For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Cor 5:21
Today, we gather to contemplate and share in the holy love story which is the passion story of our Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, the pivotal story of our salvation faith. As we seek to enter into this great mystery of love that we call Good Friday, I pray that the stark dismay we may feel as we view the crucifixion image will not hide the light of his infinite love as we seek to open our hearts and inner vision to that love for us and all the world that has brought Jesus to this moment. As the body and blood veil of his earthly existence begins to falter, let us focus on him, the One who is himself the eternal Word from God who became human for our sake. In his priestly office he now offers himself for sacrifice, the one perfect example of our human race . By his own free will and infinite love he offers himself in obedience to the Father’s will to suffer the pain of experiencing the total desolation of his human body and spirit for the salvation of our souls, our very lives, yours and mine.
In our sight, time, and place his earthly veil of body and blood will be lifted up to beckon all who choose and who are eager to behold the light of God’s saving love which cannot ever be overcome. That eternal light will be lifted and hidden from our eyes for just a moment in time.
The light will be hidden from us briefly so that we might appreciate how very desolate the world, and our own lives would be if that heavenly light should be forever taken from us.
In my lifetime, I have been blessed by a number of conversion experiences which I believe God has granted me for the building up of my own faith and so that I may bear a witness to others as I attempt to share with them my own reason for faith.
I was seventeen when I first received the Blessed Sacrament of his Body and his Blood in Holy Communion. It was in that moment that I first experienced the real feeling and presence of Jesus Christ in my life. Finally, after years of doubt, prayer and seeking, I now felt and knew that I had really experienced the real presence and love of Jesus Christ, the One who is my Lord and Savior, my God, my Father and Brother.
Today we are immersed in many horrible realities, so many murderous, tragic examples of war crimes, of man’s inhumanity to man. Because of greed, love of advantage, wealth and power, with so many of our world’s national and international leaders putting forth lies, the world of politics and international relations has taken on a darker unsettlingly uncertain and evil cast. There are so many examples of corruption, violence and hatred in so many quarters, we may feel the desire to just turn off our sensibilities and take a break from caring so much. We can become so wrapped up in the evils, urgencies and fears of the present world that we find our hearts being hardened in defense of our own sanity and peace of mind.
Many ask, “What does it all mean?”, “Why does God allow pain, suffering and evil?” and “Is there any meaning?” Many have joined with Pontius Pilate in asking, “What is truth!” and in an increasing number, many don’t seem to really care much about the truth.
I said earlier that God has blessed me with a number of conversion experiences. I believe he has done so to strengthen my faith and that I may share them with others. When I was still in my mid twenties, a friend gave me a very nice piece of mahogany wood stock. Sometime earlier, an acquaintance who worked in trade goods had given me a metal corpus and the matching metal INRH sign, both as yet unattached to a cross. One day, staying late after work, I sawed, sanded, cut and bonded the wood into a cross, and then I attached the corpus and sign, which, when finished, made a very handsome looking crucifix. Beginning that day, and when and wherever I had my office, I always kept that crucifix mounted on the wall facing my desk so that I could see it as I said my prayers and did my work.
Many years later, having been ordained both Deacon and Priest, one day while taking a break from working on a sermon, as I sat resting my eyes briefly, the thought came to me that my crucifix had never been blessed. As that thought faded, I heard in my head the words, “You are a Priest now. Bless it.” I stood up, went around the desk, faced the hanging crucifix and said a prayer of blessing. It was kind of a darkish, rainy day with only moderate sunlight. I returned to my desk to resume working on my sermon.
When I next looked up to take a break, I saw that that crucifix was glowing. Was it some kind of optical illusion? Now I am a genuine card-carrying doubting Thomas. I took a big towel and held it up in various angles and position around the room, certain that it must be a trick of the sunlight. Failing to find the cause, I eventually sat back down and at that moment I believe I heard the words, “Yes that was me. Sit back and enjoy the moment.” After a few moments, I am not sure how long, the glow began to fade.
While I was still sitting there, still in kind of a daze, something else happened that had never happened before. My boss, the rector for whom I worked, had come up to the second floor. He came into my office and sat down. A kind of crusty former police detective-turned-priest, Father Don Chamberlain asked, “What’s up, True?”
I replied that if he agreed not to call the men with white coats and white nets to come and get me, I would tell him what just happened. “Give it a shot,” he said.
I told him what I just told you. I admit I was a little unsure of what his reaction would be. To my great relief, he replied, “Oh, I’ve seen that glow before. Sometimes as I celebrate the Eucharist, sometimes over someone’s head as they receive Communion. Lets go down to the chapel and say evening prayer. Its been a long day.”
On this day we call good, we see what seems an extreme example of sorrow, sadness, evil, hatred and outrageous behavior. Many have asked what the point and purpose is.
Why does a religion which claims to be based upon a God of love make the central focus of its faith and worship the image of a human victim hanging upon a cross with spikes pinning him to it?
For those of us who are still a work in progress, (I think that includes us all) who are not as yet fully created as human beings, hopefully we continue to invite ask God to continue the work of creation in us. I pray that one day, it may be truly said of each one of us that we truly have become created in the very image of God. At Calvary’s cross, we see the ultimate icon for perfect love that is our God. In Jesus’ self-sacrifice we see the promise of an unpolluted, purified love for this world as it already now exists in heaven and in the heart of God. This is the sure and certain hope for our future in the kingdom of God, of which we will forever be a true part. No more will sin and sorrow be the polluter of love. In Jesus Christ perfected love will continue in resurrection joy for all eternity.
If we never knew sorrow, could we then appreciate joy? If we never knew darkness, could we appreciate the blessing of light? If we never knew pain or sickness or physical or mental or moral weakness, would we never appreciate the joy of good health and joyful life? If we never knew the feelings of offence, hatred, isolation or indifference, would we ever understand the consolation of forgiveness, fellowship, comradery, warmth, and belonging that we find in relationships, family or community?
Yes, our God is one God, and I also believe that God is also one perfect family. Not a perfect family but the perfect family, the family of love into which Jesus calls us all.
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’ John 1:1
Like our God and my cat Jasper, it is in our very nature to dream and explore and create. I’m not sure how big a cat’s dreams are. I know that at times he can turn a box or a bag or a piece of string into a toy. I know that sometimes as he sleeps, he is dreaming of some adventure in which he is chasing something or being chased because those little legs move like crazy.
I am certain of how big God’s dream is: Like his love, power, justice, and forgiveness: God’s dream is a matter of infinity itself. God is not subject to time. His dream includes and comprehends new life in his eternal present which is infinite and in which there is infinite love, blessing and joy.
God presents us with a taste of his creating love and power in and through the heritage and gift of parenthood and children. By doing this, he allows us just a small idea of his love of creation by calling many of us to be co-creators and curators of life with him. Today, we contemplate the story of Jesus Christ offering himself in sacrifice upon the cross for our restoration in relationship with God and each other.
In Christ, our atonement, our satisfaction for sin and our eternal salvation is won by the utterly irresistible love from God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit in perfect and indivisible unity of sacrificial love which is itself the driving creative force of the universe.
‘He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.’
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
This, my brothers and sisters, is not a defeat won by sin, this is the victory won by God’s eternal love.
This is the VICTORY!
As the present pause prepares all for the restoration of the light, the new day will bring the victory celebration.