Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday Sermon

Today is a dark day. Celebrating the Lord’s Passion, as we do, is a dark, dark time. It’s about as dark as humanity can get. Just as his birth was not just any birth – but the birth of God’s Son, the incarnation of God, of the Divine, in the world. So too, his death is not just any death, it is the death of God’s Son, God’s very self.

Emmanuel, God with us, has been judged by people too scared to even consider the possibility that God cares, that God loves what God created.  Emmanuel, God with us, has been whipped by people ordered to do so, people so worn-down by life they fail to see the true life that they beat. Emmanuel, God with us, has a crown of thorns, a coronation of pain, given to him by people who know nothing of freedom. Emmanuel, God with us, is mocked by passersby, people just wanting to get on their way, to finish their day hassle-free. Emmanuel, God with us, has nails driven through his feet and hands, is crucified and left to die a shameful, painful death, the death of a heretic and a treasonous criminal. Emmanuel, God with us, suffered the worst that humanity has to offer, the darkest we can be.

We have proven ourselves, over and over again, capable of tremendous darkness, capable of willing to snuff the last candle flame, the last glimmer of hope, if it serves our selfish need for fleeting power. We have proven ourselves, over and over again, to possess a willingness to destroy the whole pie rather than share any of it.

Today is a dark day. Celebrating the Lord’s Passion, as we do, is a dark, dark time. It’s about as dark as humanity can get. But, the last word is not ours, the last word belongs to Emmanuel, God with us, and the last word is, “It is finished.” Darkness is not what we celebrate today. We celebrate light, that in the midst of the darkest we can be, when Emmanuel, God with us, is put to death, light still manages to break through and dispel all the darkness.

Our history, the history of God’s people, is the history of God shining the light, as bright as any sun, into the darkness of our lives, into the deepest, darkest reaches of our soul. And light in darkness is the very definition of salvation.

When we gather for the Seder, the modern liturgy of the Passover meal, we are instructed to say, in the first person, “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor.” It is the story of our Exodus, as God leads us from darkness to light.

Think of Abraham and his son Isaac. At a time when humanity’s vision of the world was that the gods are thirsty for human bloodshed. In a culture where parents sacrificed their sons and daughters so they could be more successful in agriculture, politics, or war, God’s voice speaks to Abraham as he’s about to slay his son Isaac, and God says, "Stop it! That’s enough!" God goes with Abraham into that darkness and led him to a place of light, to a wider vision of who God is and what God wants from us.

At the Seder we are instructed to say, in the first person, “When we were slaves in Egypt.” At the Seder, we remind ourselves that when humanity sees power merely as domination, when humanity treats difference as a reason to defeat the “other,” God raises a prophet named Moses to say, “Enough,” to lead us out of the darkness of slavery, into the light where we are freed to become God’s people, and to treat one another as God treats us.

Human history, or even the front page of any major newspaper today tells us, that the light of God’s love needs to shine as brightly as ever. There is still war. People are enslaved by poverty and debt, and perfectly legal it is too.

But when we treat human life as cheap, our own lives seem worthless. How odd it is that we continue to try to protect ourselves from death by killing, from violence by violence, from pain by wounding others. In the person of Jesus Christ, God says, from the cross, “That’s enough. Never again.”

There is Good News on Good Friday, in this dark place. In the person of Jesus Christ, God’s light shines in our darkness. Stretched out on the cross, God showed us the wideness of God’s mercy. God, the all-powerful being became powerless for our sake. The Lord and King of the universe took upon himself the treatment humankind dealt to a slave convicted of treason. The judge of the nations was stripped naked and violated with a shameful death. Jesus Christ, God made flesh, was mocked, and humiliated, and tortured, and murdered, and on that dark day said, finally and for all time, “That’s enough. Never again. It is fininshed.”

He did not strike back against his tormentors but put them to shame with words of healing and reconciliation.

The cross of Jesus Christ is a dark place, but we need to be here. We need to visit the darkness, to open our hearts to the hungry, the homeless, and the oppressed: and to open our hearts to the powerful, the persecutors, and the oppressors. The light of God is freedom for slaves and slaver-owners alike. There’s an immeasurable wideness in God’s mercy.

The darkness – the fear – the pain – and death itself have been cast out: It is finished. Sacrificing our children to war or poverty or a lack of education: It is finished. Enslaving ourselves to ambition and injustice: It is finished.

The God of the universe has proclaimed definitively, and for all time: Enough bloodshed. Enough shame. Enough suffering. We are free. Free to love, free to serve, freed from every system and every habit that causes suffering: for ourselves, for those we love, and for our world. It is finished – all of it – and we are free to claim the vision of a world made new by the immeasurable wideness of God’s mercy.

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.

Therefore let us keep the feast. Amen.

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