. . . they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says,
“They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The memory of it still haunts me to this day.
I was just a teenager.
Some friends of mine from church convinced me to go to a big youth gathering.
To be honest, I don’t even remember who sponsored the event.
All I remember is that there were lots of youth at it.
At some point near the beginning of the event we were each given a small nail, divided into groups and asked to line up behind one of the three wooden crosses that were lying on the ground.
We were then given our instructions.
As we listened to the story of Jesus Crucifixion ---- According to the Gospel of John we were told that we were to focus on the story.
When the reading was over we were invited to proceed to the cross nearest us, knell down, take a hammer, and drive our nail into the cross.
· With each blow upon the nail we were asked to remember our own responsibility for the death of Jesus.
· We were asked to remember that it was we who had crucified Jesus, for we were the guilty sinners for whom Jesus died.
It was a powerful, gut wrenching experience.
When it was time to leave --- my friends and I were convinced that Jesus died because of US!
We left judged,
and yet full of hope, for we knew that Jesus had died to save us from our sinfulness.
Like so many who have gone before us and like so many who will gather today on this Good Friday, we left that hall believing that God sent Jesus to die for us; to pay the price for our sin.
What I have come to realize, however, is that like so many of the commemorations that will take place today --- our actions were really a crime against God.
We judged God to be so vindictive, as to demand a blood sacrifice to pay for our sin.
We happily accepted what we judged to be God’s grace; the grace of having sent a savior to die upon the cross for our sake.
We gratefully accepted the notion that God would sacrifice God’s only Son to satisfy some sort of cosmic justice; to pay the debt we owed on account of our sinfulness.
If I could, I would return and remove my nail from that cross.
Christians have been doing it for centuries.
Over and over again we gather to remember the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, and over and over again much of what we do convicts the Creator of all that is and all that ever shall be as some sort of petty, vindictive judge who could only be placated by the blood of his own beloved child.
But we need to see the crucifixion for what it was.
The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was not a unique event in the history of humanity.
It wasn’t even a unique event in the history of Rome.
Crucifixions happen every day.
Every day innocent people are humiliated and every day people die abused and shamed.
Every day there is unnecessary suffering.
Over and over again groups, villages, cities, nations, corporations, and races, band together and select scapegoats upon whom they heap their fears, anger and frustrations.
Jesus was not the first and he won’t be the last to feel the pain of abandonment, and cry out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Each one of us in our own way have experienced the pain of losses so deep that we have felt cut off, isolated, desperate and alone.
We have all know the desperation that comes when we feel that there is no way out, that everything is finished, that our life is about to end and we have each of us cried out to God claiming that we have been abandoned or begging not to be forsaken.
The crucifixion is important because it is always happening.
The crucifixion is important because of what it tell us about our humanity.
If someone asked me today to design a ritual so that we could gain some understanding of the crucifixion:
I would not give you a nail and invite you to drive it into a cross.
I think perhaps I would give you a piece of cloth and invite you to tear it.
I would ask you to do it one by one so that we could all hear the sound of the cloth tearing.
And I would invite you not to focus on the moment of Jesus’ agonizing death, but on what the chroniclers of the crucifixion tell us happened immediately after Jesus death.
Do you remember?
At the moment Jesus died we are told that the temple curtain --- the curtain that stood between the people and the Holy of Holies (the most holy place in the temple) --- we are told that the curtain suddenly tears into two.
Suddenly, the separation between the people and God is gone.
The earthly and the heavenly are one.
God and creation are one.
What has been separated comes back together.
Jesus was not crucified because God sent him to die because someone had to pay the price for our sin.
The crucifixion is what happens when we become separated or alienated from our radical interdependence.
Crucifixions happen when we forget that we are one:
one with God and one with each other.
We share a common humanity and our Creator is an intimate part of who we are.
The crucifixion didn’t cleanse us of our sin, it wasn’t what was needed for God to forgive us.
Crucifixion is what happens when humanity goes astray and we try to control each other.
Crucifixion is what happens when we separate ourselves from the one in whom we live and move and have our being.
The Crucifixion is what happens:
· when some people are given more worth than others
· when we turn our backs on the inherent worth and dignity of all living things
· when we by-pass justice, equity, equality and compassion and try to live off the energy generated by anger, fear and hostility.
This is the paradox of Good Friday,
sometimes it is in the brokenness and alienation and loss that we come closest to the sacred, when we see most clearly what it is that really matters and what our individual spirits and the spirit of humanity are yearning for.
Sometimes in our suffering the curtain is torn and we see those larger truths that have eluded us.
Yes, Good Friday is a day for weeping.
Today as we remember the world’s response to the love that Jesus embodied, we cannot help but respond to Jesus cries, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me) with weeping
We weep at the realization that Jesus is crying out to all those in whom the Spirit of God lives and breathes.
We weep not just for Jesus, but for all the unjust, unnecessary, and untimely deaths that still go on in this world.
We weep for the thousands of children in who will die this very week of starvation, and for the infants who are born into poverty or abuse.
We weep for the children who grow up in war torn lands, collecting mortar shells like some kids collect baseball cards, and for those children of our own city who have been victims of random violence.
We weep for young people in this community who will never be safe in their own homes and for those who do not have a home to go to.
We weep for that young woman who would rather die than suffer any more sexual abuse, and we weep for that young gay person who took their own life when those they loved the most couldn’t accept them for who they are.
We weep for those we love who have died and for those who we have lost because of anger or misunderstanding.
We weep knowing that the crucifixion did not happen once and for all, way back when.
Christ is crucified over and over again as those things that separate us one from anther:
threaten to hold us captive to our own primitive urges.
We weep and in our weeping we join Jesus’ plea: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
But we do not weep without hope.
For we know what lies beyond the cross.
We can hear the sound of the curtain that divides us one from another as it is torn in two.
As the cloth tears and we remember who we are and whose we are, we know that: Jesus’ LOVE could not be destroyed, not even by the thing we fear the most, death itself.
Death could not put an end to love.
For Love is stronger than death.
The love that Jesus’ embodied lives on in, with, and through the followers of Jesus down through the ages.
The reality that Jesus’ love lives on; reminds us of the power of love to unite us, to mold us, and shape us --- to propel us toward a more perfect humanity.
Jesus has shown us the way and we can live the abundant life that Jesus was so passionate about.
We can live lives that are free from the fear of death.
Jesus taught us that life without fear frees us from the powers of darkness that enslave the world.
Life without fear is the first step toward justice.
And justice and not violence is the way to peace.
Jesus died not for our sins, but to show us the way to be the embodiment of the Love that is God.
The powers of darkness will have their day.
But the cries of the crucified will not go unheeded.
Christ will come again and again.
Christ is embodied in all those who work for peace through justice, grace and love.
Let the sound of the curtain being torn remind us that the barriers that we erect will not stand; for we are one, one with God and one with each other.
Ultimately, nothing can separate us from wholeness, for in God we live and move and have our being. Now and always, Amen