Sermon for Good Friday 2018; Isaiah 52:13-53:12

With sighs too deep for words, we come face to face with reality

Nothing stops the truth here. No fake news. No he said-she said.

No ignoring. No avoidance. At rock bottom, we finally come

Face to face with the truth.

Our condition is undeniable. The sin that keeps us sick is on display.

It’s finally time to stop running from the truth and instead

Embrace it.

It’s time to stop saying “I’m fine” when what we really mean is

Anything but.

It’s time to stop turning away help because we’re also

Ushering away hope.

It’s time to admit that our secrets keep us sick.

Our words have long been used to cut deep.

We’ve used the Bible as a weapon.

We use the label of “Christian” to justify hatred.

We engage in us versus them all too easily.

Pride comes before the fall and we’ve done our fair

Share of stumbling so we best be careful.

We’ve clung to the law of the land tighter than

We’ve clung to the law of God.

We value being liked over being right.

We’d rather be in a crowd of lost sheep

Than be slaughtered with one lamb.

We still discriminate. We still speak prejudice. We still devalue.

And the reality is, we may not be ready for the cross.

It is here, on the holiest of grounds, that we meet reality

And our reality is ugly. It’s just easier not to look.

So, we’d rather ignore the cross. Let’s skip straight to Sunday.

Bring on the empty tomb and bunnies,

No suffering for me, thanks.

But we cannot save ourselves.

We cannot even help ourselves.

We’re too busy polishing our own pedestals to even notice

The Savior being lifted high on the cross.

We miss the Savior because we’re too busy

Worshipping false idols. We bow before money.

We invest too much time worrying about the perception

Others have of us.

We spend too much time trying to keep up with the Joneses

Rather than keeping up with Jesus.

There is blood in our streets but, it’s not ours so why care?

Fellow creations of God lack basic needs of

Water, food, clothing, and shelter, but

Broken people are part of a broken system and we

Refuse to fix a problem that isn’t ours.

And the reality of it all comes crashing down on this day.

Because on this day, something rare happens.

When we meet at the foot of the cross. When we come face to face

With our own sin and what the price of that sin looks like, we realize

We are all equal. God looks on us all the same.

The cross is the place where our best intentions and excuses go to die.

The cross is where we put to rest our ideas of

Perfection and false equality.

At the foot of what seems to be humble wood, we stop the worship of false idols

And start the realization that a king looks like this.

A man. Beaten. Bruised. Tortured. Because we are so loved.

Our transgressions on display.

The suffering servant hangs. He does not complain.

Our instinct is to do something. But, oh we’ve done plenty.

Now we just watch. On equal ground with those we despise.

Sharing breath with those who would harm us.

Waiting with those we love.

Weeping with those we’ve ignored.

Face to face with the truth we can no longer avoid.

This suffering servant is suffering for me.

Because of me. On behalf of me.

To save me. From me.

The truth is ugly. The cross sets us free.

Alas did my savior bleed. For me. For you. For the world.

For freedom. For truth. For love. For forgiveness.

Undeserved. Unexpected. Humbled.

As he takes his last breath we cry thank you.

We weep for what we’ve done. Lamented what we did not.

Bow in adoration. There on the cross hangs our Lord and king.

The suffering servant suffers no more.

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Sermon for 4/30/17 Luke 24:13-35

It never fails that when the weather is nice, I will get a text sometime between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. It comes from Heather, my therapist, and it usually only says two words “we walking?” Sometimes I beat her to it and let her know if we are walking or not. Heather’s office isn’t that far from the dike, and so, we take the opportunity to walk and talk. This was originally her idea, which didn’t surprise me. She’s really into fitness and is the kind of person that runs for fun. She gave me a warning “there are people who will see us together. They might know what you do. They might know what I do.” She was basically giving me a heads up that our therapy session would be outside, open to the world, and whomever we might run into. She never tells anyone she is my therapist (out of respect for me) but I don’t keep secrets. There are times when our walk is a nice brisk pace and we can manage to get 2-2 ½ miles in during the session. There have been a few times when my own self revelation has made it necessary for us to stop walking. But we always start off the same way: in front of her office, laces tied, and her saying “so…what’s up?” And away we go.

