts of aggression/terrorism is ... to turn the other cheek. And as for welcoming strangers/foreigners in our midst ... we all know how popular that is at the moment.
Something is wrong, we instinctively know that the way the world is … is not the way things are meant to be, and Good Friday reminds us that the problem is not primarily political or social ... the problem is personal.
And because the primary problem in the world is personal, salvation and putting things right … begins with the human person, with human dignity, with saving every person from what we know we should not be (that's another way of saying sin). Salvation is of God and begins with you. Individually there are among us here no two sinners alike. Each one of us is not as we should be in our own particular way. Each of us has committed and, can we be honest, continues to commit, his or her own shameful deeds, and yet we want to cast our guilt on the other and hide our own sin. Jesus was stripped of everything that Good Friday, we must be too! I must take off my mask; I, too, am one of them, I am part of the problem, and I need to beg God's pardon because I have offended God and society.
This is the call of Christ on Good Friday.
During Jesus' lifetime a women was caught in the act of adultery ... in the act ... but the man who was obviously part of the act and in the act, was allowed to go free by the men who caught them, (oh women in our midst, forgive us for the way we treat you) and the religious leaders just take her to Jesus.
Now, as I say (and hopefully you say it with me) ... as I say "I need to beg God's pardon because I have offended God and society" … I am reminded of the beautiful expression of that woman upon finding herself pardoned and understood: She says: "No one, Sir. No one has condemned me."
And then Jesus: “Then neither do I, I who could give that truly condemning word, neither do I condemn” … we bathe in that glorious grace don’t we? But be careful brothers and sisters, since God has forgiven us so many times, let us take advantage of that friendship with the Lord, which we have recovered because of Good Friday, and let us live as we ought to live; let us be as we should be, and the world will become as it should be ... but that is Easter Sunday's message.