Faithlife Sermons

Good Friday

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
Notes & Transcripts


It is the time of the Passover Moon, the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. Life and growth and springtime, after the mystery of winter silence and death, are rising up from underground again, like the promise of peace. Lift up your hearts!

Amid many current and heart-rending events, such as the Madrid train bombings, the mutilation and burning of bodies in Fallujah, the blame-finding demagoguery, the call for the death penalty, the denial of full legal and financial equality to non-traditional families, in keeping with our persistent Lenten theme at St Joan of Arc, we must “see beyond the suffering” to find a vision of Jesus embracing and healing this world, not next year or next century, but now!

Let us walk through this evolving universe and seek the mind and heart of Jesus. A merciful and all-knowing Creator can use the suffering of believers and even of non-believers in a redemptive manner to gather all things and all souls to itself, a personal and all-knowing fire of absolute Love. Let us hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us amid these events.



“Am I a bandit, that you had to come here with clubs and swords? When I was with you day after day in the Temple, you never made a move to lay your hands on me. But this is your hour; this is the reign of darkness.”


This journey begins and ends in mystery. With the eyes of faith, we can connect ancient Jerusalem with Israel of today: there are walls of separation and apartheid, suicidal desperation, revolt against domination by a superpower; same people, same Jesus, similar issues creating suffering; same redemptive action bringing grace, reconciliation and peace, without immediate visible change in the power structure or in human nature. Parishioners of St. Joan’s have been regular peace activist visitors to Palestinian cities with the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Some were there at the time of the assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin.

Jesus says: my kingdom is not of this world. I am with you all days even to the very end of time. Remain in me and I in you. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am kind-hearted and grounded in the earth. I am fully human and made from the same flesh as you.


“We stand as a people of faith. We affirm our belief in a loving God who calls us to be compassionate, to love our enemies, and to be peacemakers. We enthusiastically support all those who work to promote peace.” SJA Parish Statement on Peacemaking after 9/11

music… ”Stay awake and watch with me”


Enlarge to full size in new window

“If someone wants to walk my way, they have to put their own wishes aside, and pick up their cross daily, and come after me. For the ones who lose their lives for me will save their lives.”


Our journey to Cavalry has been complicated by revelations of years of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy. A small number of those who are supposed to most represent Christ have done physical and spiritual violation of the innocent and vulnerable.

Jesus says: I have suffered and died for those who are innocent and vulnerable as well as for those who prey upon them. There is mercy and redemption and forgiveness for all, but it is not always easy for you to see it. Can a loving and merciful God use even the suffering and craven misery of a sexual offender in a redemptive manner, to gather all things and all souls to herself, the all-embracing fire of absolute personal love. It is perhaps easier to believe this when we call God Mother.


“The light shone brightly into the darkness, but the darkness just didn’t get it.

Music . . . “Stay awake and watch with me . . . ”


Enlarge to full size in new window


“The men who were guarding Jesus were mocking him and beating him. They blindfolded him and said ‘Prophecy! Who hit you?’”


The explosions, the burning bodies, at Atocha Station in Madrid, touch us close to home. This is an act of implacable hatred, of lust for media attention, of desperation and powerlessness and ignorance. And it is a clash of systems and languages and religious paradigms -- and it is pure thuggery. It is not a new phenomenon. And the answer of Christ, which is love, must transcend its Judeo-Christian roots and its Caucasian, European and American cultural paradigms.
Jesus says: I am asking you to look beyond, as hard as that is.


I speak to you directly, God

Not through any intermediary, priest, bishop, shaman, mullah

I speak directly with no religious filter, no original anything

All creation is good, I embrace this garden, this sweet mulch, this goodness

I am the same as the tree and the deer

I am the same as my Iraqi sisters and brothers,

I will live and die and live and die and live and die

Here on this earth, now in this good time,

together, alone without intermediary.

I breathe deeply and slip through the veil of fear

Where your light fills me and gives me rest.

I am grateful

I am ready.

.... Fred Vagle

music: “Stay awake and watch with me …”


Enlarge to full size in new window


“Who is my mother and my sister and my brother? One who hears the word of God and keeps it.”


