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Bishop Sue Briner, Southwestern Texas Synod
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Isenheim Altarpiece, Matthias Grünewald

Good Friday – April 10, 2020

Merciful God, your Son was lifted up on the cross to draw all people to himself. Grant that we who have been born out of his wounded side may at all times find mercy in him, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12  The Song of the Suffering Servant. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…
Psalm 22  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Hebrews 10:16-25  I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more. New covenant.
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 – Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, let us hold fast to our confession.
John 18:1 – 19:42 – John’s passion: arrest, trail, crucifixion.

For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.—Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22

He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. – Isaiah 53:3-5

The Song of the Suffering Servant, or what some call Isaiah’s Fourth Servant Song. “He will be exalted and lifted up. He was a lamb led to the slaughter. When the church was trying to understand the power and significance of Jesus’ crucifixion, these passages rang out.

This Suffering Servant in Isaiah takes on our infirmity, our grief, our sorrow, and our sins. Perhaps we will hear this text with new meaning in the midst of a global health crisis.

The church meditated on the cross as a way to understand suffering in the world. If you want to see Christ, look up on the suffering people of this world. God is not as illusive as you think.

When you look into the eyes of those who are suffering, you are looking into the eyes of God.

God is revealed in the suffering of the righteous. This is not to say that God desires or causes our suffering. But sacrifice and suffering often reveal the divine.

The story has that captivated many of us this in the coronavirus outbreak has been the story of a 72-year-old Italian priest named Don Giuseppe Berardelli, who had served as an ordained pastor for nearly half a century. He made the highest sacrifice on March 15, 2020.

Casnigo, in northern Italy, has a population of 3,200. But even small towns can be hit hard by epidemic. When Berardelli developed a respiratory condition, his parish purchased a respirator for him. As the number of skyrocketed, local hospitals ran out of respirators, reports circulated that Father Berardelli donated his respirator to a younger man. Berardelli subsequently died of the coronavirus.

He passed away in a hospital in Lovere, Bergamo. There was no in-person funeral, but locals applauded him from their balconies.

Many priests have died of the coronavirus in Italy to date. Italy has seen more cases (100,000+) than any country with the exception of the US (150,000+) as of the end of March. They have had nearly 12,000 deaths, as the US death toll now reaches 3,000.

Since the story came out, some have suggested that he was having trouble tolerating the respirator, and therefore refused it, so there may be some urban folklore to the story. Still, the story is instructive.

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13

When someone practices sacrificial love, God is revealed. In a world of selfish self-centeredness, one act of selfless love reveals something going on in the world that transcends the sinful, law-of-the-jungle, me-first, way of being in the world. Kindness and compassion are revealed.

This is what we see on the cross, when an itinerant carpenter turned preacher and healer, who devoted his life to serving outcasts, is nailed to a cross. We see the love of God in his mangled visage. We hear the voice of love in his words, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

It is well for us to meditate on this violent and love-revealing cross today.