Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Good Friday, 2011

April 25, 2011  
Filed under Sermon Notes

Good Friday 2011, by Fr Van McCalister

Have you ever tried to do something good and been criticized for it?
To try to do someone a favor and have them treat you badly because of it?
To be accused unjustly?

How did you respond?  Anger. Bitterness. Revenge. Distance: cut that person off. Ignore them.

In the Passion alone we witness Jesus unjustly:

  • accused
  • arrested
  • imprisoned
  • denied by a friend
  • rejected by his people
  • beaten
  • whipped
  • spit upon
  • mocked
  • crowned with thorns
  • humiliated
  • stripped
  • crucified

If anyone had a right to be angry; to demand justice; to defend himself, it was Jesus.

But how did Jesus respond?

  • He listened to the Father and he obeyed Him: Take this cup from me but not my will but thine.

When you are offended, or treated unjustly, do you stop to pray before you respond?

This past week I became angry over an injustice that I saw, and started to respond in righteous indignation and my wife said, “You better pray about that before you write that.”  And she was right to say so – and we did pray.

Churches and families are torn up and divided because we don’t stop and seek the Lord’s will before we respond to offenses.  We measure the appropriateness of our response against our own standards, rather than compared to the life of Jesus.  Jesus measured his life against the will of his Father.  How often did he stop what he was doing and seek the Father in prayer?

During the Last Supper – we heard Jesus command: Love one another, so that people will know who I am.  In other words, our lives need to be consistent with his life (and death).

JESUS DEATH WAS CONSISTENT WITH HIS LIFE: He died the way he lived.

His responses to the injustices against him (far worse than what most of us experience):

  • Humility
  • Silence – he did not defend himself
  • Prayer: Pray for your enemies
  • Forgiveness: Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
  • Mercy: Today you will be with me in paradise.
  • Death – even death upon a cross

The Cross stands before us as a witness to us of God’s standard.  Not only as a reminder of the seriousness of sin, but also the way to deal with sin. If we look at Jesus on Good Friday as simply being punished for our transgressions, we have an incomplete and faulty understanding.  Yes, Jesus bore our sins and reconciled us to the Father – he healed the breach caused by Adam’s sin – but he does not allow us to rest there: He says, “Take up your cross, and follow me.”  Take up that cross of humility, self-sacrifice and mercy – take it into every situation and relationship where you go. And, make that your standard.

Jesus warned Peter that in the coming conflict at Gethsemane, “Satan will try to sift you like wheat, so pray against it.”  Satan continues to do the same today: he wants to unravel families and churches by setting us against one another.

The high priest’s servant, Malchus, whose ear Peter cut off was a brother – a fellow Jew.  Jesus healed the ear and restored Malchus in anticipation of the greater restoration he was about to fulfill for all people. Peter did not pray – he did not seek Jesus’ permission before he struck.  Peter operated outside of the will of Jesus and injured Malchus.

As we observe the Passion and respond with grief, awe, and thanksgiving, we must also respond by imitating Jesus.

SENTIMENTALITY  vs. CONVICTION

At some point in Holy Week – hopefully multiple points – you have had such an encounter with Jesus that your heart was stirred.

For me: Last night during the hymn, “Tis Midnight and Olive’s Brow” and the solemn procession to the garden – I was there!  It was like being transported back in time.

There is an essential difference between a sentimental response, and a conviction.  If we simply have a sentimental, emotional response to the Passion but we are led no closer to the heart of Christ, than we have missed the moment.  This is not a condemnation of emotions.  It is rather to suggest that we not make the mistake of seeing the Passion as merely a beautiful and moving story.  It is, but we must not leave it there.  The Passion moves us because of how Jesus responded to the Father, to the accusers, to the disciples, to us as sinners.  And had he remained on the cross; had he never rose from the tomb, than all we could hope to find in the Passion is a sentimental response.

But because Jesus rose from the dead and bid us follow him, we must take the grief, the awe and the thanksgiving that we feel as we circle the Stations of the Cross and as we hear the Passion – and apply it to our own lives – not just in how we feel about Christ but in how we treat those He loves.  Think about a time that you were hurt or offended by someone.  Did you see that person from the perspective of the cross? Or, from your flesh?  Did you react to that person from your prayers at the cross, or out of your embittered flesh?

The evidence of divided churches, broken relationships and dysfunctional families demonstrates that we as Christians are not consistently dealing with one another from the perspective of the Cross – from denying self and following Jesus.

It is so good when we are moved to weep at the foot of the Cross as we grieve over our sins and as we thank Jesus for his sacrifice but we must not stop there. We must invite him to conform us into his image and enable us to take his cross into our conflicts, our hurts and broken relationships and make that our standard – our way of the cross.

In a few moments we will witness the solemn procession of the cross.  We aren’t  showing reverence to a piece of wood and plaster but we use that as a way to focus our gratitude and give honor to Christ.  So, when you come before the cross recognizing the one who suffered such indignities for our sakes – offer to him your offenses, your bitterness, your suffering, your brokenness, your sinfulness, and leave it with him at the foot of the cross to be redeemed – for your redemption and the redemption of others.

Let us pray,

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

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