We are God’s Vessel – a Good Friday meditation

Good Friday marks the fourth of Acting Bishop Dorsey McConnell’s series of daily meditations during Holy Week.

“The meditations address a question that was posed at Synod, Who Are We?, and are based on six images used by Saint Paul to describe the Church in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 For. 2:14-5:21),” says Bishop Dorsey. “Each is linked to a particular moment in Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, beginning with the Triumphal Entry, and ending with the appearance of the risen Lord to Mary Magdalene. Each concludes with an appropriate collect.

“I invite you to use these for your own devotions as we move day-by-day more deeply into the Mystery of Mysteries. Please also consider the daily reflections and resources in our Lent Course already posted on our website.

“I hope these may provide you with sustenance and encouragement as we together walk the Way of the Cross.”

Good Friday, 29 March – We are God’s Vessel

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).

After an interval of about an hour still another insisted, “This man also was with [Jesus]…. But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”  And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:59-62).

Friday would be a day of agony.  Having been seized the night before, Jesus would be interrogated, condemned, stripped and scourged.  There will be the long parade to Calvary, the mocking and humiliation; then the nails, the three long hours, the sour wine, the spear.  It will seem that he takes an eternity to die.

But Peter dies long before.

He is such an eager friend, so full of good intentions.  When he swears he will die with Jesus, if need be, he means it.  He never meant to deny the Lord, certainly not time and time again.  When he follows Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, he is hoping there is something— anything— he can do to help, whatever help might mean.

But soon the terrible moment arrives.  Someone says, You were with him.  And all Peter’s courage melts away. He hears himself say, I do not know him. It is like some awful dream.  He is confronted again, and nearly the same words come out of his mouth.  He stands in a daze; then, the third time.  Again, the words, but now the rooster crows.  And the Lord, emerging from the house, looks straight into Peter’s eyes, a look of knowledge and sorrow and compassion.

And Peter feels something shatter, like a clay jar dropped onto the pavement: his life, his hopes, his good opinion of himself, his entire sense of who he is, all now lie in pieces, mingled with shame and fear.  No wonder he weeps. He figures he is dead, and the rest of his life, no matter how long he lives, will be no life at all.

He cannot yet see the glory that begins with his tears. He does not yet understand that the brittle vessel that was Peter in his pride, had to be broken for the treasure of God’s grace to flow from him into the world.  It will be hours, days, before he knows that he lives in order to carry, into other lives, the word of the Cross that will be in him.  In the years to come, he will meet many others who believe they are as dead as he was.  His message will always be:  I know. Let me tell you the story of how I ran out on my best friend in his darkest hour, and he used it to save my life. His name is Jesus. He can save yours as well.

And we are the same, especially today, always coming back to the foot of the Cross, the place where we give up trying to fit together the shards of our lives and simply ask Christ to remake us, fragile vessels no longer ashamed of our weakness, but strengthened by the treasure that is in us— the glory of his death, the miracle of his grace.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and at the hour of our death.  Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen.