The Work of the People -- Good Friday, 2005
St. David’s, Pepperell
Katherine Hancock Ragsdale
We gather tonight to do together the Good Friday liturgy. The word liturgy comes from the Greek for "public service." Today, we generally translate it as "the work of the people." So we gather tonight to do the work of the people – to do our work. And the work before us today, in this liturgy, is to pray for the world.
There’s certainly plenty to pray about:
We are at war. People beloved of God and their families and friends are killing, and being killed by, other people beloved of God and their families and friends.
Children in other parts of the world are dying of AIDS in vast numbers. In fact, entire nations are being decimated by this, not curable but certainly treatable, plague.
People everywhere go to bed hungry and without shelter.
Our schools remain unsafe. Last week the headlines spoke of the most recent school "gunman." Next to the headline was the picture of a boy – a child. There was no "gunman" involved. Children are killing children.
And, even as we sit here, political points are being scored over the body of a helpless FL woman while those who love her fight rather than mourn.
This is the world we’re to pray for. It’s hard to know where to begin.
And sometimes it’s hard to know why to begin. For, no matter how hard we pray, when we leave here tonight it’s a good bet that all these problems/tragedies will still await us. The only thing we might well expect to change as a result of our prayer tonight is … us.
Which is a pity. Most of us would, I suspect, prefer magic prayer. You know, the kind of prayer where, if you get it just right, if you want it badly enough, if you pray hard enough – presto, it magically appears. We could fill this church to the rafters if we preached convincingly about that kind of prayer. But it would be a lie – or, at the very least, wishful thinking. We know better.
Instead of magic we get offered an opportunity to change ourselves. To turn our hearts to that which is, and those who are, broken. To turn our heads and our hands to doing God’s work of re-creation, restoration, blessing, healing, resurrection, in and for the world. Which is, of course, where any transformation starts.
It’s not as if we, God’s creation, really need magic, after all. There’s not a problem I listed that doesn’t have an answer within the grasp of willing human hands. You, or I, or even you and I, individually, may not have the power, the knowledge, the ability to repair all those wounds ourselves. But humankind as a whole?
There are enough resources on this planet to satisfy the needs of every living creature. We’ve sent people to the moon, decades ago, yet we can’t figure out how to distribute resources across the globe? We may not be able to stop death (but why would we want to. Death is a part of our lives and provides the context that gives poignancy and meaning.) We may not be able to stop death or to eradicate all disease, but we know how to stop an epidemic, and how to care for our ill, and even how to say good-bye to our dead.
It’s not that we, humankind, can’t do these things; it’s that we don’t want to – not enough, anyway.
And so we come here tonight to do our work. To pray for this broken world in the hope and faith that those prayers will change us. They’ll make us want that healing just a bit more, work for it just a bit harder, risk and sacrifice for it just a bit more courageously.
We come to shape ourselves more fully into who God intends us to be and to invite as much of the world as we can reach to join us in the journey.