April 3, 2015


Sermon for Year B, Good Friday
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
April 3, 2015
St. Thomas Episcopal Church

There is always a heaviness at this moment.
A kind of quiet insistence, a ball in the stomach, and a knot in the throat.
The adrenaline from getting caught up in the crowd is still in our veins,
 And we’re left with everything that has just happened –
 With what we did or did not do, what was said or left unsaid, all stuck on mental replay.
We need to acknowledge this: not shine too much light on it, but just to recognize that it’s there.
There’s a buzzing in our minds.
It impacts our ability to see and hear all other things,
 And to receive instruction in the faith.

 The cross smashes just about everything to pieces.
It smashes our expectations about Jesus, for one thing.
We want him to call down heaven to testify on his behalf, reclothe him in princely purple,
 Bring fire and vengeance to Rome, fix his wounds, and set up a throne.
It’s only human nature to want, but it’s also wishful thinking.
Because who and what is the God of Scripture, if not one who is instantly available
 In every human grief and tragedy;
 And what would it say if God ignored the realities of so much suffering in our life
   And demanded our fealty without the least bit of solidarity?
It would turn that God into an unconcerned puppet master, and one unworthy of our worship.
We would be expected to smile like cult members and act as though everything was perfect,
 When clearly it wasn’t.
We would be expected to toe the dogmatic line and to make black-and-white declarations
 That God is only interested in winners and winning,
   And to hell with losers.
It’s why I’ve been so concerned lately to see so many who call themselves Christians
 Acting with such cold political calculation
 (Out of all parties and factions, by the way – not just one of them),
   Succumbing to a mean and fear-based agenda,
 All compassion gone out the window.
The image of a God who must be victorious in all things
 Is smashed by this day,
   And exposed for the idol it is.

The cross obliterates every instinct we have to Triumph At All Costs.
It shatters the illusion of Christian greatness and glory.
It dislodges pride; it ruins self-satisfaction and a theology of works,
 That I Can Do It All Myself.
It speaks peace to the restless ones who believe
 That “He who dies with the most toys, wins.”
It uproots and dislocates our need for privilege, pleasure, and esteem.
It smashes them all, every little vanity,
 And it leaves us with the image of a Savior whose very death
 Is ironically the salvation of the world.

Just imagine that somehow, in a way we can never fully comprehend,
 Nailing up the most important person in the world,
 And letting him die a terrible death over the course of hours
   Until he can no longer breathe –
 That somehow, in that ultimate losing situation that we engineered,
   God, out of total compassion and solidarity, becomes not just some abstract idea,
     But completely shaped to our life.
Because somehow, beneath the need to worship a shiny, powerful God who always wins,
 Anyone who has really suffered anything should be able to identify.
It is a clear communication. And not the first one. And certainly not the last.

We survey the scene of the cross, with our superficial eye and mind,
 And maybe all we can say is,
   What a waste. Well, let’s lay him out and let him be and go on home.
We call it what it is: the state-sponsored execution of someone
 Who needed to be made an example of:
   This is what happens to you when you get out of line.
Call it. Bury him. Go back home. Nothing more to see.

Meanwhile, in his death, Jesus himself is distressing the depths of hell.

Such a strange story.
It’s not the one we would choose, but nevertheless, it is what happened.

And every presupposition about how things were supposed to go
   That day and from then on
 Has been permanently deleted.

Where can we go but to our knees, to confess, to wonder;
 To look amidst all the chaos and death for something like grace;

 And to stay one more day at the tomb to watch and pray, and see what happens next?

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