Good Friday April 10, 2020
Scripture: Mark 15: 33-40
This sermon may be disconcerting for some as it confronts some statements of faith that are entrenched in our society. (Disclaimer – lol) My intention is to bring hope.
Good Friday is a very important day for me. It demonstrates the power of real commitment of Jesus. It demonstrates the power of love.
We often hear the words that “Jesus died for our sins,” especially on Good Friday. It is found in hymns, poems and art. I do not believe that statement to be true. I believe that Jesus died because he loved us. He loved the human race.
Years ago I published an article in the United Church Observer with a title “Jesus didn’t die for our sins – he died because of them” The editor said she had never got so much hate mail about anything in her life. I will copy from that article (Which I found out recently that it is being used in theology colleges, but I am not sure how. LOL)
I cannot believe that Jesus was sent by his father (God) to be cruelly tortured and become a blood sacrifice, to pay back a debt that Adam and Eve owed to the same God. If anyone in our society killed their own child for any reason we would have difficulty with that person. There is an exception, which people sometimes quote. It is a story about a railroad worker who sees his son on the tracks with a train coming. He has a choice to divert the train off the track, kill the people and save his son or let the train run over his son and save the people. This story has been used to say that God killed his son to save the people. The problem with that is that the railroad worker didn’t send his son out to the tracks. If a parent set up any situation to have their child killed, we would charge them with murder. I have difficulty worshipping a god who would orchestrate the death of a child.
The theology that this idea comes from goes back to the Creation Stories. The two creation stories have major differences (like the order of creation) and incongruences, (like who created the wives for Adam and Eve’s sons?) but both end with a story where the first couple get tempted by a talking snake. Because they are weak and fall for the deception of a speaking reptile, they eat from the tree of knowledge (there is no mention of an apple) and God gets angry.
God then condemns the human race to pain and death. God then holds onto this grudge for thousands of years until Jesus comes along. Even though in the Old Testament God tells his people he no longer wants blood sacrifices (Psalm 51:16) and especially human sacrifice, ( God prevents Abraham from killing Isaac his son) Apparently with Jesus, God changes views and demands a human blood sacrifice.
It may seem that I am being harsh on this theology but I believe it has done tremendous damage to our understanding of God and the way we treat each other. It also does much damage to Jesus’ commitment if he is merely a pawn in a cosmic argument.
There are other difficulties with this theology. The first is that because Jesus “died for your sins” you must now accept him as your saviour or you will spend an eternity is some type of fiery torture chamber. (Dante basically came up with this idea). The problem is that billions of people don’t qualify. What about the people who lived before Jesus? What about the people who never had exposure to Christianity? What about people who are too young or don’t have the mental capacity to understand the concept? Are all these people condemned through no fault of their own? We are told that everyone is a child of God but it seems that some are outcast simply because of where, when or how they came into this world.
Some churches have come up with bandage solutions to this while others merely state that if you aren’t with us you are condemned. It leads to a lot of judgementalism and prejudice.
Another concern is the type of image that this portrays of God? Jesus says to us that we should forgive 70 times 7, which is another way of saying always. Apparently God cannot forgive. God’s bottom line is not forgiveness and love but rather violence and revenge. If you don’t agree with God then all hell breaks loose – literally. We have been raised with the statement “God is love” yet this theology denies it.
That has repercussions in our social dynamics. The bottom line in our world is violence. After all if God’s bottom line is violence then ours will be too. By saying that God needs a blood sacrifice to right the wrongs, we are stating that love and forgiveness are not the most powerful forces.
During this pandemic I have heard people state that this is God’s punishment, for many different “social sins”. Strangely it turns out that it is never punishment for something they agree with.
A few years ago when we had the tsunami, I heard from some that it was the punishment for those people who were not Christian. I asked about a cathedral in the 1800’s that had been demolished by a tsunami while the people were in Christian worship. The answer was that they were not the right kind of Christians. It’s very handy if you worship a god who is going to punish everyone you disagree with.
We don’t need God to punish us when we do bad things. We can do a fine job of that ourselves. When we abuse our bodies, they will break down. When we abuse the earth, it will be destroyed. If we lie and cheat in our relationships, they will end. That is not God punishing us but rather the repercussions of our actions.
