Sermon for Good Friday
April 03, 2015
Preacher: The Rev. Bret B. Hays
Changes can make us feel oddly uncomfortable, even when we know they are changes for the good. Change inevitably means something that used to be, no longer is. In a way, every change is a death, though of course, some changes, like some deaths, carry more weight than others. None more than the death of Jesus. He carried with him all the hopes of the people for the overthrow of Roman rule, for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy and all its splendor, and they died with him. He carried with him the fear, disappointment, rejection, and hostility of all humanity, the elite and the rabble, the his enemies, his kinfolk, and even his friends.
These are hard things to think about, but even so I do not think they are a complete explanation for why Good Friday makes so many of us so uneasy. For Good Friday is not just about what Jesus did long ago and far away. Jesus died for us. Us, here, now. He had to die because there was no other way to save us from our sins. He carried our sins with him, too, with him, to the cross, and they died with him, too.
Most people stay away from church on Good Friday, just as most of Jesus’s followers stayed away from his cross. Staying away doesn’t reveal either group to be bad people; it just shows us they are human. We don’t want to be reminded of unpleasant things, least of all our own need for forgiveness. But even though it may not feel that way, the Church does not intend for today’s liturgy to make us feel bad. The true meaning of the day lies not in our brokenness, but in Jesus’s love for us, a love that is greater than any other force, greater than any of the things Jesus took with him to the cross, and greater than the death he died there.
On the cross, Jesus initiated our salvation. He did so unilaterally and unconditionally, accomplishing a goal the world had not asked him to accomplish, for in its sinfulness, blindness, and brokenness, the world could not have asked, for it did not know. The world, mired and stained in sin, had no way of comprehending Jesus or its need for him. The world was not ready for change. But we know, now; just as Jesus promised Peter as the Last Supper, “later you will understand.” And perhaps, now, we are ready for change.
We cannot change the past, which in this case is a good thing, but we can respond to what Jesus did, reflect a tiny bit of glory back to him. We can venerate his cross and receive his body and blood with thanksgiving. We can pray for the world he loved dearly and unto death. And we can change ourselves. We can rededicate ourselves to follow his commandments to love God, love our neighbor, and love one another, as he loves us. In so doing, even though we cannot duplicate the work Jesus did for us on the cross, we can follow him in mending and enlightening the world, serving him in the world as living sacrifices, living in the light and life he won for us on the cross.