Jesus says:
We are called to encounter our brothers and sisters from around the world every day here in the Twin Cities. St Joan of Arc is host to the family of Alferd and Jaqueline Lako, who come from Sudan. They are one family among thousands that have moved to the Twin Cities in the last ten years from all over the world. We are creating a society that is made up of many strains and layers of our common DNA in a mixture of blood and soul that can produce wonders. Voices of Islam, Judaism, Tibetan Buddhism, Hmong animism, Hinduism are mingled with the voice of Christianity. For the eyes of Faith, this should not frighten or disturb us. God can speak with many voices. Our task is to listen and heed those voices, as we believe that the divine Word is the living voice, the way, the truth and the life which tells us to love one another. This voice tells us to love our brothers and sisters in our multi-layered rainbow of souls that refract divine light and abide as a promise of reconciliation.


“While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become children of the light”

Music ”Stay awake and watch with me”


Enlarge to full size in new window


Bear one another’s burdens, and you will be fulfilling the law of Christ (Gal 6)


Our parishioners have been active both locally and globally in the fight against AIDS. In the U.S., 84% of the 250,000 needing treatment receive it, while in Africa, only 2% out of 4,400,000 get help.

One of the problems is the high cost of drugs and the preferential treatment received by large U.S. pharmaceutical companies, keeping affordable medication out of competition.

Imagine Simon of Cyrene as a volunteer at the two hospices founded here on our own parish ground, Grace House One and Two; or as one of the St Joan of Arc visitors to Guguletu, South Africa. See Christ in the person of a patient suffering with advanced AIDS or of a person recently diagnosed as HIV positive. Care-giver and receiver both seem to understand the workings of grace. They understand our utter dependence upon the goodness of others, and they experience the great gift of compassion, both for themselves as the suffering ones, and in themselves as the caring ones. This is the magic transformation of a thing that seems evil into something we know is good. It is a deep truth to comprehend in some way what Jesus unrecognized says to the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?”


Psalm 126: Those that go forth weeping, carrying the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing their sheaves with them.

Music: ”Stay awake and watch with me”


Enlarge to full size in new window


“Wherever the Good News shall be preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”


In her brilliant study on women in the early church, In Memory of Her, Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza tells us that “. . . the women disciples who have followed Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem suddenly emerge as the true disciples in the passion narrative. They are Jesus’ true followers who have understood that his ministry was not rule and kingly glory, but diakonia, “service.” Thus the women emerge as the true Christian ministers and witnesses. St. Joan of Arc member Dr. Dorothy Irvin has shown us mosaics and frescos from Rome, Naples, and Jerusalem showing women ordained as bishops, priests and deacons: Praxedes, Priscilla, Vitalia, Pudentiana, Petrina, Alexandra, Julia Runa, to name a few.


Psalm 126: “One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,

Music: “Somandela …”


Enlarge to full size in new window


He then withdrew from them, about a stone’s throw away, and knelt down and prayed “Father, if it’s OK with you, remove this bitter cup from me. But let’s do what you want, not what I want.”


The human consciousness of Jesus, according to Duns Scotus, could not have any direct awareness of his divinity. We too struggle with our own human awareness, at once a blindfold and yet our only periscope to the reality of God’s love. . . . .” We can attempt to limit God within the either/or paradigms of ultramodern liberalism or reactionary fundamentalism, or we can encapsulate the crucifixion in the vivid and violent realism of the cinema; but God the Creator/Lover is far too elusive for our human categories. This should not sadden us. We are creatures of allegory, of poetry, of sensory riddles that conceal hidden wonders. This is how we are put together. We are told in faith that we have seen the face of God in Jesus, suffering, dying and risen from the dead.


Jesus, Prince of Peace, give me eyes to see the worshippers of Allah as beloved children of God, for “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for God, no more, no less.

Music: “Somandela….”


Enlarge to full size in new window


“Jesus turned to them and said: ‘Women of Jerusalem, do not cry for me; cry for yourselves and for your children.”


