Good Friday Reflection 2018 from the Rev. Linda Mackie Griggs
There is a church near New York City where, at the beginning of Holy Week, the Celebrant at the Eucharist places a small nail in communicants’ hands with the host.
She kind of sneaks it in—you don’t see it coming; you just notice something metallic and sharp beneath the little wafer. You pause in a bit of confusion, registering after a second, that with Jesus comes a nail.
It’s an unexpected invitation to ponder.
You’re holding a nail.
Nails are normally used to connect; to construct. Yet today we are confronted with Nails that connect in order to destroy. They are joined with the Cross, as instruments of torture and death.And in that church in New York, each person has a nail.
What if everybody attending Holy Week services had a nail?
That’s a lot of nails.
The nails in the Cross on Golgotha weren’t just functional nails to effect a single crucifixion. These were nails of Empire.
Nails of oppression.
Nails of injustice.
Nails of indifference.
Nails of complicity.
The wounds from these nails weren’t just wounds in a single body. They were wounds of all the crucified.
These are the wounds of all the broken.
When we gaze upon the cross, we are challenged to regard the nails; not just three of them, all of them. To gaze on the wounds; not just five of them, all of them.
We are here tonight to witness to the fact that each of us is holding a nail.
But that’s not the whole story.
The body that bore those wounds carried that cross and was nailed to it because of his passion for the dream of God—a dream of justice, compassion and nonviolence.
A dream that ran completely counter to the Empire and authorities that saw him as a threat and a disruption.
Jesus, the embodied Christ, carried that cross and hung upon it, and in doing so transformed it.
He transformed the cross.
He transformed the wounds.
He transformed the nails.
On November 14, 1940, German planes firebombed the city of Coventry England.
Hundreds died, thousands of homes were destroyed, and the medieval cathedral of St. Michael was left a smoldering shell. The following morning – Not a year later,
or after an endless series of committee meetings and feasibility studies,
but the next morning, the decision was made was to rebuild as a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world.
In November of 1940, in the middle of the Blitz, surely by the grace of God,
grief and revenge were transformed into faith, hope and trust.Since then the rebuilt Cathedral has become a center for the Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation,
supporting efforts to ease conflict throughout the world.
And the symbol?
A local priest found three medieval roofing nails in the rubble of the Cathedral and formed them into a Cross. It has become an iconic symbol of hope, and healing for the broken—nails as they should be: connectors and builders.
It was a spirit of faith and hope that transformed the grief of Coventry into a tangible gift of reconciliation. It was that same forgiving love that Jesus embodied, offering himself as a free and costly gift for the healing of the world.
He forgave the cross, the wounds, the nails.
All of them.
Tonight Jesus invites us to the Cross. To regard and to feel his pain and the pain of all the forgotten, the marginalized and the victimized that he loves even now
and to the end.
Tonight let his love transform us, and the nails we carry.