The readings on which the sermon below is based can be found at:
s022g07 Good Friday 6/4/07
'according to that law he ought to die' John 19.7
As I have gone through the church, time and again, the import of the gospel has been expressed in personal terms. So it is how 'I' love my neighbours, how 'I' come to Church, how 'I' remain a virgin until marriage, how 'I' repent of my sins - the list is endless when you come to think about it.
The account of the crucifixion of Jesus is indeed about humanities inhumanity to other humanity, but it is not actually about one person's personal vendetta against Jesus. Jesus makes it quite plain that even Judas Iscariot's betrayal is fore-ordained in other words the Cross cannot be blamed on him personally.
How often on Good Friday have you and I been led to conclude that if it weren't for our own personal sins, Jesus wouldn't have suffered as he did? And the conclusion we cannot but come to is that the Church believes that when we sinners stop sinning personally, then all will be well.
But the problem is that Jesus was killed for theological reasons not personal ones. He was killed because he transgressed the law of Moses, or so his accusers claimed. The charge that he transgressed the law of Moses was that he blasphemed that Jesus claimed to be equal to God. Biblical literalists ought to have some difficulty with this because if we believe this charge then those who accused Jesus were correct, and they were entirely justified in their actions to have Jesus murdered.
So instead of searching our souls for our personal sins, negligences and ignorances this Good Friday, I think that we ought to consider how we as a Church exclude, marginalise and alienate others how others are essentially expendable as Jesus was expendable for those who had him killed. This is actually rather more uncomfortable, because we don't see these things as sins, but perhaps rather our raison d'etre. Unlike those who killed Jesus, we might considered what are our laws that make others expendable to us?
Or perhaps it has been more subtle than this actual hostility perhaps we have excluded others by suggesting that our Church activities are more important than what we do in our day to day lives. The stress on 'orthodoxy', 'church planting', Christian education, keeping the parish financial - all go to keep the laity busy as if these things will bring the kingdom of God. Of course they won't. They will serve to keep the laity too busy to disturb the priest :-)! By considering what we do in Church as the most important thing, we negate the wonderful work that others do for their fellow human beings, and excuse ourselves for our own lack of charity.
I begin to wonder if some of the anger against the church both from within and from outside the Church is our failure to see the primary message of God's love for all people. We claim to be an institution whose whole raison d'etre is the communication of the truth about God, but we have not only failed to know the truth about God let alone communicated it, but we have substituted a whole lot of other things in it's place. Modern society has I believe seen through this fraud. It is no wonder to me that feminism has had to be strident and gay and lesbian Mardi Gras so 'out there'. Jesus had some words about tithing herbs, I seem to recall. (Matthew 23.23)
The trouble with the sorts of exclusion that the Church practices is that it doesn't strike us as sin at all. If we marginalize women and alienate gay people, if we exclude others because they don't join in 'our' worship, it's not 'our fault', it's the law that God has given us. This is the same reasoning that those who had Jesus killed used. We blithely assume that God will bless us. How can this God of ours bless us as we are hurting, harming or excluding others?
I invite you to look at the world in which we live. If life goes on, essentially without any reduction in sectarian and racial unrest, in the name of 'god' I have to ask which 'god' is it we are following? If Jesus died and rose again, and still marginalisation, alienation and exclusion continues, Jesus and God might as well not have bothered for all the good it has done humanity!
This brings light to some difficult passages of scripture. In particular the second of the ten commandments: 'I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me.' (Exodus 20.5) If we continue to marginalise, alienate and exclude like our parents, hatred and war will continue for generation after generation. One has only to look at the Middle East and other places in the world to see the truth of this. One can only pray that the recent meeting of the protagonists in Ireland will bring about peace there.
And Jesus saw his mission as bringing division between the generations, denoting a break from simply replicating past idolatries: so 'from now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.' Luke 12.52 // Matthew 10.34 As an aside, this statement itself is a break from the past Jesus considers what women believe to be doubly important than what men do!
However (in happy contrast) I was interested to read in a recent Anglicans Online article how the old blessings have been replaced by new concepts:
'Over and over we say and hear words the utterance of which marks them out as already true:
Peace be to this house, and to all that dwell in it.
Defend, O Lord, this thy Child with thy heavenly grace; that she may continue thine for ever; and daily increase in thy Holy Spirit more and more, until she come unto thy everlasting kingdom.
The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.
The Peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God.
I am ready, the Lord being my helper.
Spoken in, with, for and by the Church, these words are the coursing, breathing, gifted life into which we have been baptised. In recent years the sort of language used in the rarefied world of ecclesiastical discourse has taken on an increasingly antithetical character to this precious idiom. Many of the words are the same as those in our liturgies, but they are gutted of the meanings they have in liturgical use. No matter how many times they are repeated, no matter by whom, no matter where, they do not create the things they describe:
Instruments of unity.
Bonds of affection.
The gift of authority.
We hope you know that we are with you in your hour of need.'
(http://anglicansonline.org/ March 25 2007)
I always read and appreciate the words of Anglicans Online each week.
This Good Friday I contend that we as the Church are bidden to bless others as the writer of the Anglicans Online article commends us. It is in our teachings, our orthodoxies, and our traditions that many others are either marginalised, alienated and excluded or made central, befriended, and included. Our personal relationships of course do this as well, but on a far lesser scale numerically, and usually we know when we have hurt someone else or healed them.
So this again is a call to look at our faith in a mature way, to see if some if our laws actually hurt others, and if they do, to realize that these crucify our Lord anew.
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