Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Good Friday Redux

Jesus said, "I thirst." There was a vessel filled with common wine.  So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is finished."

This part of our Gospel [Good Friday] contains two of the seven last words of Jesus – seven sayings attributed to him as he hung and then died on the cross.  In order, the seven are:

(1) “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus was whipped.  His hands and feet were nailed to a cross. Jesus was being crucified.  Despite his suffering, he gave us our marching orders – our mission to forgive.

(2) “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus understands our doubts about the heaven.   He tells us, “Don’t worry; there is a heaven, and you will be with me again.”

(3) “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus tells us it’s okay to feel abandoned by God.  Sometimes we cannot sense God’s presence.  But God is always there even in our suffering. Jesus knew that.

(4) “Woman, here is your son…Here is your Mother.” Jesus understands a parent’s love especially for a child who is helpless. Like most sons, he reaches out to his mother, and he tries to comfort her even when he is on the cross.  Jesus reminds all of us sons and daughters to recognize and appreciate our mothers’ sacrifice and love, and most of all, to show compassion for others even when we are suffering.

(5) “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus understands what happens at the end of life.   We return to God, and while we live, we must commit to God – we must commend our spirit to God by holding nothing back.
Then there are the other two last words we just heard this Good Friday: “I thirst,” and “It is finished.” What did Jesus mean by “I thirst?” 

We can guess Jesus thirsted for an end to Roman domination, terror, and injustice he faced during his ministry.  His was but one of thousands of crucifixions suffered by those who spoke out against the tyrants and oppressors who stole land from the poor through very high taxes and forced, heavy debt.

He thirsted for his followers to carry on without him and to share in his sacrifice for the benefit of others.  Meaning we must choose to ease suffering whenever we can and help take people down from their crosses.  We can do this through forgiveness.

How do we thirst?  We thirst for political and religious leaders to be true to their word and to lead with compassion and justice foremost in their minds.  We thirst for honesty and trust in our relationships, be they family, business, or government. We thirst for stronger faith, less doubt, and a firm understanding that faith in Christ should be central in our lives.  We thirst for love.

Once upon a time there was a poor peasant family that worked for years to buy a piece of land they could call their own.  The mother and half-a-dozen children lived in a two-room shack serving as their house. 

While walking his small plot of land, the father noticed something sticking out from under a bush.  Digging with his hands he unearthed a crucifix.  It was missing its hands and arms.  Its feet and legs were missing .

It was mangled, scratched, cracked with the paint nearly all gone.  It must have been about 10 feet tall.  He carried it back and laid it on the kitchen table.  He asked his family, “What should we do with it?  Bring it to the nearby church?”

The youngest child spoke: “Father, I have an idea.  Why don’t we hang it on the kitchen wall and put a sign under it.”

There was a long silence.  The large cross was hung with care on a whitewashed wall, and a small sheet of paper was tacked underneath.  It read, “Jesus has no arms and legs.  Will you lend him yours?”

We look at the cross high on the altar.  We will kiss the cross in a few moments. We see hands nailed to the beam.  We see feet nailed to the wood.  His arms and legs are made lifeless.

This Good Friday we remember we are the body of Christ and in that way we lend our arms and legs to continue Jesus’ work towards peace, love, and justice especially for the poor and outcasts. We remember his seven last words especially #7: “It is finished.”

We end tonight by telling Jesus, “It is not finished.” This Good Friday we commit our arms to carry on for you and our feet to walk our journey in your footsteps.

Deacon David Pierce (Homily given on Good Friday)

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