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the sermon for

Good Friday

14 April 2017

John 19:31-42
Only at the cross do we see god
in all god's glory!

04132017There was a time in my life when faith – believing – was a simple thing. We were all doomed! We were all going to hell! Unless and until we believed in god! It was all wrath and retribution! Hell and damnation! Fire and brimstone! With a life preserver thrown in on the side! How did we say it in the old red hymnal? "We poor sinners confess unto thee that we are by nature sinful and unclean!" Of course, saying it in the King's English makes it all so much more pitiful. We are sinners! We do what god doesn't want; and don't do what god wants. God is disappointed in us! Frustrated! Angry! And of course, there are consequences! There's a price that must be paid! Thus, we're all going to burn in hell! Unless... Until... It's all nice and neat, black and white, night and day...

Of course, there were times things could get a little convoluted. Like when you tried to understand what, exactly, it meant to believe! Was believing in god like believing in the Easter Bunny? Believing there was a god? That god existed? Or did it include believing in the bible? Each dotted i, every crossed t? Did it mean believing in a literal creation, a literal Adam and Eve, a literal Flood? Did it include believing in a literal virgin birth and a literal resurrection, but only a metaphorical, symbolic Lord's Supper? Did you have to believe in angels and demons? In heaven and hell? In miracles? The devil? End times? Second Comings? And did you have to believe in all of it? Or some of it? And if some, which bits and pieces? Other than that, it was all, pretty plain, pretty simple. We're all going to hell! Unless and until we believe!

But that was before I came here. Before I came here and stood at the foot of the cross. And for the very first time, I saw Jesus! Right here! Right now! And when I did that, everything I once thought was so important... Everything I, at one time, believed fundamental, essential... no longer mattered! None of it mattered! Only one thing was vital, only one thing crucial... and that one thing was Jesus! Jesus and the love that led him, that lured him, to this place! To this moment! Christ and Christ crucified! That's what Paul calls it! Christ and Christ crucified! That's the only thing that's important! The only thing that means anything! That only thing whatsoever that matters! Standing here... sitting here... and looking up at the cross has a way of putting everything else into perspective!

God loved the world that god did this...

Having loved his own, he loved them here...

This... THIS is the great love with which he loved...

Not that we loved god, but that god first loved us...

This place, this day, is the only reason we do anything!

No, I thought it all was so simple, until I came here. And when I did, everything became even simpler, still! God loves. Period. And Jesus... Jesus is that love! Love we can see! Love we can hear! Love we can touch! Love we can, even, smell and taste! Given and shed. For you. For all. No. We come to here and everything, finally, falls into place. No threats, only promises. No fear, only peace. No ifs, ands, or buts; only the certain and sure! No unless, no until, only charity, only grace, only love!

Take a look at the cross, again! Look at the body broken... at the blood shed... and tell me... who will be excluded? Who will be left out? If god, Jesus, is willing to do this... all this... who will be cast out? Forever? Simply because they didn't believe? Whatever that means! Which sin is more powerful than this? What sinner so unpardonable? So unjustifiable? It's easy to draw lines, easy to give 'em hell... when you're standing on sinai. But it's difficult, maybe even impossible, when you're here, at the summit of Golgotha. To separate goats from sheep... chaff from grain... tares from wheat... Here... now... what was, once, so clear... is no longer quite so obvious... is no longer quite so apparent...

It's here, in the shadow of the cross, that we are, finally, blinded by the brilliance of god's love! God's grace overwhelms us! God's grace engulfs us! God's grace sweeps us off our feet and carries us away! And we're lost! Lost in wonder! Lost in awe! Dazed! Speechless! Tears well up! Our throats tighten! As we begin to understand that this – all of this – was done for us! And we are conquered, vanquished, by god's mercy and grace! The sound of that last heartbeat... The whisper of that final breath... silences and stills the mob!

God loves us! Loves us without limit! Loves us without measure! Loves us without end! And what can our mere believing ever add to that? What can our meager faith ever hope to complete? And so, all we do – on a night like this... in a place like this... is sit... and stare... and offer up our hushed Amens...

 
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