We hear Christ in deep anguish and physical pain pronouncing words of loving compassion to the women of Jerusalem. Such compassion has been a constant for many years at St. Joan of Arc. One of the current causes of suffering for families is lack of affordable housing. Neither private charity nor public subsidy has been adequate to meet this need, so a third way is needed. As a sign of hope, the affordable housing coalition of St. Joan of Arc has been a charter member of the Third Way Network to create affordable housing for people with limited means. The dignity of the recipients is enhanced by their own work on the project. In his book Until All are Housed in Dignity, Neal St. Anthony describes the ongoing work of Project for Pride in Living, founded by Parishioner Joe Selvaggio. PPL has combined long-term advocacy with the dignity of self-reliant collaboration by people in the inner city of Minneapolis.


“The temple of God is not complete until all are housed in dignity.”

Music: “Shine out your light …”


Enlarge to full size in new window


“I have come into the world as light, to prevent anyone who believes in me from staying in the dark any more.”(Jn 12)


On Good Friday alone of the whole church year, the Eucharist is not celebrated but remembered. Quietly breath in and out as Thich Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist monk from Viet Nam speaks to us about Eucharist:

“The practice of Eucharist is a practice of awareness. When Jesus broke the bread and shared it with his disciples, he said ‘Eat this. This is my flesh.’ He knew that if his disciples would eat one piece of bread in mindfulness, they would have real life. In their daily lives, they may have eaten their bread in forgetfulness, so the bread was not bread at all; it was a ghost. In our daily lives, we may see the people around us, but if we lack mindfulness, they are just phantoms, not real people, and we ourselves are also ghosts. Practicing mindfulness enables us to become a real person. When we are a real person, we see real people around us, and life is present in all its richness. The practice of eating bread, a tangerine, or a cookie is the same.

When we breathe, when we are mindful, when we look deeply at our food, life becomes real at that very moment. To me, the rite of the Eucharist is a wonderful practice of mindfulness. In a drastic way, Jesus tried to wake up his disciples.”


Psalm 42: “As a deer yearns for running streams, so I yearn for you, my God.

Music: “Shine out your light…”



“Christ became obedient for us, even unto death. For which reason God has lifted him up, and given him a name above very other name, so that at the name of Jesus, every head should bow, and every tongue should confess that he is the Son of God.”


The stripping off of Jesus’ clothing was in itself a prelude to execution. Indeed the brutal beating was intended to induce death even before the crucifixion, if possible. The crucifixion was a visible sign of domination of the Roman law over subjected people. But Jesus said: “If I be lifted up, I will draw all things to myself.” In an ironic change of meaning, the symbol of total defeat has become for the Christian a sign of victory over sin and death.

Our physical universe, therefore, is a sacred sign of God’s blessing and bounty. Our air and earth and water are the thin veil behind which God both hides and is revealed.


Without a specific quote, congregation sings:

Music:( choir or congregation)

“For the Beauty of the earth, sing, o sing today,

Of the sky and of our world, sing, o sing always.

Nature rules and magnifies all around us lies,

God of all to Thee we raise, grateful Hymns of praise.”


Enlarge to full size in new window


“When they reached the place called the Skull, they nailed him to the cross along with two convicted felons, on his right, one on his left. And Jesus said “Father forgive them; they don’t realize what they’re doing.”


Somewhere beyond the farthest reaches of the Hubble Telescope, God is perhaps laughing with joy at the Big Bang Theory and the Grand Unified Theories, and is conceiving a new plan, when this is all gone, to perfect the weak force, the strong force, gravitational attraction and electromagnetism in order to better share divine joy and bliss with the beloved creatures. To have created a physical/spiritual universe which required that the crucifixion take place seems at first blush to be an imperfect work. But then we contemplate the Resurrection: “Who shall rise up to the highest heights unless they have first gone down to the utter depths?” It sounds like a supernova becoming a dark star. Only with the eyes of Faith can we juxtapose almighty love and perfection alongside excruciating and infinite suffering in the person of Jesus, who is God, who is human being.


From Psalm 63: “God, you are my god, I pine for you; my heart thirsts for you, my body longs for you, as a land parched, dreary and waterless.

