Friday, March 29, 2013

Our Place in the Passion of Christ A sermon preached at the PVEN Ecumenical Good Friday Service

Peace and Grace to you from our Crucified Lord Jesus the Christ, Brothers and sisters, I actually struggled a bit with what greeting I should begin this sermon. My usual peace and grace initially seemed a little out of place at a Good Friday service. Perhaps out of place in our entire Holy Week observance and rituals. For me anyway this whole week is so emotionally intense that the usual greeting may seem a little glib, a denial of the heart wrenching that goes on in the lives of the faithful this week. You see the reason this week is such an emotional roller coaster is because the church’s practices this week attempt not just to remember the events of Jesus’ last days, but we try to place ourselves in the midst of the Lord’s passion. It’s the kind of remembering that transcends an intellectual memory and incorporates our whole self, mind, heart, senses and body. Our week began with the blessing and waving of palms. With those palms we cheered on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and again on Sunday morning we will place ourselves at the empty tomb cheering on his even more triumphal victory over death. Bu a lot happens between Sundays. We place ourselves around the Passover meal Jesus shares with his disciples, receiving the meal and being given the commandment to love one another, a commandment we struggle to keep for the rest of our lives. We place ourselves in the garden with the disciples failing to answer Jesus’ simple request to stay awake and keep watch. With Peter we find ourselves rebuking Jesus’ claim that we will deny him while knowing very well that a day doesn’t go by without making choices that deny Jesus is Lord of our lives. And then we place ourselves at the cross. With our sins we take our turn cracking the whip and driving those nails. With the rest of the mob we convince Pontius Pilate to release among us a fellow sinner Barabbas and to crucify the Son of God. We join many of the same Israelites who were waving palms yelling Hosannas a few short days ago in cheering on the death of our king. In a few short minutes we will be singing my favorite hymn. When we sing “were you there when they crucified my Lord”, I want you to remember you were there and they didn’t do anything it was us, we need to own our place at the cross. It’s not a proud place to be but it is where we belong because as Dr. Martin Luther wrote, You should believe, and never doubt, that you are in fact the one who killed Christ. Your sins did this to Him. When you look at the nails being driven through His hands, firmly believe that it is your work. Do you see His crown of thorns? Those thorns are your wicked thoughts. Brothers and sisters today isn’t Good Friday because of our place in Salvation history. It is Good Friday because although it was our sins that nailed him to the cross it was his love for us that kept him there. Those same sins that Jesus took to the cross have been forgiven and our debt paid. As good as this week is to remember that we are sinners through and through. It is also a good week to remember it was for sinners such as us that Christ won salvation.

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