April 6, 2012

Another Good Friday sermon that attempts to articulate the unspeakable

Sermon for Year B, Good Friday
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
Saint Thomas Episcopal Church
April 6, 2012

Another year has passed. Another trip around the sun.
The easy winter has been seen through,
  Sunshine and breezes, mostly, and now the spring.

Yet here we stand as we always do every year on this day:
  At the foot of the cross, and in front of a tomb, marking a moment of death,
  The keystone death in all humanity, the death of Jesus,
    And, for us, traveling from Thursday to Sunday, one of the central moments in history:
    What seems like the annihilation of the very body and being of God.
Here we are again, having heard about his death once more,
    Once more simultaneously horrified at it and disgusted with what we’re capable of,
  And we can’t seem to call it anything but what it looks like:
  State-sponsored murder, with various agents of power watching from the wings.
Here we are, with him, naked and vulnerable and dead in a sense,
  Eating ashes and drinking tears,
    If what we think has happened has in fact truly come to pass.

With the grass so green and the sky so blue today,
  We may find we are tempted to dig our hands deep into our pockets
  And to keep walking past the door of the church, going right on down the street,
  And to whistle loud so we don’t have to hear about the slaughter of our Lord.
Yet even if we did, we would walk past other forms of slaughter;
  The world is not kind today; and we are not here now for comfort or avoidance.

It feels so awkward, partly, because there is nothing we can do about it.
We are a nation of Type A “fixers,” who diagnose the problem and spring into action.
Only, there isn’t anything to be done;
  What has been done has already been done;
  What has not been done or said has already been noted.

We come with empty hands. There is no right tool for the job, nothing to solve.
We have nothing to offer today, or really any other day, but our own poverty,
  Our own destitution.
There is no proper sacrifice to God today, or really any other day,
  Except that we might only give back to God the gift of our broken selves.
It is, to be sure, an insufficient gift,
  But if we thought we wanted to go ahead and play the Worthiness Game –
    The very thing that’s corrupted so much of our faith –
  Then we’d get nowhere and become very frustrated in the process.

Besides, our insufficiency is really all we have.
Our brokenness. Our limited sight and vision.
Our anger, our hurt, our sadness, our old grudges,
  The old tapes we play over and over, our old ways of being.
The temptations we’ve given in to, the old battles as well as the new ones.
Everything we were shown about ourselves in Lent:
  How to live and to hope and love despite ourselves.
That’s all we can give to God in this moment,
  And – bear no illusion –
    None of it’s up to the task; not one little stich of it is going to do the trick.
Nothing reverses the man Jesus dead in the cave – the God we killed.

That’s the tough news. The part that’s hard to hear.

But being unworthy does not make us orphans.
God does not abandon us, even when we hear Jesus cry about being forsaken.
This cannot be proved using scales or formulas or even logic.
It lies well beyond our capacity to explain it.
It is a matter of faith – of investing ourselves in that which we cannot see,
  Because as Paul wrote, the wisdom of God looks for all the world like foolishness.
And even that isn’t logic; perhaps it’s poetry.

So hear this, brothers and sisters:
  Your gift – your offering – your sacrifice today –
    Is a troubled heart, a contrite spirit, a pair of empty hands, a feeling of destitution,
      And a complete inability to change the past
        Or to make Jesus rise and walk on your own.
We are completely dependent upon God.

This is all we can ever give.
Let it be – not worrying about whether it’s enough – and let God work.

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