Music: “Shine out your light …”


Enlarge to full size in new window


“One of the felons hanging up there scowled at Jesus and said ‘Aren’t you supposed to be the Messiah? Get us down from here, and yourself too!’ But the other convicted felon spoke up and said ‘Have you no fear of God at all? We deserved our sentence, and we are paying for what we did. But this man has done no wrong.’ Then the felon turned to Jesus and said ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him ‘Take my word for it, this day you will be with me in Paradise.’”


Greater love than this no one has. I so loved the world. My death takes place both in time and outside time. So does my rising on the third day. These mysteries are always together.

In my mind’s eye,

In my incarnate consciousness,

Before the shutting of my eyes,

I saw back to the beginning---

Saw forward to all times future---

Pierced like laser the ever-moving point

Of the present moment---

Saw oceans and ozone polluted---

Saw black holes, space-junk,

Saw suicide bombers in Baghdad

and said “Father, forgive them,

for they know not what they do;”

and said to the slain on both sides--

“This day you will be with me in paradise.”


“The light shone brightly into the darkness, but the darkness could not put out the light.”

Music: “Jesus, remember me. . .”



“Now a member of the Jerusalem City Council arrived, a good and upright man named Joseph. He was originally from Arimathea, a Judean town, and he hoped to see the reign of God in his own lifetime. He asked for the body of Jesus, took it down, wrapped it in a shroud and put it in a tomb hewn out of solid rock, where no body had ever been placed. Meanwhile the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took note of the tomb and how the body had been laid out. Then they returned with spices and ointments.” (Lk 23) MEDITATION

We can only contemplate this death in awe, beg for understanding, await the rain/hale/snow/mist of grace, and experience the greening growth of our souls in loving kindness, in depth of love and unselfishness.
Jesus says:

All life is precious, all life is holy;

all these fallen at Basra and Kirkuk,

our soldiers, Iraqi soldiers and non-combatants,

child-casualties, suicide bombers,

all these lives rise as sweet-smelling incense,

before the throne of Holy Compassion.

I touch my people always with

holy hands of cosmic love--

for all that I have created is good--

Let us celebrate the death of death---

all is one--all is well--all is calm--all is quiet--

like the rising up of spring flowers

from beneath the snow


Psalm 139 “Where shall I go to escape your spirit? Where shall I flee from your presence? If I scale the heavens, you are there, if I lie flat in Sheol, there you are. If I speed away on the wings of the dawn, if I dwell beyond the ocean, even there your hand will be guiding me, your right hand holding me fast.”

Music: “Shine out your light”


Enlarge to full size in new window


“The light shone brightly into the darkness, but the darkness could not put out the light. Those who recognize the light are empowered to become children of God.


Jesus says:

And death shall have no dominion

And death shall have no dominion

For death is swallowed up in Victory

Death, where is your victory?

Death, where is your sting?

For death is swallowed up in Victory.

For behold, I make all things new.

I live, today and always—

You are my body—

Dying, and behold you live,

I suffer in our brothers and sisters,

In the angry streets of Mosul,

In the wall barriers of Hebron

In the Kurdish hills of Bashur,

In Ramadi and Fallujah,

In the twisted train-wreck in Madrid

For behold I make all things new

I live today and always

You are my body—

Dying, and behold you live.

I am alive.

I am victorious.

And all will be well---

And all will be well---

And all will be exceedingly well---

My light will shine through

My light will shine through

My light will shine through

My light will shine through

Pat Stevens has been at St Joan of Arc for 30+ years, was first Executive Director of Trust in 1970, taught Humanities and foreign languages for 12 years, has been a real estate broker for 25 years with his wife Irene Taddiken. They have 11 grandkids. Pat studied philosophy and theology at St. Paul Seminary, Greek Drama and Classical Languages at Yale. He is a Prayer Partner at SJA and is on the Affordable Housing Committee.

(music underscores; at this point the readers turn and face the cross; the thirteen candle-bearers bring their candles to a place near the cross ,and step off the platform; the cross is lifted out and veneration begins, starting with readers, candle-bearers, then all)

©Patrick Stevens for St. Joan of Arc

Back to Events in Review

Related Media
Related Sermons