Why a song called Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Because it’s also a song about were you there when God raised him from the tomb? Were you there… were you there for the whole story, the whole life, the whole death, the whole resurrection?
We began this week on Palm Sunday, recognizing that we rode with Jesus on the back of that colt. We too have ridden into a place we thought was safe. Yet it held betrayal… and danger. We remembered we are baptized into his life, death and resurrection, into his very Body, into His body that rode into Jerusalem. Without our traditional palms, we we drank water on Palm Sunday to remember our baptism. We felt the water that enters into our body just as we enter into Christ’s ministry and become His body through the waters of baptism. We are the baptized the ones, we are His body who is carrying his Good News today into places of danger, pain, and darkness.
On Maundy Thursday we saw our ministry and Jesus ministry intermingled.
We experienced a lot of feet and water this week….from the Israelites freed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke, getting their feet muddy with the Red Sea waters, feet on the way to freedom; to Jesus washing his disciples feet, to Pilate washing his hands of Jesus’ blood. The stripping of the altar – a tradition of draping with black all remnants of Christ in our church – this year we watched as a picture, a vision, of our church was blotted out with faces of chaos and pain and anger. Jesus was arrested, bound for death.
For the next 3 days, no more healing, no more parables, no more bread broken for thousands. Were you there when the disciples were stunned by his arrest, when they crucified my Lord? Were you there not knowing what was next?
If the church — the pews, the altar, the pieces that facilitate our healing, our feasting, our sharing — if the church wasn’t there, how would we carry out the Good News? What would be our witness?
Churches all over the world stand empty today, which might be ok, because after all, the tomb is empty too. We found our way this morning to gather, pray and sing, here in little electronic boxes on something called Zoom. Like the women at the tomb who met the angel, we, too, empty of our usual churchy comforts, woke up this morning and heard the call of the angels who tell us rise up, he is not dead, he is risen, go tell what you have seen and heard.
We remembered today; we all say He is risen! Say it with me….He is risen.
We gather. We are His body.
A month ago we never dreamed we’d be driven into isolation by an enemy we can’t even see — Something microscopic that would change our lives, or economy, our social connections, something that puts into question graduations and weddings, something that postpones funerals, cancels vacations.
Someday someone will ask us, were you there when they quarantined the world? Were you there? What happened?
Were you there when life didn’t turn out as you thought? Were you there when you were left to struggle with your own pain and suffering? Were you there when it seemed the darkest hours? Were you there when the tomb was inevitable? Were you there gasping a last breath with Christ?
Our mission now is to be here, be here in the whole story. The churches are empty, yet so is the tomb. We must be the church, we must be recognizable as the church. The angels look down on earth and say “where is the Body of Christ? I don’t see it on the altar, in the paten and chalice” they look further…will they recognize the Body of Christ in your home?
Behind your mask? In everything you say and touch …. and wash?
Were you there when they Crucified my Lord? Our call is to be there through this whole story and be the Body to redeem the loneliness, to ease the suffering, the Body that will bring kindness to the forgotten.
Sometimes we hear the story that everyone abandoned Jesus…but that’s not really so. The women didn’t abandon him. There were the women that hovered, that wiped his brow on the way to the cross— a condemned prisoner, why bother he will die soon -–women that listened to his last words, that held him, that in the fullness of love went to anoint His dead body. Were you there for the whole story? We can be there for the whole story, we have the opportunity now to be there for the whole story.
Someday the children will ask Were you there when God opened up the world? Did you emerge with His love? His Gospel in every corner? Were you there with a witness to the glory and magnificence of God’s grace and love?
Certainly being forced to be by ourselves, even those of you living with others in isolation, we see ourselves more vividly. What we desire, how we treat others, how we treat ourselves. How we judge others, how much we do or do not participate in our communities. Who we want to help, who we don’t? Yes, we see ourselves more vividly.
Jesus had the opportunity of solitude and the temptations in the desert, and he returned to his community faithful and more aware than ever of the Grace and Glory of God. During our isolation and solitude we have that same opportunity. We too have been driven to the desert of our souls. We can let our own craziness get the best of us, drive us to selfishness and bitterness or we can find every step of the way to say “I am here for the whole story.” I am here for the really challenging times and I may wonder where God is, but I am here eyes wide open and watching for God. I am here, faithfully opening my heart to love my neighbor as myself. Here uttering God’s love with my last breath.
This Coronavirus takes away our breath, and our breath is what is our sacred union with God. No wonder it is so terrifying that the world has shut down.
I am reminded of the famous Easter sermon of St. Chrysostum of how death swallowed a man yet he met God face to face. Coronavirus may take our breath, but God will give it back to us again, as children of the resurrection.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Were you there when God raised him from the tomb? It causes me to tremble. Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
The whole story shakes my bones to sing and pray, to dance and do what I can to tell the world of God’s love. His faithfulness.
We all claim this whole story as ours in the promises we made at baptism. For today, for this world, let us remember our promises in a way that when the angels look down to see Christ’s body on earth , they will see us and say Alleluia.
Get your keyboard under your fingers, and for those of you on your phones, it’s ok to talk out loud to yourself. I want you to hold on to these baptismal promises in your lives today …. Tap out your responses in the chat function. This is the Episcopal version of an altar call with details … how do you give your life to Christ?
How do you proclaim by word and example the Good
News of God in Christ?
How do you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbor as yourself?
How do you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human
God raised Jesus to show His glorious victory over death for our lives. Indeed a glorious victory. Keep your eye out for the Glory of God in the whole story. Remember Your body, your story, is part of the Glory.