Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday

“See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.”

May only God’s word be spoken and may only God’s word be heard. Amen!

Once upon a time, on a Sunday afternoon deep in the bible belt, there was an old school preach off. Now, you might not know what preach off is. A preach off is where after the Sunday service is over and after you have had dinner on the grounds everybody goes back in the church and all the local preachers come and try to out preach each other. You do some singing and praising God, but mainly folks just want to see who can bring the word of God into God’s house.

Now at this particular preach off, on this hot summer day, there were three preachers lined up to give it a go. The first preacher approached the pulpit with utmost most dignity and reverence. He warmed the crowd up with a couple of jokes and then brought all the hell fire and brimstone he could muster. For forty-five minutes he exhorted, he cajoled, he proclaimed, and he exclaimed about all the sinful woes of this world. He enumerated all the ways the people of God had been lacking in their devotion and chastised with an ever deepening voice the lethargic faith he perceived in the people.

When he finished there was much lamenting and repentance, and more then a little posterior pew soreness as well. So they stood and sang some songs and got ready for the next contestant. The second preacher went for an hour and half in an even louder and deeper voice. He smacked pulpit to emphasize each of his 37 points in his diatribe. He picked up where the other preacher had left off, hit the ground running with castigation of the people and picked up speed with his denounciations. Again, when he had finished, there was much repenting and, you guessed it posterior pew soreness.

These were tough acts to follow, and quite honestly while they sang some songs after the second guy, the people in the pews wondered if the third guy could bring it at all in the wake of what they had just heard. The third preacher worried them something fierce.

See, first off he didn’t look like the other two. Where they had looked distinguished and wizened, he looked plain. Where his predecessors had looked commanding and powerful, he looked simple. Where the first two had looked larger then life, this guy was small.

Nevertheless, he approached the pulpit and the crowd settled down to hear what he had to say. He stood there for a moment in silence. After a moment when the silence started to move from profound to uncomfortable he simply said, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” He paused and then said again, “My Brothers and Sisters, it’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” And then finally he said, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming. If you believe that in the darkness of your Friday, God will act and Sunday will come, then walk this aisle and proclaim Jesus as your lord and savior from this point on.” Needless to say, not only did everybody walk the aisle, but he won the preach off.

Now, he was preaching in a place and time when community was a stronger force. The congregation that day knew what he meant by Friday. They knew he was talking of Good Friday, the day our God is crucified, the day when darkness seems to triumph over light. Good Friday is when the itinerant homeless teacher Jesus of Nazareth is crucified, executed by the Roman Empire in a public and grotesque manner on a garbage heap outside of Jerusalem. This is the day when it seems that Jesus’ message of love, his theology of peace through justice, seems to be defeated by the Roman Imperial theology of peace through victory, Roman peace provided by the violent conquest and oppression of the vanquished.

The scriptures tell the story that the death of Jesus was such a blow, such a defeating event for his followers that darkness fell in the middle of the day. Jesus the Christ was crucified. God was dead. It was Friday, but Sunday was coming.

See, over and over in scripture when things are at there bleakest, when hope is in the least, God acts. Indeed it is only the act of God that overcomes darkness and despair. It is the gracious act of God that brings Israel out of Egypt, it is the gracious act of God that restores the people from exile, and it is the gracious act of God to become one of us; to live amongst us preaching good news to the poor, sight to the blind, freedom for the captive, and justice for the oppressed. It was a gracious act of God to refuse to become the violence of this world; rather to die on a cross this day, this Friday.

Some might say that we are in a Friday era of our world’s existence. War is nonstop at this point, economies are crashing, and here in America it is hard to tell if we are a city on a hill or just another empire. But if it’s Friday, Sunday’s coming.
When our personal tragedies threaten to overcome us, when the darkness of pain, disease, and death are at hand…it’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

When our community bleeds from violence, when our institutions fail to respond with justice, when it is easier for our children to get their hands on a gun then on a text book…it’s Friday but Sunday’s coming.

When the church is more interested in building shiny edifices then fertilizing the roots of justice, when the church is more interested in fighting over who we can exclude then how we can open the doors of the kingdom wider for all to walk through…it’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

When our own numbers decrease on Sunday morning, when the walls crack and carpet fades, when we wonder if there will be another generation of this congregation to share the Love of God in this place…it’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.
My brothers and sisters, make no doubt about it, it’s Friday, but Suday’s coming. Amen!

Easter Sunday service at the Church of the Resurrection is at 10:30 April 12th, with brunch and an Easter Egg hunt to follow.

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