Friday, April 22, 2011

John 18:1 - 19:42

Lent - Last Week - Friday - Year A

John 18:1 - 19:42

Well, were you there?

If the Preacher of Ecclesiastes got it right that "there is nothing new under the sun," we need to say "Yes" and "No" to the question. We are not there at Jesus' crucifixion but we are witness of other "crucifixions" today. Let's look for some connections between then and now through one of the eye-witnesses—a Roman Centurion.

Perhaps we will hear the song change from "were you there" to "we are here".

Jesus' disciples stood at a distance, just watching, and that is our temptation, as well.

At bottom we are afraid to draw near Jesus' cross guarded by the status quo, a fear of being different, and a reluctance to lose any privilege or comfort we have.

Sometimes I think today's Church has lost track of following Jesus' ministries and has settled for just guarding empty crosses and being complicit in the on-going crucifixion of the least, and lost and lonely in our own families, community, state, nation, and world?

My hope is in remembering.

Remember Eden. A sad day wherein we too often focus on how bad Adam and Eve were, without remembering that G*D left Eden with them. They were never alone.

Remember Cain crucifying Abel. A sad day wherein we focus on how bad Cain was, without remembering G*D did not start capital punishment then and there.

Remember an unending series of lonely misdeeds and betrayals that continue to this day. These are ours and are not dependent upon blaming someone before us.

We have been like the Centurion who didn't plot against Jesus, or try Jesus, or put in the nails, or raise the cross – who only stood there while an unjust act was carried out, while an unfairness was allowed to move forward.

What eventually shone through to the Roman Centurion was Jesus still commending his life into G*D's hands, into a promise of more life that couldn't yet be seen. That Centurion heard enough to do an about face and to forward march into a new way of living. Jesus' life calls us, too.

Even before Easter that Centurion was transformed. Even on Good Friday we have plenty to call us to risk our life for a common good.

Remember Christmas. A good day wherein we focus on Emmanuel, G*D with us, we are still never alone.

Remember the Magi. A good day when those identified as "Strange" and "Other" are blessed for letting their gifts loose in the world.

Remember Baptism. A good day when Belovedness is set free in the life of every lost person and is a background against every temptation.

Remember those who were ministered to by Jesus, and still need ministry in our day. They were set free to be G*D's Beloved, even without baptism and well before Easter. Remember a better way than guarding and watching; a Jesus way, a compassionate way, a way to a new heaven and a new earth through better living in community and for a common good.
  • Basic laborers are called as disciples
  • Traditionalists are taught, "you have heard it said, but now a new learning . . . ."
  • Lepers are returned to community
  • Gadarene Demoniacs - the mentally ill - are freed from imprisonment
  • A woman hemorrhaging for 12-years is set free from a health care system that ate up all her resources and savings
  • Mute people like the young, the poor, and the immigrant receive their voice
  • Hungry people are fed by those who didn't know how to admit they had more than enough
  • Foreigners in the land had access to healing
  • Little children, like those who are not in our church, are welcomed, nurtured in Jesus' way, and brought near
  • Religious leaders are reminded that everything hangs on love – Love of G*D, Love of Neighbor as Self, Love of One Another, and Love of Enemies
  • Betrayers like Judas were still given communion and was still a part of Jesus' love, whether he knew it or not
All of these teachings and healings of Jesus continued to shine through on Crucifixion Day. All of Jesus' Living was a background that could not be denied. Even a battle-hardened Roman Centurion finally woke up. We are not told what happened next to the Centurion, just as we are not told what happened after so many people were touched by Jesus. But imagine for a moment that you could be freed from the inertia of just watching Death happen and, again, see Life before Death. Might you join Jesus in Living in solidarity with today's Innocents rather than defensively against them? Imagine!

I can't help but reflect that in June of this year a Wisconsin United Methodist pastor is going to be tried by her church for loving people forbidden by the church to be loved — gays and lesbians. Will that trial rise and fall on the current letter of the law, like Jesus with Pilate, or the gift of new life for people for whom Jesus also lived? If you haven't heard about this coming trial, it would be good to wonder why not.

This very day in the city and county of La Crosse and across the river in La Crescent, there are people being crucified on the basis of being different, and difference happens in so many different ways. But the big crucifiers are, on one side, impotent poverty of one kind or another and, on the other side, privileged entitlement of one justification or another.

If we have seen G*D with us and Jesus' Life as the backdrop behind his Death and heard the Centurion's change of perspective, then we may be able to hear a call from the Cross coming to us again today. It is found in the fourth verse of our next hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
     (which it isn't - false choice)
That were a present far too small;
     (too small because it isn't yours to give)
Love so amazing, so divine,
     (Love of G*D, Neighbor, Self, One Another, Enemies)
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
     (join the Centurion - invest your soul, life, and all)

May this Good Friday
not find you watching from a distance
not guarding people away from Jesus
not protecting an institution
but reconnected with an Expansive and Expanding Love
that energizes your soul, your life, your all.

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