Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reflections on 4 of the 7 last words for Good Friday

Reflection 1 Father Forgive them, they know not what the do.
In a reflection about Good Friday Martin Luther wrote that we are viewing Christ’s suffering rightly when “we deeply believe and never doubt the least, that we are the ones who thus martyred Christ. For our sins most surely did it. Thus St. Peter struck and terrified the Jews as with a thunderbolt in Acts 2:36-37, when he spoke to them all in common: "Him have ye crucified," so that three thousand were terror-stricken the same day and tremblingly cried to the apostles: "O beloved brethren what shall we do?" Therefore, when you view the nails piercing through his hands, firmly believe it is your work. Do you behold his crown of thorns; believe the thorns are your wicked thoughts”
Oftentimes when I hear of the suffering of Jesus my first instinct is to blame others for that suffering. Whether it be the high priests, the Jewish crowd that greeted him with palms one minute and called for his crucifixion the next, the Roman officials, or even my neighbor with his blatant denial of Christ and corresponding lifestyle. After all I am a good Christian and am nice to others; I never would’ve participated in the ugly beating and execution we remember today.
Brothers and sisters, that kind of spiritual arrogance doesn’t do ourselves any favor. Without his blood on our hands we are not redeemed by that blood. Failure to properly place ourselves among those who crucified God’s son is a failure to claim for ourselves the forgiveness that Jesus offers at the cross. .And that forgiveness is for us brothers and sisters, when we find ourselves incapable of living the life that God hopes for us, we can be forgiven. When we refuse to acknowledge God as the giver of all good gifts, we can be forgiven, when we are utterly unable to throw ourselves at God’s feet and call him Lord, we can be forgiven. Perhaps this is why today is Good Friday because in the midst of our sin we see God’s goodness, despite our role in Jesus’ death and persecution we can hear him say, Father forgive them they know not what they are doing.
Please pray with me,
God we come to you as sinners. We don’t treat you or others as we should, we fail to thank you for all your blessings in our lives, and we stand with the mob this Good Friday that mocked you and spat on you as you were crucified for our sakes. Yet your beloved son stands in the face of it all and speaks your forgiveness. Thank you for making this day and our futures good with your holy forgiveness.
Reflection 3 Woman Behold Your Son, Behold Your Mother
Hopefully our confirmation students can tell you that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. On the way to the cross we see both the divine Jesus and human Jesus in many ways. I think we encounter the human Jesus in all his despair the moment he looks upon his mother from the cross. He sees this woman who gave birth and raised him, this woman he called mother. We can’t even begin to imagine the grief that took place in Jesus Christ when he looked out and saw this woman’s tears. He was able to heal his own heartache at least a little by assuring that Mary would be taken care of after his departure, after all that’s what people who call themselves Christ’s disciples do they take care of the sick and lonely. Mary and the beloved disciple were called in their grief to open up their lives and their homes to each other.
Something else may be happening here as well, something beyond a man making sure his already widowed mother will be in good hands after he departs this life. What happened on that cross that Friday night radically alters our relationship with God. Altering our relationship with God can’t help but change our relationships with the people all around us.
At the cross any boundaries that we may use to group or divide us are blown out of the water, for example things like biology and ethnicity. At the cross of Christ we gather and are joined together by God’s Holy Spirit into one community called the church. We are called to love and serve each other, and doing so we are loving and serving Jesus Christ whose death we remember today. You see brothers and sisters the bonds that are forged at the cross of Christ will create a new intimacy with all we worship and serve with, so in our hours of great need we are blessed by one another.
Please pray with me,
Suffering God, you know our pain and struggles. And you have blessed us with your words and comfort in our relationships with each other. May you continue to work in our lives so we may be touched by you in our relationships with others.

Reflection 5 I Thirst

Due to the crucifixion and the days that preceded it Jesus would’ve lost many bodily fluids between blood, sweat, and tears, thus he would’ve been extremely thirsty. However John tells us that its inclusion here is about so much more than a statement about mere dehydration. John tells us that Jesus said this to fulfill scripture. In the 69th psalm the suffering servant is seeking solace and comfort and is instead given poisonous food and sour wine.
You see all that happened on the fateful night of the crucifixion was fulfilling scripture, and God’s will. That was ultimately what Christ thirsted for, to do God’s will. The very cup that he tried to rid himself of the previous night was the same cup that would quench his thirst in a way that bitter wine never could. As disciples of Christ we should also hunger and thirst for God’s will in our lives, or as the beatitudes call it hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Brothers and sisters there’ll be times in our lives that God’s will tastes like bitter wine, but that God who used death on a cross to offer us life eternal will turn our burdens to blessings. Just as God has blessed each and every one of us through this awful burden that Jesus Christ took upon himself for our sakes. Please pray with me,
Lord God, we so often try to quench our thirst with things that leave a bitter taste in our mouths and leave us thirstier than we were before. Only you can quench our thirst nourish our troubled spirits. May we boldly receive the cup you offered us as Jesus did. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Reflection 7 Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit,.
Once more the only words that Jesus has to express himself in his dark hour come directly from the psalms. Here Jesus invokes the 31st psalm when he commits his Spirit to his Father.
The 31st psalm begins as a desperate cry for divine help, it evolves into a committal of the psalmist’s very life into God’s hands, this is the verse that Jesus speaks from cross. This statement is a radical act of trust and faith, Jesus knows that our most precious and personal things belong entirely in the hands of God the Father, even things as precious as our very lives and as personal as our own deaths.
In God’s hands this death that we remember tonight destroys death and transforms life. In God’s hands the death of His only Son offers us life as God’s children. In the hands of God we who gather around the cross of Jesus are made into a holy people, people who are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and commit our very lives to God, as broken and imperfect as those lives may be.
One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther replayed in my mind as I thought about Jesus’ words.
I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess”
Brothers and sisters, by committing his spirit to his Father in heaven Jesus Christ shows forth both the love and Power of God. Let us gather around Jesus and with him place our lives in God’s hands, after all there is no safer place.
Please pray with me,
Lord God,
Your son Jesus Christ trusted in your Holy will, and doing so trusted you with his life, even as he hung from a cross. May be we granted with faith so fixed on Jesus that our lives can be placed in your hands.

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