Friday, 18 April 2014

How did it come to this?

Good Friday year A April 18, 2014

The drum beats as the Bible is brought in

Call to worship:
Today we join those… who stand at the foot of the Cross… wondering… how it ever came to this…
that the one we thought would avenge us against our enemies…
and win back for us… everything we rightly deserve…

The one we believed to be the Messiah…sent from God…
is too weak even to save himself

How did it come to this… that the one who
spoke out so strongly against the powers and principalities of
this world…against the greed and injustice and corruption…
how is it he can’t even muster… a mild rebuke…
for those who ridicule… abuse and torture him…

Jesus has been betrayed by those he loves…time after time…
but why does he choose the Psalm he cries from the Cross? Suppose even God has abandoned him?

Psalm 22 slide
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry out by day, but you don’t answer,
    by night, and am not silent.
Yet you’re enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the praise of Israel.
In you our fathers put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
They cried to you and were saved;
    they trusted you and weren’t disappointed.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
  PS 22:8 "He trusts in the LORD;
    let the LORD rescue him.  Let the Lord deliver him, since he delights in him."  PS 22:9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast.
  PS 22:10 From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.  Don’t be far from me, for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I’ll fulfill my vows.

This is my song…The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    they who seek the LORD will praise him--
    may your hearts live forever!

Jesus and Cross slide then song slides
Diane: And as we stand looking up at the old rugged cross we know Jesus desolation is for us and for the salvation of the world.

Hymn: The old rugged cross three verses only

Father forgive them slide

The Gospel Luke 23:26-34  

The Crucifixion of Jesus
 26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then
   “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
   and to the hills, “Cover us!”’
   31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
 32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Good Friday year A Sermon 11 Father, forgive them!
He could have said other words, but he didn’t…
yes we heard him right…it was those particular words which came from Jesus’ lips…‘Forgive them, Father. They don’t know what they’re doing.’

He didn’t call for his friends to avenge his death…
he did not demand an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth…instead he prayed with words shot through with understanding and compassion…
for the criminals who hung on either side of him…
and for the crowd shouting abuse below…and maybe we hope… understanding and compassion for us too.

‘Forgive them, Father. They don’t know what they’re doing.’

Blank slide
A pardon… freely offered…to people who…
by any human standard of justice… just don’t deserve it….

Yet, out of unendurable pain…
Jesus cries out… God’s justice…and from the Cross …proclaims the paradox of grace…forgiveness of sins…
not earned…but offered freely as a gift. [pause]

From the cross we hear no words of condemnation…
nor anger…nor self-pity…but only words
that echo what Jesus taught about who we should love
and who we should forgive…
and the blessed place of mercy in the divine scheme of things…

From the suffering vantage point of God...
the cycle of reprisal…revenge and retribution…born from nationalistic ethnic and personal un…forgiveness…
would simply never… ever… save the world…
but forgiveness and mercy…would.

Of all the religions of the world…the idea of grace
is unique to Christianity… the Gospel of Jesus proclaims there’s no way… we can work or earn our way…
into God’s love.  It’s just there for us offered freely. There is no other religion on earth that announces this good news.

Yet even when we’ve heard it a thousand times…
we still don’t get it…

The notion of God’s mercy and forgiveness and grace… is hard…for  even Christians to accept…
and even harder for us to imitate. To even try to follow Jesus in this way… remains completely counter cultural ...and even in the news this week…continues to be labelled na├»ve... idealistic…even crazy…

as though God revealed by Jesus on the Cross…
doesn’t really understand how the world works…
and we do.

There are two reasons why... though we aspire to follow Jesus… we will refuse to extend this mercy and this grace to others…and even to ourselves…

There are two reasons… one’s about the cost…
and the other’s about ignorance…

You see Jesus revealed on the Cross that forgiveness always costs the forgiver something
… maybe to the extreme of… pain and ridicule and death…
God in Christ…was prepared to suffer and die rather than retaliate…against a humanity free to reject their creator’s love…

Yes, as Jesus’ disciples… sometimes we are called…
to take up our Cross…just as he did. But more often than not… the cost of loving and forgiving…is less expensive

sometimes all we have to give up…is our pride …
all we have to let go… is our anger and our bitterness…
all we have to sacrifice…is our dream of payback and revenge.

And as for ignorance…well it’s clear from Jesus words … that from a divine perspective…those who betrayed and tortured
and killed Jesus… didn’t really understand… the full impact…
of their actions.  ‘Forgive them, Father!
For they don’t know what they are doing.’

