Sermon for Year C, Good Friday
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
March 25, 2016
Grace Cathedral, Topeka, Kansas
It would be so easy to only identify with the victim Jesus in this story.
Make no mistake: we are the perpetrators.
We have moved from betrayal and shaming and ugliness and lying about him
To kangaroo courts and cacophany and state execution.
The urge of the crowd to feed on violence
Was matched by the complicity of the powerful to go along –
To make the violence legitimate by marking it down and rubberstamping it –
Typical then, typical now.
The critical mass became an ustoppable force;
As if to mark the moment, a murderer was let go and enshrined;
The need for a scapegoat spiraled, and crescendoed,
And at last the blood was spilled,
Our darkest, most secret, most violent urges met, and satisfied,
And we feel somehow that at this point it is okay to go on with our lives.
Typical then, typical now.
And all we are left with, is this one hideous fact; the blood is on us;
That deed that was done, it was done by us.
If we should find it impossible to make sense of it –
That the man who we followed and admired so much has now become our victim –
Well, that’s probably because it is impossible to understand.
It is the deepest reflection of human tendency: typical then, typical now.
Two millennia and counting, and we still can’t square that circle.
That we killed the very thing that was going to free us,
And like Adam and Eve, we went and hid ourselves and tried to cover our shame.
We have become our parents’ children.
So now, every thing inside of us wants to turn away from this tableau.
The people move in slow-motion, with rote action, weighed with heaviness.
It is dark here. It is cold, it is bereft, it is lifeless, it is empty.
There is nothing more to do or say. Death makes us mute, and numb.
Perhaps back at home there is some kind of comfort,
An escape into easy answers.
But why? Why must this violence, this obfuscation, this hiding, be such typical behavior?
What are we to do with this?
How are we to make any sense of it?
Where can it possibly be headed?
We say that in Jesus, God became a human –
Became a real, living human being – not an abstraction, not an idea,
But something tangible to behold.
We call this the scandal of the incarnation. Real flesh, real blood.
That God would bend to us, in such great love, and become
What a great theologian, Anselm, would come to call the God-Man.
We say and we believe that this was not merely some busman’s holiday for God –
A way to take in the sights and walk among the little people of the Lord,
Soaking in their admiration.
We say, instead, that Jesus roamed the round world as a rabbi,
Itinerant as a fox without a hole, like a prophet without honor in his hometown,
Teaching and healing and making miracles out of incredibly difficult situations,
Sometimes at tremendous personal risk to himself, ...
And not doing only these things, but showing very clearly at every step
How we might do all these good things for one another.
How we might live this life ourselves, and give it away.
Jesus had a deep purpose, then; a healing, reconciling, covenantal presence,
Connecting us back to God, infinitely connecting, always bringing us back.
Objectively speaking, the worst thing any one could ever do would be to kill the God-Man.
And today we’ve heard it, been reminded.
This isn’t just some fragment from a long-forgotten book of myths.
This is us. This is now. This is typical.
It puts us at the bottom of an impenetrably dark problem:
That God reached out in deep self-sacrificial love to us, and we struck back in violence.
He gave love, and we gave pain. He gave life, and we imposed the death sentence.
We could not bear to pay the price of our transformation into becoming like him –
We were, and are, so limited in our understanding –
And he bore the brunt.
How much are we like our parents.
But I want you to remember something. Something from a long, long time ago.
I want you to search this out and settle yourself in it.
It’s all the way down past the marrow bone; it’s written on our very DNA as the human family.
Once Adam and Eve committed the first sin of trying to be like God, and left the serpent,
And went and hid themselves and knew for the first time of their shame and nakedness –
Even in that very moment, God came walking in the cool of the evening.
And God asked a single, haunting question:
“Where are you?”
Pause on that. Mark it down. “Where are you?”
Such a typical question for God.
Made to tend the garden, made in God’s image to please God.
Where had God’s people gone?
“Where are you?”
In the very middle of the lowest moment of their greatest error,
In the shame and disgrace of the tragedy they had created,
In the midst of the knowledge of their own evil, and the worst thing they could ever do,
God came looking for them.
God would not give up on them.
God loved them.
God needed them.
God had big plans for them.
And not even the worst thing they could do in the open sight of all creation
Would ever keep God from pursuing them with great tenderness and affection
As a loving mother gently, gently corrects her children when they stray.
Even if we run from this very cross and salve our consciences,
Even if we cannot escape the shame, the guilt of this colossal error,
God has never stopped loving us.
God will not give up on us.
God needs us.
God has big plans for us.
And even something as horrific as the death of Jesus,
Somehow, beyond our imaginations –
Even that, is still not beyond God’s ability to work and to redeem and to reconcile.
Yes, death is cold; yes, the grave is lonely.
But for God, who loves us so completely, and so dearly, absolutely nothing is impossible.