I thought about our walks as I read this walk to Emmaus story this week. And I have come to realize that it’s not the distance of the walk, it’s not the terrain that matters, it’s not necessarily even the conversation, but sometimes your walking companion makes all the difference. The disciples had been walking along the road; it was around a 7 mile journey. I am sure that in many ways, it felt longer. These two had become friends. And now, they lamented the death of their friend Jesus as they walked along the way. I doubt this was a record-breaking pace they were setting. And sure, while they might have been walking a normal pace (whatever that is) they were most likely weighed down by grief, disbelief, and maybe even disappointment.

These are two people who (literally) sat at Jesus’ feet and now, when he comes walking along the road with them, they don’t even recognize him. Usually if someone joins your conversation, you know them. The conversation that follows is fascinating. “What are you talking about” nosy Jesus wants to know. And Cleopas says (paraphrasing) “Have you been living under a rock? Don’t you know the things that have happened?” And Jesus’ response is so loving, so tender, and so amazing that we just might miss it. “What things” he asks? This is Jesus’ version of “so…what’s up?” Jesus is creating space for mourning, for anger, for grief, for misbelief, for all of the emotions that go along with death. More importantly, Jesus is listening.

It’s important for us to remember that Easter Sunday does not erase, undo, or reverse Good Friday. That needs to be repeated: Easter Sunday does not erase, undo, or reverse Good Friday. Jesus died a very real death. It was a very real, very painful death, filled with suffering and agony. Death happened. Jesus wasn’t playing dead, he wasn’t faking it, he wasn’t just “asleep,” he was all the way dead. His friends and followers witnessed this. They witnessed him carrying his own torture device. They witnessed as his executors drove nails into his hands. They witnessed it all. I cannot even begin to imagine that kind of pain. When Jesus asks “what things” he gives room for the disciples to express all of the pain that accompanied them and continues to dwell in them as they mourn their friend.

If you have a friend that offers you space, you know what a gift this is. We so often want to fix, not listen. We want to offer solutions without fully understanding the problem. And sometimes, we are tempted to join our friend in their situation. What I mean is that when a friend is complaining, even about something mundane (like bills or laundry) we tend to agree. We support our friends, right? But is it always for their good? We join in the lamentations “I totally understand, I also have 9 loads of laundry waiting for me.” Or maybe “I know! Visa called me like 4 times last week. I sent them straight to voicemail.” And maybe what our friends need, maybe what we need every once in awhile is not to be fixed, not to be offered solutions, not even to be given solidarity. What we need is the space to voice our heart, no matter how wonderful or how painful that will be.

And yes, while Jesus does offer this space, he follows the space with a bit of a lecture. However, at the end of the lecture, he gathers his friends for a meal. He takes bread, breaks it, blesses it, and feeds his friends. It is in that feeding that the disciples recognize their fellow traveler for who he really is: the risen Christ. And if you go back and read the passage again, did Jesus say anything while he was doing this? No. He was leaving space for silence, for contemplation, for pain, for suffering, for mourning, and for discovery. Jesus feeds the disciples, just like before his death, and by doing so, he brings them back into community.

In this feeding, they are reminded of his love, his care, and his mercy. They are also reminded of their new identities as disciples (instead of fishermen). They are also reminded that Jesus has always and will always provide for them. And this is all done without Jesus saying a word. How comfortable are you in the silence?  How often do you leave room for silence? Are you quick to fill silence with noise because it makes you nervous? Maybe you don’t like silence because it makes you uncomfortable. But friends, as I have said before, if we are talking, we miss listening to God. Because it is in our silence that God moves, acts, and speaks.

Brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by a lot of noise. Some of it is helpful noise, but a lot of it really is just noise. What happens when we start to rid our world of noise? Turn off the radio, mute the commercials, resist the urge to interrupt; something happens. We really start to listen. We start to enter into deeper relationships with one another. We start to see one another as a fellow travelers on the road: fed by Christ. Offer one another space. It will feel a little weird at first, maybe even a bit unnatural. But it will become easier the more you practice. Offer space. And in that space, make room for the Holy. Make room for all possible emotions. Make room for God.  We don’t intentionally NOT listen to one another, it’s just habit. But maybe we don’t listen to one another as a protection for our emotions. We are surrounded by people we have the ability to love and who have the ability to love us. And that happens in the silence.