Some people… just stood by… and let the atrocity happen… others were actual perpetrators of the violence and the abuse…still others like Jesus’ mother were victims along with her son…
none of them… really knows the full story…
and what about the pain and grief… endured by the One …to whom Jesus prays…who understands that?
And it’s true for us today…who understands…

for God’s love to prevail…having created us in love and in freedom…God has no choice but to forgive us… because God knows… we can never fully understand the cosmic consequences of what we do…
to ourselves and one another and to the earth. We are fallen and we need to be saved from ourselves…

God bears the full cost of forgiveness on the Cross.

And in our ignorance we don’t even understand what forgiveness is. We don’t realise that it’s a decision not a feeling…Jesus is suffering and dying on the Cross ….forgiving doesn’t make him feel better…
this kind of love hurts…

We just don’t get…that Jesus decision to forgive means…the betrayer…the abuser…the murderer…
no longer owes him anything…no longer owes God anything …their debt is cancelled. 

In the divine court room… the justice of demanding retribution…just doesn’t work…
because no one could afford…to pay back what they owe
[pause]

Often Christians make the mistake of thinking Jesus somehow changed God’s mind…
but that’s completely inconsistent
with Jesus being fully divine…

Instead it’s clear from the Gospel we proclaim…
that Jesus reveals God’s mind… Jesus reveals God’s will and God’s purposes…and calls us to follow him.

Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing…

I pray you will trust Jesus words from the cross and that you will walk with humility and obedience out these doors
to respond to that love and that grace with mercy ourselves.
In this is the salvation of the world.

It is finished Michael Hyndman on guitar  [type into power point]

Hymn When I survey the wondrous Cross

Father forgive us slide
Prayer of Confession
Beloved God…Creator Redeemer and Spirit… forgive us…
for we don’t know what we’re doing. We think we understood your word to us made flesh in Jesus Christ… but we continue to ignore his plea for humility and mercy…
we want the world to live in peace yet we applaud the spilling of blood for our own cause…we accept the poverty of others without speaking out and standing up for them…
We hold six inch nails in our own hands…

And yet you pursue us with your love…

God of everlasting covenants,
we come to you this day in sorrow.
We come with self-inflicted pains
of broken trust and chosen wrong,
half-free, half-bound by inner chains,
swept along by social forces,
confined by powers and systems left unopposed

seeking hope for humankind while holding on to resentment and angers and judgment.

We stand at the foot of the Cross hearing words of mercy spoken our of unbearable pain and in the shadow of death… God help us have the strength and courage to resist evil in all its forms…particularly in our own hearts as we confess all we’ve done to crucify you in our own lives.
together as your broken body…trusting in your infinite mercy…
we dare to ask for the fullness of your forgiveness and your grace.
This we pray in the name of the one who came to save us…Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Assurance of Pardon slide
Jesus Christ our servant king spoke forgiveness from the Cross, today receive the assurance of his pardon;
God continues to forgive…God’s love is stronger than death.

Song slides
Hymn How deep the Father’s love for us

Diane walks to the back as Reg reads.
By the power of Christ’s submission on the Cross
the powers have been disabled,
but they’re still rebellious  (as we are),
and still need to be reminded of their place
in God’s creation. (As we do)
And so as his followers we look to the example of Jesus.  who acts boldly and speaks loudly against the powers to bring things out into the open…[pause] and then submits to the consequences...
and in apparent weakness… endures a suffering
in which the hostility… and pride and arrogance and fear…
of the offender are absorbed. 
And we who follow him still seek the signs of the continuing Passion of God in the world…not in abstract ideas…
but in the human grief and suffering which refuses to retaliate…and continues to show mercy.


Diane sings Were you there  

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Wedding Feast of the Lamb

Lent 6 year A Sermon Palm Sunday
Jesus has come to town for a meal

Like all the other… tired and dusty… Jewish pilgrims on the road that day…Jesus and his friends… are arriving in Jerusalem… for a sacred meal…for the Passover…the oldest Jewish festival… to honour the saving acts of God.

Jesus has been travelling toward Jerusalem for months… preaching and teaching and healing…
and given the edict out for his execution…you’d think he’d stay out of town.

Most of those who travel with him…have come to believe he’s the promised messiah…
the anointed one of God …
the one to restore the throne of David and Israel…
to their rightful place against the Romans…

But lurking in the shadows…are others…who track his every move… certain that he’s dangerous… a trouble maker…
out to challenge the religious authorities and upset the nice cosy relationship they have with the Empire .

As well… Roman spies are watching Jesus closely…
wanting a trouble free festival… with so many thousands… coming in to the city…for the Passover…
Kind of reminds me of Wanaka at Easter.

