March 30, 2018
Good Friday Year B
All Saints' Church
We know that our God is a God of mercy and compassion, an Almighty God who desires that we live in justice, peace, joy, and in love.
Why must the road to that kingdom lead us to the Cross, into a tomb?
The question matters because it has everything to do with what we are doing here today, together. With what are we here to do, to observe, to feel on this Good Friday, and what makes it “good.”
Why did our Lord choose to die in this way?
We understand it through Isaiah’s prophetic words: “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.”
Many people have thought this to mean that God punished Jesus for human sinfulness—our sin that reaches back to Adam and Eve. God was angry with us for spoiling our created perfection, and God just couldn’t get over it. But what could God take away from us that God hadn’t given
to us in the first place? So God sent God’s perfect Son into the world, to take something away from him—his life. In our sin, we had harmed God, and God felt compelled to do some kind of harm to us to answer for it. Instead, God hurts Jesus. On the Cross Christ dies for all our sins, pays our debt to God on our behalf.
If we think about it in those terms, then today we mark the day that Jesus’ suffering changed something about God. Changed God’s mind about us. Jesus made God an offer God couldn’t refuse.
I want to look at it a different way.
Let me pause here to address the question you may be asking yourself. Who am I to ask you to think differently? Good question. I’m just a guy who walked in those doors back there three years ago, and soon enough joined the choir, and soon enough started to wonder if the life I had planned for myself was a dead end. I started to feel like God was opening a door in my heart, opening a path for me to God’s service, opening a new life of struggle and joy in what really matters most. I started to ask myself if God was asking me to be a priest—and with your encouragement, and with the help of your tender questions, I am so pleased to say that the bishop has set me on that path. I’ll be heading to seminary this fall (and not too far away). So hear what I’m about to say as coming from one who has spent the past few years trying to really listen to what God is saying…but who is also driving this pulpit without a license.
I believe that it is in the person of Jesus Christ that we know best who God is. For we believe that Jesus IS God – is one in being with the Father.
We know that Jesus didn’t spend his life punishing people. Everywhere he went, he restored people to the fullness of who they were. Sometimes that took a very literal form: restoring sight, or healing a hemorrhage. Sometimes that meant teaching, to expand his listeners’ imagination of
what God’s love is like. Sometimes that meant sitting and eating with those that society had cast out—affirming their fundamental dignity in the sight of God. Sometimes that meant meeting with tax collectors, Roman centurions, and those who had thrown their lot in with the oppressors—affirming their fundamental dignity. Sometimes that meant exorcising demons: confronting a human being with so much love that they were freed from the damage the Devil, or their trauma, or their shame was doing to them.
Jesus spent his life healing people—reconciling them to themselves, to others, and to God.
And that is also how Jesus spends his death. Even in the punishment that we put upon him, he is working to make us whole. Even as we break his body, he is offering that body for our healing. On the Cross, Jesus shows us that God just doesn’t have any other way of being.
The Cross is another form God’s mercy takes. Today God says to us—you would strip me, scourge me, you would try me in a mockery of justice, you would murder me in a spectacle of humiliation—and I will use your rejection to show you that there is nothing you can do that will make me turn from away you. You are my children, and I will never leave you, never stop caring for you, never stop wanting to heal you, never stop loving you. Friends, that is what we have come to hear, and to see.
We have come to see that the love of Jesus goes all the way to the bottom. We have come to see Jesus on the Cross, in the fullness of his love. And to be seen by him, in the fullness of who we are. Let me ask you a personal question. Do you have a little voice inside you, like I do, that says “God’s mercy is everlasting, yes…but not for me. Because if God really knew about me…if God could see what I really am—how angry I can be, how jealous, how petty, how contemptuous, how unforgiving, God would be ashamed of me.” Or maybe the voice says “If God could see what I hide away from the world, the part of me that has been hurting for the longest time … God would turn away.”
We spend so much time and energy hiding our wounds. Pretending that we are perfect in the ways we’re told to be. We’re told to have a certain kind of body, to make a certain amount of money, to be smart, to be sassy, to effortlessly maintain “work-life balance,” to be the right kind of mother, or father, to be one of the cool kids—but not to want to be cool; a good kid, but not too good. To be good Christians, the kind of Christians who come to church at noon on Good Friday.
What if today is the day we can let go of that need to pretend? That need to be perfect? Because from the Cross, Jesus sees all that we have suffered. Jesus sees us in all our strength and shame and guilt and glory and goodness…and says yes. I see you. I see what you’re hiding there. And I welcome it. I welcome all of you. You are the one that I love. Because God doesn’t demand that we be perfect. God invites us to be whole. Whole doesn’t mean perfect—whole means nothing left out. God’s love for us leaves nothing out. Friends, the hard thing is to love one another and ourselves, leaving nothing out. It’s not complicated, but it is our calling, demanding all our faith and courage and humility. It is the way God calls us out of ourselves, out of the dead-ends into which we have wandered; it is the way God calls us to transformation and to new life.
In a few minutes, when you come to venerate the Cross, come as all that you are. All that you show to the world, and all that you hide. All your pride, all your shame. Whatever is wounded in you, friends, bring it to the wounded one there. For the foot of that terrible Cross is a place of healing. And it is a place where we are seen for all that we are, and welcomed as all that we are.
When you come to receive the reserved sacrament, come as all that you are—to be fed by the God who knows brokenness and pain, and whose body is for you. Come, not to be made perfect, but to be made whole. AMEN.