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Good Friday Sermon from March 28, 1986 and Three of the Last Seven Words

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Good Friday

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Coney Island, New York

March 28, 1986

Text: John 19:30.

Today is Good Friday, a day that is most holy for the holy. And this time, the time that we gather together this afternoon is also the point at which the holiest occurrence in our universe transpired – because Jesus died right at this time there on the cross after having hanged there for three hours.

You see this is the One who was absolutely shaped by the Word of God. If you took the whole law and the prophets and put together the Man of God which they all pointed to, then you would have Jesus. That’s why what happens in his life keeps fulfilling different words from Scripture.

This is the One, who is actually the word become flesh, that means, become a human being. And what a life of love he lived – bringing hope and joy to all around. But now the old and hateful and violent world caught up with him and did what it usually does, it destroys, it kills, it violates the love of God. This is because it does not recognize the One who was sent from God to change the face of the earth. And those who outstrip this world, those who challenge the world, showing the world to be as sinful as it is and showing people how sinful they are, are not thanked, they are not rewarded, but are persecuted, are killed, even tortured as if they were evil-doers.

Who is it really that is condemned and found to be inhuman, the One being nailed like a piece of wood to the cross or those nailing him as if he were a piece of wood? For the soldiers in those days to nail him, the One who had given so much love, shows that they must have been made out of wood.

The life-spark of God was in Jesus. The people wanted to nail him down, like some school boys who want to nail down and torture a little frog, because they don’t understand and feel for the life of an animal.

Back there on that cross, we nailed down the One, who had his heart in heaven and knew how to bring heaven’s light and love amongst us.

The world gathered around him and said, “We do not want to be challenged by what God expects. We want to live according to our own compromises, our own reason, our own interests. We want to live in our idea of life.” Jesus said, “This is God’s idea for your life. This is the idea for which God created us all.” But they did not want to hear it and we do not want to hear it.

We sing “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”

Please don’t get the idea that the Jews killed Christ and are guilty or even that the Romans killed him and they are the real culprits or that it was really the soldiers. No way! We killed Jesus Christ. We murdered him legally – thinking that we could escape punishment under the cover of the law. If Jesus had been in America, he could have died much sooner. We’ve put to death far lesser prophets, like Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and what new prophets we have put to death in Latin America and Central America. The name Oskar Romero will not quickly disappear. So if Christ had been in America, we would have killed him the same way they did. The rulers act in our place and the soldiers carry out the violence with which we invest them. Soldiers do not kill for themselves. We ask them to kill for us.

So it comes back down to you and me. The Word of God became flesh – a human being, and dwelt amongst us. We treated him as if he was a criminal. How could we do this? How come our hearts and our lives are so far out of whack? What can we possibly do in the face of our very great sin?

We will see that we can do nothing. We are just a murderous and thieving race of people, who have to stand here and confess our guilt, and look to God for mercy.

And that is what God gives us. Even before Jesus dies, he says, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” And God intervenes from eternity and uses Jesus’ death to enter this world with an even greater salvation than that of the passage through the Red Sea on dry land.

God moves in among us in a way far surpassing the salvation of the people in Egyptian bondage and in need of the Promised Land. God moves us through the cross of Christ and gives us a passage way into the Kingdom of God.

The power of God’s love and forgiveness flows through that “Old Rugged Cross” into our lives – and this power is that of a new birth that we receive in the death of this figure hanging on the tree of the cross. When God steps in here, he not only raises up the Champion Messiah, he also raises up his new people with him, and he is about the raising up of all the nations of the world and stringing them into the train that has the destination sign: Salvation.

Upon this cross hinges the way God intends to save the whole world and all the sinners in it. And it far surpasses the Exodus and the Promised Land.

We don’t leave and go elsewhere. We go back and God gives us entrance into a new existence, a new kind of life, a new way to relate to one another, a world that opens up so that heaven and the Prince of Heaven enter it and rule it and reorder it from within. Same country, same people – but that’s only by appearance. We get a passage into a new way of being God’s people, a new way of being a country, a new way of receiving from God the salvation that touches us from the side of Christ and all those who receive what Christ offers us there.

So here we are looking at that cross. We have done our worst. God moves in us and changes it all, making it into the key that unlocks heaven’s gate for the sorry world we live in. Let us allow God and his crucified Christ entrance into our hearts, so that the salvation God is about can also be accomplished through and for us. Amen.

The Seven last Words for Good Friday, March 28th 1986

2. “Verily I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

3. “Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother.”

