Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Crucifixion - a short sermon for Good Friday 2012

Crucifixion isn’t special, it isn’t unique, it isn’t strange.
It was a heinous, evil, cruel, shameful form of torture,
inflicted by the Roman Empire on to all those who stood in their way –
the brigands, the terrorists, the revolutionaries,
the pretenders to the throne.
All those who stood up to the Empire and what it stood for,
all who dared to say there was a different way, a fairer way,
a better way than the Roman way was soon crushed under its power,
snuffed out from existence, thrown on to the scrap heap
as the Roman juggernaut marched on and on.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of people who, both years before and years after Jesus, died this form of execution.
They were killed not as someone who had won the fight,
but as one who had well and truly failed.
All who were whipped, beaten
and effectively stapled onto those heavy beams of wood,
left to asphyxiate until they breathed their last breath,
rolling around their shattered dreams of a different, better, fairer way
than the Roman way
as they hung there…
That must have been when they well and truly knew…
The dream. Is. Over.

The men and women standing there, followers, disciples, dreamers,
Looking up as Jesus of Nazareth is stapled to the cross must have well and truly known…

The Kingdom dream,
the dream of Jesus as King of the Jews. Is. Over.

Crucifixion isn’t special, unique or strange,
it happens today.

How many dreams and desires,
Projects and proposals,
Wishes and wise words,
Councils and communities,
Families and Friends,
Children, Men and Women,
Are still being crushed, abused, walked over, abandoned, executed
By juggernauts, empires and people who bring death?

Does evil have the last word?
Do pain and suffering and death
and all that distorts God’s good world have the last word?
Is the Kingdom dream, really and truly over?

The bystanders cry out to Jesus,
“If you’re the King, come down from the cross!”
But Jesus knows that because he is the King he must not come down.
He’s taunted by the Priests and the scribes,
the soldiers, and the criminals.
Deserted by his followers,
Abandoned by his friends,
Denied by Peter
Betrayed by Judas,
Nothing and no one is there for him,
The dream looks like its over,

But because he is the King, Jesus must not come down.

He experiences the utter abandonment of God
and as he finally screams out:
‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.’
Maybe everything within, is screaming out to him,
“Get off that cross, do it now or the dream is over”,

But Jesus knows that he’s not to come down,
he can’t come down,
he won’t come down.

That cross,
That symbol of death,
That tool of the Empire,
Jesus knows,
IS the place where the dream becomes reality.
IS the place where the Kingdom comes,
Evil, sin and death are exhausted.
Temple curtains tear in two.
God is unleashed upon the world –
Forgiveness for all,
Peace for all,
Rescue, healing and salvation for all.

Life for all from the death of the King.

‘This is my body’, Jesus says
‘This is my blood of the covenant,
Poured out for many.’

And when you’re ever left wondering
If the Empire has the final say,
If your life is nothing but a sad, pathetic existence waiting to be
Snuffed out,
If evil has the last word,
Wonder again,
because this death, this execution, this CRUCIFIXION
Brings life to your doorstep.
Invites you to believe
Invites you to trust
Invites you to follow the King of Kings
Invites you to stop dreaming and hold out your hand
Because reality -
True, cross-bearing, world-shattering,
Has only just begun.

Monday, April 02, 2012

'I don't do Easter' ?

A man I know - a life-long Christian - said last week that he 'doesn't do easter' and is taking the day off as a holiday.

What is going on?

Resurrection Sunday is the greatest day in all of history, the day when God's new creation bursts into the old, the day that reminds us that the tomb IS empty, and Jesus was and is truly King not only of Israel but over the whole cosmos as the Father raises him up from death through the earth-shattering power of the Holy Spirit.

Its the day that truly started our movement, The Way, the Messiah-People, little-Christs. No resurrection - no Christianity.

Take out the resurrection narratives from the Gospels and you have no New Testament.
If the story ends on Friday. Jesus is a pretender to the throne, a false Messiah, a false prophet, a fake.

Take out the resurrection and we are the most pitiable, pathetic, deluded people who ever walked the planet (1 Corinthians 15).

Resurrection Sunday is the day when the whole Church, more than any other day, more than any other Sunday for that matter, lets off a raucous roar of praise and worship, raising the rafters of every church building, worship hall, tabernacle, beach, park, housing estate and meadow and springs into action freshly energised by the life-giving power of the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.

And yet... there are Christians this week who are taking easter off...

Am I being legalistic? Am I withholding grace? Am I being judgmental?


I'm sure there are many good reasons for not gathering this next Sunday: and yet, there will be people who are earning less than 80 pence a day, people who have lost everyone in guerilla attacks, people who have just been diagnosed with cancer, women who are abused by those who claim to love them, men who are reforming alcoholics and drug-dealers who will somehow, be able to bring themselves to be a part of that raucous praise party, celebrating the fact that Jesus is alive.

Maybe they won't all get into a 'church building', but wherever they are, they are going to worship Jesus and share his Good news with those around them.

And maybe that's what disturbs me most - It's not that some Christians won't be stepping foot into a church building... it WOULD be narrow-minded to think that its only inside the cathedral that God will be found...

Millions of people will be worshipping God this Sunday as they waterski, go for picnics, speak to prostitutes, cradle their sick child, and to all of those people I raise my glass of Shloer...

But that there are people, like that man who are purposively taking the day 'off'...

Christians who just don't 'do Easter'...