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Good Friday, April 6, 2012
St. Peter's Episcopal Church
We Christians see crosses everywhere. Here in church, we have our large wooden cross on the doorway behind the altar. We have our processional crosses. Some of us wear crosses around our necks. We can see and touch these crosses.
Other crosses are not so readily visible. For instance, in every relationship that we have with another—we find that there is a cross. We can map out every relationship we have on a cross.
Think about it. Pick a particular person in your life. Think about the relationship that you have with that person. Now take the cross and use it to map out that relationship. Where do you find yourselves? Maybe your boss comes to mind—in many organizations, that might mean that the boss would be up here on your cross, and if things aren’t going well, you might be way down at the bottom.
Maybe you are thinking of a dear friend—Maybe you are thinking of your child, or your parents—when all is well, you might see yourselves in a mutual relationship of love and respect as you share your lives, together, sometimes closer together than other times, sometimes holding one another at the center of the cross in a particular relationship.
But when we think about our own relationship with God, can we map out that relationship on the cross?
Let’s go to the scene of the crucifixion.
“And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head.” We human beings placed a crown of thorns on his head.
“So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him.”
We human beings wielded the hammer that drove the stakes into Jesus’ hands and the stakes into his feet. We human beings are responsible for the violence that occurred at all four poles of this cross.
And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we can all remember times that we have helped to nail other people to crosses through things we have done, as well as things we have left undone.
Jesus’ death on the cross convicts each and every one of us. We stand convicted in all four directions on this cross.
And if we’re trying to map out our relationship with God on this cross, then where is God in this horrible scene?
I think that if I were God I would be watching this scene in a state of raw anger. To see my beloved Son, who lived a perfect life of fearless love, die at the hands of human beings in such a violent way, on the cross, would cause my divine wrath to pour out like fire and damnation over the entire human race. Maybe, I’d think to myself, I promised never to flood the earth again, but I will send hail and fire, mixed with blood, smoke and sulfur, and great stars will fall from my heaven onto this forsaken earth.
But God is mighty and merciful beyond our comprehension.
God is here, not at the four corners of the cross, so full of violence, but here, in the very center of the cross.
God is here the center of the cross.
And God’s heart breaks wide open, right here, as Jesus takes his last breath.
And in the spaciousness of that broken heart is enough room for the entire universe, and for every one of us.
Instead of pushing us away, or destroying us for what we have done, God gathers us in.
God calls out to those of us who have put the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, those of us who have driven the stakes into his hands and feet—those of us who have nailed our neighbor to the cross--God calls each of us into the center of God’s suffering and forgiving heart.
“When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.”
Jesus’ work is finished.
Our work has just begun.
Think back to those relationships that we considered earlier.
What is God calling us to do? To hold one another at arms’ length? To push someone who disagrees with us as far away as possible? To put others down so that we can be on top? To accept silently a place of oppression at the bottom?
No. God is calling all of us, through the redemptive, saving death of Jesus, to meet God and to meet one another right in the center, right in the center of the cross, right in the center of God’s broken infinitely wide open, redemptive, and merciful heart.
As Jesus takes his last breath and dies, we can hear God cry.
My son is dead. My heart is broken wide open. It is finished.
Come back, all of you. Come back to me. Come back to me through my merciful grace and love for you.
Come back together –
Come back together into the center of my saving embrace.