The following is the text of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Good Friday sermon from Church of the Heavenly Rest, New York, New York. This sermon was pre-recorded for inclusion in the live stream of the Church’s April 10, 2020 worship service.
This sermon can be watched at any time by clicking here.
The video appears in the “Holy Week 2020” section at the bottom of the webpage. Look for where the webpage background changes from white to black.
Church of the Heavenly Rest
April 10, 2020
Michael B. Curry
Hello to all of my friends at The Church of the Heavenly Rest, to Matt and all of the clergy, and dear people of God. In this time of COVID-19, in hard times for us here in our country and for people around the world, it is meet and right that we should gather online on this Good Friday.
From the Gospel according to St. John:
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." And he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour, the disciple took her into his own home.
Good Friday is the entire gospel of God, summed up in an act of sacrificial love. John 3:16 earlier in John's Gospel says, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. Jesus gave his life not to appease an angry deity. He gave his life not out of some selfish motive. He gave his life to show us what love looks like. The lengths that love will go, that loves seeks the good, the welfare and the wellbeing of others. He gave his life to show us that love is the way to life. I am more and more convinced the older I get that the Gospel is very simple. Doing it is complex and difficult, but the essence of it is very simple.
God came among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to show us the way to live. Jesus came to show us the way to live as God has intended since God created anything at all. He came to show us the way to a right and reconciled relationship with the God and the creator of us all. He came to show us the way to be in a right, reconciled relationship with each other as children of this one God and creator of us all, that God came into the world in the person of Jesus to show us how to become more than individual collections of self-interest, how to rise above and beyond self, how to rise above and beyond me, to rise and become we. The human family of God. He showed us the way to be one with God and one with each other and in so doing, find life as God has intended from the very beginning. Jesus came to show us how did they become more than merely the human race, a biological category.
He came to show us how to become the human family of God, the family of God, and in that is our hope and our salvation. And now more than ever in this moment of hardship and suffering, sickness and death, when as the old slaves would say there's trouble in the land, now more than ever, we need to be reminded that God has a plan of purpose and intention for us to become God's human family and in that as our hope and our salvation.
The truth is, if you look at Jesus on the cross you can actually see it. You can see this way of love happening on the cross. In John's Gospel, Jesus is dying, and you can almost imagine him through bloodstained face and with sweat in that Palestinian heat, crown of thorns, having pierced his brow and blood dripping down. You can almost imagine him there opening his eyes with the stinging of the sweat, stinging his eyes and able to make out, oh faithful Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Clopas, and his mama, and the disciple whom he loved.
And in the midst of that, love speaks. He says to his mother, "Woman," and then he looks at the disciple, "Woman, behold there is your son." And to the disciple, "She is your mother. There is your mother." And John's gospel says that that disciple took Mary into his home. As his own mother. Jesus gave his life and he showed us what love looks like. That disciple cared for Mary as his mother and she for him as her son. There was no social security in the first century. There was no Medicare or Medicaid in the first century. Women did not have rights of inheritance. Even if there was one in the first century, a widow possibly without the support of her oldest child, her oldest son, could be left destitute. This was Jesus making provision for his mother. It was entrusting her into the home and the care of somebody who was not her blood kin.
He created a new family by love. Families are created by love or sometimes by blood. But by love, that's what makes a family. It is not an accident that almost as soon as Jesus says that to his mother and that disciple and creates a new family, if you look carefully at John chapter 19, it is after that, almost immediately after that that Jesus just says, "I thirst." He's given something to drink and he then says, "It is finished." That is not, it's over. The Greek word means it is accomplished. I have done what I came to do. I have shown you what love looks like. I have shown you God's way of life. It is accomplished. Love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another. As the father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. That's the first and great commandment.
But the second one is just like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself on these. Love God, love your neighbor, love yourself. On this love depends all the law, everything God has been trying to say in the Bible, in tradition. Love is the way to become more than individual collections of self-interest, is the way to become the human family of God and define life together. It is the way to endure hard times. Love is the way to fulfill God's dream for us. Even in the midst of a nightmare.
Some years ago. I was listening to public radio on a Sunday afternoon, and it was in the summer months in August, I think I was on vacation, and the broadcast was about a recently published photographic essay by a man named Norman Gershman, a noted photographer. This particular essay was photographs of the Muslims of Albania today, but also many years ago, and it tells the story of this Muslim community. During the second World War, when much of the world descended into darkness, a dark age, fascism and bigotry and hatred too cold and seemed to be ruling the world. Europe was covered by clouds of darkness. His armies of a third reich marched in prodigious march of conquest and barbarism in nations and people fell one by one. The Sudetenland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium, Holland, France. And England stood alone.
At the same time, those armies of fascism and conquest began to march toward the little country of Albania. Word was sent out to the Albanian foreign ministry that said that it was the government's responsibility to identify the residences of all Jews living in Albania. The foreign minister was a member of the small Muslim community that was in Albania. And like Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad, he sent out quietly, orally, orders to the Muslim community and this is what those orders said. "You will take your Jewish neighbors into your home. You will give them shelter. You will protect them as best you can. You must hide them. They must sit at your table. They must sleep in your beds. They must dwell in your homes. You must treat them as your own family." When the war ended, that small Muslim community saved some 2,000 Jews from the Nazi Holocaust.
My friends, Jesus was and is right. Love is the way to become more than we would be on just our own self-interest. Jesus was right. Dr. King said it this way, “History is replete with the bleached bones of civilizations that have refused to listen to him.”
Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.
On this Good Friday, may this message of God, be a message for us that together as one family, one human family of God, we may walk through this storm and find light and hope.
God love you. God bless you. May God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.