By Rev Darryn Hickling

John 18: 18-40 & 19: 1-42

A Personal Story….

We all, in general, live with areas of discomfort in our lives, whether that be physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual.

Good Friday: Sitting with discomfort.

The drama of the final day, is what Good Friday could be called.
We come here today to remember a man.  A man…
who had dreams,
who had those dreams shattered,
who needed time to think and pray,
who knew he was likely to die for what he believed…

A man of extraordinary religious insight.
A man who did die – a cruel death [1].
So much happens within a short space of time.
The reading from the book of John is divided into ten parts.

For the disciples and their families and support networks, today represents discomfort, dreams and visions terminated, the potential for torture and death, fleeing for their own safety and the guilt of leaving him, the denial that there had been a relationship with Jesus, the thoughts of what will happen now? The discomfort of having their community torn apart. Good Friday: Sitting with discomfort.

Another Story: He was born into a Christian family and had a young excited sister waiting for him. He lived for ten days as he had complications when he was born. As I knew the family and particulalry the grandparents, I attended the funeral service. The family attended a particular Church that had a particular theology. The service consisted of praise songs, comments about how the baby had ministered to others during his short life span and how he was now with Jesus, praise to you Jesus that he was now in heaven with you. I felt a great discomfort, where was the opportunity for the family to grieve, their baby had died! No sense of loss was spoken of, only praise. The attitude of ‘he’s now in heaven’, had an underlying tone of ‘get over over it and move on; he’s in a better place’. There was no empathy, or acknowldegement of grief and loss. Sometime later the family stopped attending that Church.

Good Friday: Sitting with discomfort

Life is like a box of chocolates we learnt from Forrest Gump, and that can be helpful at times. The reality is that life can be hard, exhausting, difficult and sometimes it just sucks! Life doesn’t always turn out as we might like it to. Our plans, our hopes, our dreams can be dashed. Hell isn’t a place for people to go (and theres a whole lot of theology to unpack there that we don’t have time for at the moment). Hell is experienced now for some — with adverse poverty, slavery, violence in the home, broken relationships, grief, unemployment, and hardship. Sometimes it gets overwheming and all we can do is to sit with the discomfort, and acknowldege that its there.

The other side of the coin is relevant as well, with the pain and suffering that’s around, the presence of the Church is to be there, for comfort and support, the message of the Gospel, the proclamation of the common-wealth of God. My comfort in the discomfort.

Good Friday: Sitting with discomfort.

Another Story: A home that has not known pain or discomfort.

He suffered a great loss in his life and didn’t know what he could do to stop the pain, the tears, the feeeling of being numb. He tried the usual self-medication of alcohol, but even not remembering what he had done, didn’t take the pain away. Drugs only made him feel worse (if that was possible). As a last resort the man went to see his Rabbi. He told the Rabbi of his pain at losing his daughter, and how the girl’s mother had left years earlier, as the relationship had deteriorated beyond repair.  “Rabbi”, he said, “help me with this pain. Take it away from me please. I’ve tried every way possible to stop the pain, but nothing seems to work.” The Rabbi had empathy for the man and they sat in silence for awhile. Until the Rabbi broke the silence and said, “I’m sorry for your loss. I think the course of action for you to take is to go to the homes of three people in different neighbourhoods, knock on their door and ask, ‘Is this a home that has known no pain or suffering’.”

The man first went to a poorer neighbourhood, found a house, went to the front door, knocked on it and asked the person who opened the door, “I’m sorry for disturbing you, and this may seem like a odd question, but is this a home that has not experienced any pain or suffering?” After some quizzical looks he was invited in.

The following week he went to a rich neighbourhood, asked the same question, and was also invited in.

The following week he did the same, but this time he went to an average neighbourhood.

In all three homes he discovered that it didn’t matter where people lived, what their faith tradition was, what they earnt, what employment they had, each one expereinced some pain and suffering. There were no magic words or answers. Sitting with others in their discomfort was a powerful experience.

He listened, often saying very little, sharing the pain and discomfort of others while sitting with his own[2]. While his pain and grief didn’t go away, it did lessen, overtime.

Good Friday: Sitting with discomfort.

One of the roles of the Church is to acknowledge pain and suffering. To sit with discomfort.

We may find ourselves sitting with ‘Anticipatory grief’. The grief relating to the perception and belief that things will change and life will be different.

The world has been thrown into an unimaginable situation with Covid-19 and the Church is experiencing the effects of not being able to physically gather. We face the discomfort of the unknown, the discomfort of what we knew and how we met may be a… If Sundays remain virtual, we will miss physically seeing each other, and this is a discomfort.

There maybe discomfort in the thought that we can actually make a difference. The discomfort in the reality that the ways and values of Jesus will put us at odds with others and will cause conflict.

Good Friday encourages and enables the Church to sit with discomfort and uneasiness, as it did all those years ago. We sit in discomfort, with our questions, our thoughts,  our feelings, our spirituality. The question is, where is God in this time of discomfort?   Amen


[1] www.rexaehunt/lituriges
[2] I was unable to find the source of the original story. It has been adapted from my memory.

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