Vicar's Sermon - Good Friday
‘And they crucified him, and divided their clothes among
them, casting lots to decide what each should take.’
From what we know of the Nazi concentration camps their purpose was to extract every last thing from the Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals who had been rounded up to populate them. One image that sticks in the mind is of piles of glasses, spectacles – removed from the prisoners – 1940s style round lensed glasses that ther owners would no longer need. Gold teeth were extracted: prisoners would no longer need the precious metal. Civilian clothes were removed and the camp uniform replaced it. Every last ounce of energy was then drained from those young enough, or fit enough to work...but little energy was offered to replace that which and been expended. Starvation and weakness led to illness or weakness, an inability to work – death followed. No bullets were to be wasted on dispatching prisoners: their breath was taken from them in the gas chambers.
At the foot of the cross nothing was to be wasted. They cast lots for his garments – though why anyone would want them, bloodied as they were? Were they really of such great value.
Back in the barracks there had been no easy pickings: the man famously carried no money, no purse, no staff. All he had was the shirt on his back – well now, they had it – and his back did not bear looking at after the flogging.
This is how it ends. A naked man on the cross and strangers scattering any memory of him, any last memento of his – he will be forgotten. How many families have left a hospital with a pathetic plastic bag of belongings to remove from the ward...it seems so little to come away with when someone has died....so that’s that then?
He would not be alone in having next to nothing to his name. We are unusual in leaving wardrobes of clothes to be taken to charity shops, nick-nacks, unsellable electrical goods, outdated soft furnishings. Now, it can take weeks to ‘clear a house’, to sort through papers, empty kitchen cupboards and the like. Things, stuff...so many arguments and hurts given and borne by families dividing what is left.
With Jesus though it is different. He leaves nothing to touch, nothing to venerate despite the medieval churches obsession with relics. What is left though is this story – a story that tells us of how he died, a story that remembers every detail of what happened, a story that people saw...and remembered because it was so unusual, so striking and so magnificent. This is what faith, and trust in God looks like. Here we are shown loving obedience to a loving Father’s will. This is where a crucified thief can find hope, and the disciples a new community built on accepting and forgiving the very worst that is within us all but aspiring to emulate the very best.
They divided his clothes amongst them. What will we take from this day. He leaves nothing that is not ‘Good’.