Pastor's Sermons

Sermon for April 18, 2014 ~ Good Friday 

 

Matthew 27: 45-54

This gathering today could be a memorial service.  The setting is subdued; most of the usual colour is gone.  We come on such a day with strong feelings stirred by our imagination, or we are drawn but don't know what we feel.  When we have funeral services, they are not for the deceased – but for us.  Good Friday is not about distress.  Good Friday is about comfort.

 

The first funeral that I ever attended was for my high school friend Ricky.  He was diabetic but didn't seem to care.  He didn't take care of himself with diet or his insulin.  He stashed away a lot of candy and chocolate and in the end it all led to his death at 16.  I was really angry and confused at the funeral.  I didn't understand what was going on.  I don't think Ricky would have either.  I'm not sure who I was angry at. I thought about what could have been.  He could have had a life.  Was I angry with others for not preventing this?  Could I have done something?  No.  I missed my friend who used to make me laugh.  He affected me.  He mattered to me.  Now he was no more.  I didn't know what to do.  Maybe the funeral was trying to comfort me – but I don't remember one word, only my feelings. It was like the curtain fell before the show was over. Would something like that happen to me?  The question, "Where was God?" really started a journey for me.

 

 Curtains

 

The Good Friday story tells us that Jesus cried out his abandonment using words from Psalm 22 which goes on to say, "he listened when I cried out to him for help" (verse 24).  Strange how even in his darkest time, Jesus chose to recite God's words. 

 

In recent years, using that darkness theme, we have had a Tenebrae service (service of darkness) on this day and have tried to darken this room. We used paper and cloth as black-out curtains.  We pinned and taped and covered.  But it's hard to keep the light out when it wants to get in.  At the service, two years ago, the paper fell down just before the end and let the light shine through.  The unexpected light affected us all. "Did you see that?" people said to one another afterward… "Did you plan that pastor?"  The falling curtain got our attention. It gave a message.

 

We hear about the tearing of the curtain in the temple at the moment of Jesus' death.  It's part of a series of events that are outlined, telling us that one thing affects another.  The death of Jesus:

  • tore down the curtain of separation from God;
  • like an earthquake, it shattered the foundations of life as we knew it;
  • and death was changed, upset, and disturbed. 

 

One thing affects another

 

One thing affects another.  Friendly help brightens us.  Feeling abandoned brings desolation.   

  • By carrying away our sins… becoming sin, Jesus comforts and removes all barriers for our approach to God. 
  • Forgiveness affects how we think about ourselves and God. 
  • Jesus entering death with God's words of anxiety & comfort can change how we face it.

 

An older man landed in the hospital. I used to visit him and would often read a chapter or psalm to him before I left.  He was in bad condition.  I chatted with him.  He looked at me but didn't say much. I watched the machines that monitored him and listened to them.  Then I said, "May I read to you?"  He finally spoke to me saying, "I was wondering when you were going to get around to that."  God's story affected him when nothing else did. He died shortly afterward with those words his final friend.

 

Good Friday means that even in death or abandonment, God is present.  In all our unspoken fear, lonely feelings, and cries in the dark… God is present.  We are received by the one to whom Jesus let himself go – into the arms of our creator, into the current of grace.

 

I don`t know why Ricky was so reckless… there is so much of his brief life that was a mystery to me, but Good Friday tells me that  because of Jesus on the cross, God was there.   I have not forgotten my friend.  His death taught me about the preciousness of life and caused me to wonder about God.  One thing affects another.

 

A man dies, the ground quakes, the temple curtain falls, death is disturbed.  Everything is not "same old, same old" after Good Friday. 

 

What is nailed down for us on the cross is that God is present, even if no one else is.  A broken curtain tells us that God welcomes… all our feelings: guilt, despair, rage.  In Jesus, God has been there – from the cooing of a newborn to the cry of lonely suffering.  God has been there.  God will take us home.

 

When others can't understand suffering or know what it is like, when the past is gone and it is too dark to see ahead… God is there.  As Jesus was in life, so is he in death.  Forgiveness, friendship and faith:  God is there. We are not forgotten or rejected. 

 

This death and all that follows can teach us how to live again.  It's the comfort of this day.  One thing affects another.  One person affects another.  It's the story of Jesus and the disciples.  It`s your story too.   

 

Amen.

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