Good Friday 2012
Meditation on the Cross
“It is Finished”
And so this is what it has come to… in the end this day is about the news of a death is it not?
And after these last years of war and death and famine with the nightly news showing us picture after picture of what human beings are capable of doing to each other do we really need to be confronted by one more casualty of human sin and brokenness?
This evening, here in this place, we are gathered in order to contemplate the crucifixion of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We gather to contemplate and to see what it is that we have done to this innocent man, this teacher, this friend to the friendless and comforter to the afflicted.
Together we contemplate this cross and the body that hangs upon it. Does this scene depress you? Does it scare you? Or does it give you hope?
“It is finished.” These are the words uttered by Jesus in his last breath on the cross. We don’t often pause to think about what these words mean for God or for us. “It is finished.” What is it? And how is it finished?
What we are confronted with this evening is not a picture of how our worldly wisdom defines success, it is not a picture of how our individualistic culture defines leadership and it is certainly not how the American version of Christianity defines salvation is it? A successful man knows how to manipulate the political process and can hob-knob with the elders and the politicians to get what he wants. A true leader knows how to fight evil and combat the forces of darkness does he not? A true savior shields us with his strength and defends us with his might. A true Christian would not have stuck out of the crowd enough to get killed for his views.
But we will contemplate this cross and the body that hangs upon it. We cannot run, we cannot hide, we cannot pretend that something else happened to our Lord and Savior.
When you look upon this cross what do you think about? Do you perhaps understand with your head but not your hearts? Do you seek to distance yourself from the reality of Jesus’ suffering and death as though it were some act that happened too long ago to affect us?
Can we dare to pretend that we do not know this young man? Will we deny Jesus Christ? Will we deny that it is through suffering and death that we were won from suffering and death?
You know this man, brothers and sisters, you know him intimately. You were there when he was born in a manger to an unwed mother who held him tenderly in swaddling clothes do you remember that? You were there, remember, when he was baptized in the River Jordan? You were there and watched his ministry to the outcast, the helpless, the excluded… you have seen the miracles he performed bringing the dead to life, feeding the masses, changing water into wine.
Listen to what I am saying to you, you know this man, brothers and sisters… and he knows you. Tonight we can no longer pretend that the crucifixion was a distant act in a distant time in a distant land. When we look at this cross this evening we must be reminded that the sons and daughters of God are being killed every day… they are killed in war, they are killed by hate, and they are killed in prisons both with and without walls. Every time the status quo is threatened to be upset it happens, again and again.
Remember tonight that it wasn’t Jesus’ enemies that did him in; it was his friends. Remember tonight that it was not unbelief and lack of order that killed this man but it was the religious authorities working in conjunction with a very well oiled Roman government that nailed him to the cross.
As we meditate on the cross… a pilgrim church gathered around the hill at Golgotha do you see yourself there? In his crucifixion and death, Jesus Christ draws us all to himself… each and every one of us. In his body hanging on this cross do you see yourself looking back? In Jesus Christ, our perfect mirror, we are confronted by our own sin and suffering.
We are reminded that when confronted by evil God fought back not with evil but with longsuffering love. We are reminded that in Jesus’ love for the world we must confront our own hardness of heart, in Jesus’ ministry to the sick and the poor and the hungry we must be confronted by our own hoarding of wealth, our endless pursuit of honors and glory, our striking out at those who might hurt us in the name of protecting what we have. We are reminded that this body hanging on the cross is someone we know… it is us.
In drawing us to himself on the cross Jesus Christ draws all of who we are… our entire sinful selves. What of you will be left on this cross this evening? Contemplate that. This is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world… including yours. What are they?
Know in your heart that just as sure as Jesus was nailed to this cross 2000 years ago so he is nailed to the cross each and every day in our transgressions against God and each other. When we are confronted by the pure light his body reflects back at us our instinct is to hide from him or smash him into nothingness. Every time we choose to stand with the strong against the weak, every time we keep our mouth shut in the presence of injustice and inequity we nail him to this tree.
Contemplate this cross this evening brothers and sisters and ask yourself what you see reflected back at you. Do not turn away, make yourself look… you cannot get away from this tree today though you may choose to ignore it the rest of the year… look at what lengths God will go through to win you back for himself. Do not run, do not hide.
I stand here to proclaim to you that tonight Christ draws you to him, he takes all of your sins on himself, and he gasps one last word… “It is finished” It is accomplished… leave your sins on this cross tonight brothers and sisters for they have no more power over you… they are done… we are done… we now belong to God, we now belong to one another.
Thanks be to God.