Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sermon: Good Friday

6 April 2007 at Christ Lutheran Church, Chalmette, LA
Text: John 18 & 19 (Isa 52:13-53:12; 2 Cor 5:14-21)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear Christians, today is the one thousand nineteen hundred and seventy seventh time the Church has looked back and commemorated the crucifixion of our Lord. Through the rise and fall of empires, during wars and persecutions, in plague and sickness, and even as the foundations of the Church herself have been rocked by controversy and scandal – we Christians soldier on, following our Crucified Captain, and standing in the train of the millions of our brothers and sisters who have gone on before us.

And how silly we look!

For in the eyes of the world, we annually commemorate the death of the founder of our religion, calling it “good.” We wear crosses around our necks and adorn our churches and homes with images of a man who has been nailed to a piece of wood. More than one comedian has pointed out the foolishness of such a faith.

We kneel and scrape before a table and solemnly eat a little wafer of bread and take a tiny sip of wine – when we could be outside having a crawfish boil, drinking beer, and laughing. But instead, we huddle around a table and chant ancient words translated from languages nobody speaks anymore.

The Kingdom of God has always been different than what reason tells us it should be. Adam and Eve’s reason, distorted by the wicked serpent, concluded that God’s Kingdom was just a trick that God was using to keep them down. Their faulty reason made them think they knew better than God, and so they disobeyed.

The children of Israel again and again, convinced they knew the Kingdom of God better than God himself, turned to false gods, putting the prophets to death, and disobeying God’s Law.

And even when God Himself assumes human flesh, works miracles in the plain sight of all, speaking and preaching about the Kingdom – that Kingdom was misunderstood and distorted by the people. Even at Jesus’ arrest, Peter thought the Kingdom could be attained by the violent work of human hands (although, in a way, it was). Caiaphas thought the Kingdom of God would be advanced by the expediency of killing one man, Jesus, instead of many dying (and, in a way very different than what he understood, there was truth in this statement). Pilate perceived Jesus to be something more than a man, and himself thought he would be helping this King whose Kingdom was not of this world by finding Him innocent (though Pilate unwittingly advanced God’s Kingdom by allowing Jesus to be crucified).

And what about the crowds? They thought the advancement of the Kingdom of God would come through killing Jesus and releasing a sinner in place of Him who was innocent (and ironically, how right they were!).

For no matter how many human beings conspire with Satan throughout the centuries to destroy God’s Kingdom, His will shall be done, His Kingdom shall come – on earth and in heaven.

For even as we think we understand the mysteries of God, we can’t even begin to comprehend them. Like children, all we can do is trust. We must trust even when our eyes and our reason are filled with images and thoughts that tempt us to take God’s Kingdom into our own hands. For God is in control. Obedience, dear brothers and sisters, is a direct result of trust. When we jump out of a burning building into the arms of a fireman, we do so in faith and trust that he will catch us. When we struggle against sin and temptation, we do so in faith that there is a very good reason why we ought to obey God and trust in His Word.

This is the very reason such a sad day is called “good.” For all of the misery of our Lord’s passion, His humiliation, His physical and mental anguish, His torment upon the cross, and the apparent victory of Satan over Him are all part of the great plan that we accept by faith and not by sight. For the passion, the cross, and the death of Jesus were not in vain, nor were they defeat. Jesus’ triumphant cry of: “It is finished!” is not a waning wail of submission of the conquered, but rather it is the superlative shout of victory of the Conqueror.

For though the eyes tell us otherwise, faith, fed and nourished by the Scriptures, teach us that this is the greatest victory in history – a victory over the devil, a triumph over the grave, a rout of death itself.

The disobedience of Adam and Eve have been rolled back. The infidelity of the children of Israel has been undone. Even the sins of the disciples, of the Jewish leaders and the mob, of Pilate, and of all of the world have been atoned for by this ultimate act of love by our Lord.

The crucifixion of our Lord Jesus is a bittersweet goodness. Through His passion and death, we can confess with St. Paul per our epistle: “God… has been reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation…. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

And so, today is rightly called “Good” Friday. Though our joy is still stifled by mourning our Savior. For we join those first disciples in space and time as they looked upon their friend and their master, stricken, smitten, and afflicted, lifeless on the cross, with blood and water pouring from his riven side, seeing Him seemingly defeated and laid into a tomb. And with the disciples, we now wait for our Lord to return. For His rising from the dead is a victory lap of the Great Triumph. And on the third day hence, we will join two billion Christians around the world and will celebrate the resurrection of our Lord for the one thousand nine hundred and seventy seventh time.

But until Eastern morning, we contemplate His death and passion. We sing praise to God, though our Alleluias are muted. We know that our Redeemer liveth, though we hold our joy in check.

Let us wait for the Easter triumph in expectation of God’s grace, even as the “love of Christ compels us.” Dear Christians, the Lord’s death has reconciled you to God. Your sins have been put to death, and through baptism you have been crucified with Christ. His victory is your victory. Death has been defeated, now and unto eternity. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

No comments: