005 Good Friday Sermon 2011

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A sermon preached at St Paul's Anglican Church, East Brisbane.

Good Friday

so here we are at the Cross

did it have to end like this?
• was this what God wanted?
• was this what Jesus wanted?
• was this what we wanted?

every life ends in a death
• some too soon
• some too violent
• some too late (technology)

some deaths are gifts of life to others
all deaths make room for others in the web of life
how to make sense of THIS death?

Does it have to make sense?

a great many deaths make no sense at all
people of faith can be too quick to rush in with explanations
perhaps we could begin by sitting with the awful reality of what happened
avoid temptation to soften the horror with God talk

Cross confronts and challenges our hopes and dreams
• only one death among many
• and not as violent as many deaths each year
• so why does this one matter so?

Is it the idea of God being found in the crucified one?
• perhaps not ONLY there - we find God in many other events
• but especially there

What kind of a world is it with a crucified God at its centre?
if goodness and love can be killed, what hope for any of us?

Not surprising that NT has numerous attempts at making sense of Cross
mostly not very cogent for our kind of world
(sacrifice, ransom, honour/shame, etc)
although few preachers will say so

Celebrating the life of Jesus ...

And what is the relationship between the life of Jesus and his death?

If we were arranging Jesus' funeral these days
• not called a funeral
• but a celebration of the life of ...
• PowerPoint slides and favourite iTunes list

But we invest such meaning in his death
• we focus on his birth
• and his death
• but note the silence in the creeds

What of the life lived in between?
what is relationship btw life and death of Jesus?
and is it only at our dying that the worth of our living is determined?
(surely not)

Sacrament of the Table may offer one way to resolve this
(brief reprise from last night)
• clarifies our IDENTITY - who we are, people gathered at table of God/life
• defines LIFESTYLE - what we do and we do things around here

The Cross establishes the benchmark
counter-intuitive "good news"
not about power, success, influence, reputation, friends, family
all of these happen for Jesus after Easter
but Cross represents radical renunciation of everything we tend to value

So what did Jesus do?
he shaped a holy life - centered around response to call of God
his death was consistent with that kind of life

We have a word for that combination of consistent response
FAITHFULNESS, or simply faith
that quality of Jesus in turn evokes a similar response of faith from us

Paul seems to have made this insight central to his understanding
one of his key phrases is pistis tou Iesou Christou
delightfully ambiguous expression
• faith in Jesus Christ, or our believing in Jesus Christ • faith of Jesus Christ, or the faithfulness of Jesus Christ

In his living and his dying Jesus was faithful to the God he knew as Abba
his faithfulness invites our response
our best response is to exercise a similar faithfulness in our own life choices
shaping holy lives
dying holy deaths
inviting others to walk the same path
and - in some strange sense - bringing God to birth amongst us

God beyond all dreams

We close with evocative words of Bernadette Farrell's song, "God beyond all names"
note especially the refrain:
In our living and our dying we are bringing you to birth

1. God, beyond our dreams, you have stirred in us a memory,
you have placed your powerful spirit in the hearts of humankind.

All around us, we have known you;
all creation lives to hold you,
In our living and our dying
we are bringing you to birth.

2. God, beyond all names, you have made us in your image,
we are like you, we reflect you, we are woman, we are man.

3. God, beyond all words, all creation tells your story,
you have shaken with our laughter, you have trembled with our tears.

4. God, beyond all time, you are laboring within us;
we are moving, we are changing, in your spirit ever new.

5. God of tender care, you have cradled us in goodness,
you have mothered us in wholeness, you have loved us into birth.

© Bernadette Farrell

Sermon ©2011 Gregory C Jenks