I Remember My First Good Friday Sermon

I have been a pastor for 13 Good Fridays, and somehow today, my 14th, is the first Good Friday on which I will preach. How is this possible?

The church I served for the first three years of my ministry did an all-afternoon drop in Stations of The Cross meditation instead of a worship service on Good Friday. The second participated in an ecumenical community Good Friday observation where leadership rotated and the service rarely featured a sermon. I led the service here at my current church last year, but instead of preaching I told the entire passion story from John, which was so long that it didn’t leave time for a sermon.

It’s startling to realize that you’ve gone nearly a decade and a half into ordained ministry without directly preaching on the cross. I’ve preached on the cross, of course; references to it are scattered across years worth of preaching. But before today I have never taken the passion narrative as a main text for preaching all by itself.

I think this says something about me and the churches I’ve served. Sally Brown wrote a great book in which she diagnosed mainline preachers as somewhat allergic to the cross as a homiletical subject. We know our history, how Christian preachers before us have blessed violence and anti-Semitism in crucifixion sermons. We’ve heard the cross employed from pulpits to either imply or assert that victimization is God’s will for good people. We don’t want to repeat those mistakes, so we focus on telling the story or meditation. We fill Good Friday services with stirring music.

We must have something to say about this, though. I expect that whatever I say today will come up short, but, for me at least, it will be a start.

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