And here is Jesus…riding into the city…
among throngs of Jewish pilgrims. Here is Jesus
already disturbing things…making an elaborate and dramatic claim… to the royal throne of David…
riding in on a donkey…just as Israel’s kings had before him
Disturbing the peace…
daring everyone…to compare his arrival to the ancient prophesy … See Jerusalem… daughter of Zion
    
Word slide
 See, your king comes to you,
   gentle and riding on a donkey

Not one of the pilgrims entering the city that day…
would miss the symbolic reference to Israel’s kings…

Like the great pilgrimages…we see today in the Middle East they flooded into the city gates in their thousands…
And still today every observant Jew…longs to celebrate
the Passover in Jerusalem…at least once in their life time.  Next year in Jerusalem!    [Pause]

Blank slide
The focus of the Passover pilgrimage...
and the meal they share...always was and always is… hope

Hope in God. Hope in the only one…who can bring deliverance out of suffering… hope kindled by the telling... and retelling... of the story of how God delivered the people … from slavery in Egypt.

Even in Jesus’ time… the Passover was the oldest religious festival...based on ancient memories and rituals... handed down by Jewish storytellers through the centuries...
and finally preserved in the scroll of Exodus by the priests in exile in Babylon.

Passover…the story of
the tenth and final plague...
that broke the will of Pharaoh… to let the people go...
a pestilence that killed every unprotected…firstborn child...

the only thing saving the children of the Israelites...
was the blood of a sacrificial lamb...poured out...
and streaked across the doorposts of their homes...

The scroll of the Exodus recalling how God instructed Moses to tell the people

 ‘And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses ... and when I see the blood, I will pass over you...
and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you
when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be a memorial…and you shall keep it a feast ... forever.’

The blood of the sacrificial lamb... would save them.
God would deliver them from bondage. [pause]

And so the pilgrims come... wave after wave...
into the sacred city of the Jews... itself a symbol
of the day when all God’s promises are fulfilled...
when one day
all oppression, exploitation and cruelty…
would be ended…the day when all creation is restored
to right relationship with God. [pause…………..]

So naturally there’s an atmosphere of celebration
as they approach Jerusalem...not only for what God has done... but in anticipation...of what God will continue to do...to bring salvation and deliverance
to those still enslaved… to bondage and tyranny.

And it’s right into this very context…Jesus chooses to make his audacious… and unmistakably regal
entry into Jerusalem…
The symbolism of riding on a donkey
could not be missed by any Jew…it is a piece of high and sacred drama…carefully planned by Jesus…
to announce for all to see…they don’t have to wait any longer… God’s anointed one has arrived

The one who’d bring about the salvation of the world…
has entered the city gates.

So you can kind of understand
why the religious authorities… see him as such a threat.

Last Supper slide
And isn’t it interesting…
when Jesus finally sits down to that last supper
with his friends…instead of downplaying
that dangerous declaration of his identity…

Jesus then dares… to reshape and reinterpret…
the whole sacred tradition… of the Passover.

Did you notice in our reading…
when Jesus proclaims the Passover…is fulfilled.

Here’s how he does it…

Right there in that upper room…just as father’s are doing
in every household in Jerusalem…
Jesus takes on the role…of the head of the family.

He offers his friends…the broken… unleavened bread…
of the Passover meal… and he blesses his cup of wine…
And as Jesus tells them…their ancient story…
of freedom and salvation…
his words… confirm their worst fears
for his life… and maybe even… his sanity. [pause]

Just as the lamb… sacrificed by their ancestors in Egypt
was a sign from God… of their deliverance… Jesus’ life… will now be offered up…as a sacrifice…
to bring deliverance for all people…

Their teacher… their friend…
understood himself to be the sacrificial Lamb of God...
and in this way…the Passover would be fulfilled…
for all the world. [pause……….]

And there in the face of their fear
for his life
and maybe even his
sanity...Jesus comforts his followers
And gently
recites… the words they’d heard a hundred times at engagement parties…

the tender promise
made… by every Jewish bridegroom
to his bride.
 
Slide words
in my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back... and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
 
When Jesus speaks these words along with the symbolic language of the Passover...the last supper
becomes the wedding feast of the lamb... [pause….]

Blank slide
And all he asks of them… is that they be faithful
to this new covenant...
and love each other…just as he has loved them...
so the whole world will know they’re his disciples. [pause]

The hospitality of the table of our Lord…
the wedding feast of the Lamb…
has occurred already… and Jesus has presided over it…
Speaking forgiveness from the cross…for the salvation of the world. And we are to do this ourselves…
every time we remember him.

You see…here at the ends of the earth…beneath these mountains and beside these lakes…
we are a people of Jesus new covenant…
who gather around this table…each week to remember him.

Whether it’s communion Sunday or not…
you… are a people gathered around that same table…as they did in the Upper Room…you are a people bearing good news…sharing the same wedding feast…
People bid Jesus to love one another and carry that love into this community and into the world.

So in the years ahead…as you worship together and share the sacred meal in the company of another minister…
may you always show love and hospitality…to one another and to those who come… and they will come…strangers and orphans who need to know that in Jesus Christ they are forgiven set free.