7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

2. “Verily I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

To side with Jesus means a lot to Jesus. We have t take his side because we have come to our senses and we begin to see the way people are – and what a difference from the way he is! Whenever we come upon someone mounted on a cross and we protect them from the spite and violence of the world, Christ gives us a promise and a reward, which is beyond our fondest imagination. [“When have we ever seen someone mounted on a cross?” you ask. Quite often. Just think of the bullying issue of today! (This is a note, of course, from today.)]

Say in the midst of people spouting anti-Semitism, you go to the side of a Jew, whom they are persecuting, upon whom they are feeling free to vent their rage, as if their victim was deserving of hate. Step to the Jew’s side and get a glimpse of the promise. If a number of people crowd around a communist and press him from all sides, and feel that such a one could be rubbed off the face of the earth, could be erased and be thanked by God for it, step to that person’s side, and defend him, defend her, and the promise is yours, the promise of Jesus for your today.

If you see people gathering around a homosexual and they feel justified in condemning him or her and judging them to hell, then go to that homosexual person’s side and defend him or her and get your reward in Paradise.

And if a woman is at the bottom and all the men around her feel free to see her only as a sex-object, and she is continually weakened by the way men look at her, then go to her side, go to her defense, and today will be Paradise – you will be on the cross with Christ and you will be getting ready to enter the Gates of Paradise.

And if a Black person is being rejected for the color of his or her skin, then step to that person’s side and protect them from those who have white skins and evil hearts. Shelter them from hate. And you will find that Jesus takes your hand, because you are at his side.

You will be on the cross beside him and hand in hand with Jesus, the gates will open wide, and you too will enter Paradise with the very one who created the garden for you and for me. Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor can our imagination even picture the good things God has prepared for those who love him on the cross at Jesus’ side. Amen.

3. “Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother.”

Yes, we can look at this word of Jesus from the view-point of being for others in spite of pain, loving even more, loving so much that the pain cannot block the love, but only enhance the love the more.

From another view-point, however, Jesus’ dying was taking all sin and estrangement with him into death. His dying was making everyone into one human family. Because he made God our Father, we would all be sisters and brothers. Jesus was making us all one body by his death on the cross. Natural family ties are overcome by the new ties he forms for us – the ties of the children of God, who learn to love even the enemy, and with that can love mothers and mothers can love sons, even where a strange older woman and a strange young man come together. Yes, the strangeness dies and both become a family in Christ’s name; what’s more, a family more true than a blood relationship.

If we are the blood of Christ, we are really family. Family relationships come and go. Our relationships in the family of God are eternal.

In a word Jesus married us all – not physically, but spiritually to one another in the Relationship with God the Father. Amen.

7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

So many people say that Jesus expected God to stop everything, for God to come with all his angels and bring the whole history of the earth to a close, and then allow Jesus to escape the cruel death on the cross.

Even Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” What was Jesus expecting?

Did he expect the heavens to roll back like a scroll, the trumpet to sound, and time to be no more, the great roll call up yonder, and the judging of the quick and the dead?

The Father, in allowing his Son to be born, was also taking into account that he would have to die as well. “Why should his death have had to be such a cruel one?” we ask. What a way for the Son of God to get ushered out!

Jesus realized that he was going to die like us and he had to place his spirit into God’s hands for the short while. Jesus knew that there his spirit would be safe. He would feel the interruption, but he would not be separated from the love of the Father. He would be in his Father’s hands, embraced, lifted up, raised up.

You see, Jesus was not raised back 2,000 years ago. He is risen! And we will not be raised from the dead. He is risen! And we too are raised from the dead now today. So face God and God’s eternity and allow it to touch you now, today.

Today you will be with me in Paradise, it will all be finished, the thirst for God will be quenched, forgiveness will be given, and we will penetrate the dark cloud that hangs over our existence and we will know what we do, know who we are, and to whom we belong.

Yes, right now in time. Now is the acceptable time, the time in which we can accept the fact that we can commend our spirits into the hands of God, who will lift us up into the Holy Spirit,

who will raise us up to drink from the living water of God, who will make us whole and unify us in the complete knowledge of one another in the knowledge and love of God, who will let us walk with Christ in Paradise, even still and yet today, who will relate us one with another in a love that surpasses that of family ties and that of a man for a woman and a woman for a man, who will be with us alive in our hearts, so that we will never be forsaken, who will finish his creation in us, and who will pray for us in sighs too deep for words. So with Spirit enfolded in Spirit, we face Godwards and meet the new heavens and the new earth in the new day in which Christ is Lord. Amen.

Postscript: The cross is the lever that Archimedes wanted to move the world. It was Christ, however, who moved it, lifting it right up out of its sockets of strangeness and alienation, and allowing all humankind to embrace in the arms of God. Amen.

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Written by peterkrey

April 5, 2010 at 12:02 am

Posted in Selected Sermons

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