March 30, 2018

Sermon for Good Friday



Sermon for Good Friday

Michael Coffey


If you praise and worship
            a crucified Lord
            you no longer have the privilege
            of looking away from suffering.
Maybe a lot of the time,
            we praise and worship only a resurrected Lord,
            and go for the glory,
            and reach for the win,
            and give homage to power,
                        but make no mistake about it,
                        no matter what you call that uncrucified Lord,
                        it is not Jesus.
Jesus is always, even now,
            God’s full and complete immersion
            into the suffering of the world.

The Congolese mother seeking asylum
            locked in immigration detention in San Diego
            and her 7 year old daughter
            taken away to a detention center in Chicago
            and the daughter screams and cries as they are ripped apart.

The West Virginian unemployed father
who can’t afford to feed his family
            and ends up addicted to prescription opioids
            after drug companies ship 21 million pills
                        to a town of 2,900.

The family of Stephon Clark
            grieving the young man’s death by police shooting.
“You don’t know what it’s like until you experience it,”
Clark’s uncle, Curtis Gordon, said.
“You can see it on TV, it’s totally OK to deal with those realities
when it’s just through a television
and they’re not in your home. It’s different now.”

And then there is you
            and your suffering, your story,
            your struggle that you probably don’t want to name out loud
            because you either think it is too insignificant
            in the face of the world’s suffering,
                        or you fear no one will care if you do.

Here’s what the cross tells us:
Jesus is God’s redemptive immersion
into the suffering of the world.
Jesus let go of all privilege and position and power
and let his own body be God’s immersion
into the suffering of the world
so that it could be transformed into peace, mercy, and justice.
In Jesus, the suffering of the world
            gets exposed for its evil,
            gets exposed so all the powerful who instill fear through suffering
                        are naked and ashamed and small.

The problem in the story of Jesus’s death in Mark
            is not the problem of our guilt that causes Jesus’ death,
            it is the problem of fear and fleeing at Jesus’ death.
The crowds that praised him on Palm Sunday
            did not show up the next Friday to call for his crucifixion.
That’s a different crowd –
            that’s the religious leaders and their lobbyists and lackeys
            who are aligned with the powerful in Jerusalem and Rome.
The crowd that praised him as Messiah and King
            were so disturbed at his arrest and torture
            they simply didn’t show up.
            They let fear crush hope.

The disciples did not turn on Jesus
            and want him crucified.
One of them betrayed him for money,
            and to try to stir a revolt.
The rest either denied they knew him,
            or ran away and hid.
The sight of Jesus’ suffering was too awful,
            and the risk of their suffering was too great.
They simply didn’t show up.
They let fear crush hope.

Some do show up,
            all throughout the story of Jesus.
The women for sure,
            especially at the crucifixion;
            Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James and Joses,
            Salome, and the text says: there were many other women!
Others showed up all the time to see Jesus
            because their suffering was too great
            and they had no choice but to show up where ever he was.
They couldn’t run and hide from suffering
            because it was too real in their lives.
They lost that privilege a long time ago.

So when the whole story ends up,
not with a throne and a crown of gold,
but a crown of thorns and a cross,
Jesus fully lives out his compassion and love:
He is God’s compassion ruling on earth,
fully sharing the suffering of the world
until it no longer has power over those who know.
Jesus draws us into the suffering of the world
            and shares our own suffering with us
            so that we know: To end suffering, there will be suffering,
                        but the suffering will end someday.
            God will work through all such suffering to end suffering
                        and bring more peace and mercy and life than we could imagine.

Fear and fleeing characterize a lot of our lives.
            We fantasize about how we might
                        witness to our love and faith
                        when things get tough and we might have to risk something.
And then the moments come and go
            and we wonder what happened
            and why we had such fear and fled from yet one more cross.
So here we are
            gathered before the cross of Jesus
            witnessing God’s full immersion into our suffering
                        that we share with all humanity and all creation.
            Sit in it for a while.
            Sink into it, or let it sink into you.
            Wrestle with your desire to fear and flee.
Jesus did all of this
            so that in him
            we could become something else,
            transformed disciples filled with courageous faith
                        who by the Spirit’s energy and stirring
                        no longer flee, though we may have fear.
            Instead, we show up.
We show up where ever suffering flares up
            because injustice rages like wildfire for so many,
            because disease will strike exactly when no one is ready,
            because loneliness and rejection fills this broken world to the brim
                        and many are dying from it.
Show up.
In deep faith in Jesus,
show up to the suffering of the world,
be part of God’s transforming power.
Show up when immigrants are treated like criminals
            and give voice to their voiceless cries.
Show up when white working class people
            lose their income and their families struggle
            and the drug companies push their addictive profits.
Seek healing and treatment and jobs for everyone.
Show up when black lives are diminished
            and black families cry out, “Why?”
            and ask why with them.
Show up when your own pain says I need help
and you think you aren’t worth it
            or you’re too ashamed to ask for it
            and see the cross of Jesus in your own life, too.

Who are we who gather around a crucified Lord
            to praise and worship and adore him?
By God’s grace and the Spirit’s gyrations
            we are the people who show up,
                        even though we feel like fleeing,
            we show up
            where ever suffering requires compassion and care,
                        love and mercy,
                        change and justice.

We who gather before the cross
            are changed by it again.
            We lose the privilege of looking away from suffering,
                        and we even see the deep joy in doing so.
We are the people who show up.
            We know intimately that God shows up
                        where ever beloved people suffer.
            And God shows up best
                        in this body that is willing to be the body of Christ,
                        Jesus who gave his body for the suffering world.

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