Benediction Online

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Love in the Horror

John 18:1-19:42  (Good Friday)

We don’t often focus on the cross, preferring instead to celebrate the release and hope that it signifies. Today we get to redress that balance. Today we get to remember that Jesus died in horrible pain, when he didn’t have to. He could have used his powers and walked away. He could have fought off the soldiers and fled the country, or as he did with a mob early in his ministry, he could have just walked through them and left. Instead he stayed and allowed himself to be betrayed, he allowed himself to be humiliated and beaten and nailed to a cross and to die in agony.

And he did that for us. I don’t for a moment believe that my personal sinful actions nailed him to the cross. I think he was killed as the consequence of living a holy life in human society. A holy life which challenged again and again all the firmly held rules that were preventing people from seeing the liberty of God; a holy life which challenged all the machinations of the sin matrix.  We are all born into that matrix of human sin which creates a shadow side to everything we do, which turns good things like community into things which oppress, like exclusion and shaming.

Jesus died on the cross because of humanity’s sin; because of our tendency to turn away from God instead of towards God; because of our tendency to see God as someone angry and condemning, someone to be feared. In Jesus’ death, God allowed humanity to do its very worst. God allowed that dark sin matrix which is the shadow of our brilliance and creativity to kill God.

It was a dark day indeed.

And yet we call it Good Friday because it was also the turning point in our relationship to the sin matrix and to God. In Jesus’ refusal to give in to violence, in his declaration that God’s reign is different, and in his willingness to go to his death rather than fight back, he conquered the sin matrix. And that means that we have the hope that we too can be free. Humanity has the possibility to turn towards God not towards sin.
And  this is the result of love. Of God’s love which is so great that he sent her only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Let us remember that believe here means more like trust or belove in. So God’s love sent Jesus, the Godman,  who demonstrated that love by allowing himself to experience the worst the human beings can do to each other, and our response to God’s love is to love in return. Whosoever believes, trusts, loves in Jesus the Christ will also be resurrected with him.

So it is appropriate that today we look at the cross with clear vision; that we see the horrors of human inhumanity; that we see the waterboarding, the drone strikes, the chemical weapons, the starvation that we humans inflict on each other and the hatred that we cultivate. We are not separate from these things, because as humans we are all interconnected. It is appropriate that today we take time to acknowledge the horror.
But is it also appropriate that today we see all these things though the lens of God’s love. God is present in the horror. God loves us despite the things that we do to one another. God loves our brilliant loving selves and God loves our angry, resentful dark selves. We are totally embraced by God’s all encompassing love.
Today is Good Friday because today God’s love was manifest in the darkest places of human hatred. And today God’s love is manifest in the darkest places of human hatred.

Including our own hearts and minds.


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