Crows Nest Uniting Church
Good Friday • 3 Apr 2015


Mark 14:26 - 15:47


Rev. Chris Udy



Just over a year ago,
in early March 2014,
Malaysia Airlines flight 370,
en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing,
disappeared from radar
over the Gulf of Thailand.
Despite intensive and expensive searches,
the 227 passengers and 12 crew
have never been found,
and while there are suspicions
about what the pilots did
and how officials responded,
the tragedy remains a mystery,
and the families and friends of those who died
are left with all the questions of grief,
but none of the answers and explanations
that might give them closure.
 
Four months later, in July 2014,
Malaysia Airlines flight 17,
flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur,
was shot down over eastern Ukraine.
It appears that separatists,
using armaments supplied by Russia,
fired rockets at the plane to bring it down,
and the 283 passengers and 15 crew on board
died in a battle over territory and control
that had nothing to do with them.
Their deaths were a terrible mistake,
but the intentions of those who killed them
were dreadfully clear.
It didn’t really matter who they were,
or where they were going,
or what the human cost of their dying might be,
those who shot their plane down
wanted to demonstrate their power,
and the people who were inside it
were inconsequential and expendable.
 
And then, two weeks ago,
Germanwings flight 9525,
on its way from Barcelona to Düsseldorf,
crashed into the Alps in southern France.
It looks like the co-pilot chose,
and plotted, and worked through his plan
to betray his colleagues
and the passengers on the plane,
either because he had some problems
he’d decided he couldn’t live with any longer,
or because he wanted
to make his mark on the world
and the only way he could do that
was by leaving a wound of debris
and other peoples’ DNA
on the side of a mountain.
Maybe he thought
the only way he could make his life matter
was by taking the lives
of 144 passengers and 6 crew
and letting the shock, and anger, and trauma
of those who loved and needed them
become the vehicle and the fuel
for his significance and memory.
 
Most of us can identify,
either with the passengers on the planes
or with those who grieve them.
It’s a first-world identification,
but, for many of us,
flying reminds us that our lives
are subject to forces and movements
beyond our control.
When we’re in a plane,
or when someone we care about is flying,
we can’t escape the awareness
that our lives are dependent
on the goodwill, and skill,
and diligent maintenance and careful attention
of people we don’t know,
and who don’t know us.
Almost everything we do
when we leave our homes each day
involves a similar level of trust,
but when we fly it seems more obvious
than when we walk on the street, or drive,
or use a lift, or buy a sandwich.
 
The fundamental currency of life
is trust – or faith –
they mean the same thing.
With faith – with trust –
we form relationships of love;
we build community,
share resources and combine our efforts.
With trust – with faith –
we turn numbers in a bank account
into food and shelter
and objects of meaning and value.
With faith – with trust –
we apply and observe and rely on
the rules and laws
that keep cars off the footpath
and planes up flying in the air.
 
So when our faith is undermined,
or our trust is broken and betrayed,
the consequences are cosmic:
the world itself is shadowed;
our confidence in those who live
beside us and around us
is compromised,
we’re revealed for what we really are:
vulnerable creatures,
with bodies that feel pain,
and minds that simply don’t understand
the world’s complexity,
or the processes that deliver us
what we need to live.
When our trust is broken
we look for reasons;
we look for a failure;
we look for someone we can blame,
and we hope that fixing,
or punishing, or removing, or even killing
those who’ve torn the fabric of our faith
will be enough to mend it
and allow us to return
to life as it was.
 
But it’s not.
It’s never enough.
Something of the shadow remains,
and the simpler faith we had before
will need to deepen and find room
for suffering, and sadness, and uncertainty,
and the possibility that those we trust
and those we love, and those who love us,
are as vulnerable, and flawed,
and limited, and sometimes confused as we are.
Our faith needs to find room to accept
that even God can be betrayed,
and used by people who’ll wound the world
to make their mark,
and be caught up into wars God has no part in,
and that sometimes,
even after intensive and expensive searches,
faith needs room for mysteries we cannot resolve,
and things we cannot explain.
 
Jesus came into Jerusalem
on a donkey, not in a plane,
but we are still travelling with him
as his friends betray, deny and desert him;
as he gets caught up and crucified
in a battle between Jewish collaborators
and Roman invaders and oppressors;
and as he confronts mysteries
that go to the heart of what it means
to be limited and vulnerable and human.
 
Good Friday asks us to journey with him,
and not to look away
as he moves through the shadows
that confront and fracture trust,
and not to jump too quickly
to what we know is yet to come –
because it’s on Good Friday
that we lay the foundations
of a deep and resilient faith,
a faith that lets us engage with the world,
and discover and explore
both its beauty and its ugliness,
its wonder and its terror.
 
So listen, as Warwick reads for us
Mark’s account of the day Jesus died,
and take this journey with him
from the garden to the grave.