I believe that Jesus laid down his life of his own accord. Matthew 26: 52-54 He says “Do you not know I could call and my father would send legions of angels to protect me.” As he approached that time he prayed “My Father, If it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want” As with any person facing a dire and fearful moment, he wanted a different solution. He realised that given the world in which he lived there was no other solution. He had reached the point of no return. If he backed down now, all he had preached and done would be lost. If you stand up for something you truly believe in, you know there is a point of no return.
So why did this theology develop? It developed because it was safe for the institutions of power. When you look at the life of Jesus, you realise he was a rebel. He fought against authority whenever he felt it was wrong. He challenged the church and the government. He challenged the wealthy and the status quo. He challenged power. That became a problem after the church became the most powerful force in the world. The only way to maintain “Christianity” and power was to move Jesus’ focus into the next life. In reality Jesus rarely speaks of life after death. His directives were all about helping people now; feeding, caring, sharing, forgiving, and loving.
If we believe God to be a judge who would kill his own son – for the sins of some couple, then it is very difficult to turn to that God on Good Friday or on any day when we have been struggling. How can we turn to a god who would inflict pain and death, whether it is this pandemic or some personal grief?
If we realize that Jesus died because he truly loved and wanted, the human race to live in freedom; if we realize that he died because he really believes that love is more powerful than anything else; not to pay back some cosmic debt, then we realize that the Spirit of God walks with us through all our good and bad. God was not satisfied by the death of his son, God was saddened.
I believe that the God of love is always with us and encourages us to live fully.
God, on this day we recognize and remember the love that Jesus has for us. As we walk through difficult times, we recall his commitment to make our lives better, even at the cost of his own.
As we feel isolated, we feel his loneliness on the cross,
As we feel hurt, we become familiar with his pain,
As we feel useless, we understand his feeling of failure,
As we feel cheated of opportunities, we realize he was only 33.
As we cry out in anguish, we hear his fear of being forsaken.
Yet God, we know your Spirit walks with us. We know you share our pain. We know there is a resurrection. Christ rose and we will too.
Sermon on Pilgrimage for April 5
A website has been created for the Sixth Line Cemetery.
Nantyr Shores Secondary School received a $1500. grant from the United Church of Churchill and Lefroy!
I knew that her car was reasonably new so I went over to see what the problem was.
This shop was part of a chain. The man in the front office explained that her transmission was about to fall out of the car. I requested to see it.
After much angry hesitation he showed me the defect. It was a slightly worn rubber grommet, through which a wire was running. It had nothing to do with the transmission and was in no way unsafe.
As I left the premises, after explaining my disgust at their attempt to rip off an older woman, the man turned to her and said: “Well, I guess if your minister doesn’t care if your transmission falls out and you are pole-vaulted to your death on the 401, why should I care?
He tried desperately to instill fear in her so he could control her.
We are seeing the same tactic being employed more and more by all avenues of life. Advertisers tell you to be afraid of home invaders and broken sidewalks, etc.
But the major concern I have is the emphasis lately to be afraid of other races and religions. We hear the word “terrorist” more and more. The more we become afraid the more we can be controlled.
Christ calls us to love our enemies and overcome fear with love. Christ calls us to be individuals and think for ourselves. Christ calls us to “Be Not Afraid”.
It is a challenge but it is the only way to raise ourselves and others to an abundant life.
By the time you read this article, Christmas will be over. Some things will remain, some won’t. Those that don’t remain are the batteries that did not come with the gift in the first place and because you had to buy them at the corner store they only lasted a few hours. The thing that will remain is the effect of the worst three words at Christmas: not “Oh how lovely” but “Some assembly required”.
That statement applies not only to Christmas but to the rest of the year. The god Janus in ancient Rome was the god of passages. He often sat midway in a door or gate, looking both directions. This two-faced god was not an indication of their awareness of bipolarism. Rather it symbolized that we look forward to new beginnings but also bring with us the baggage and experiences of the past. Those experiences are the building blocks of the assembly that is required.
When dealing with the baggage we need to know that first it is ok to question. We have physical, emotional, spiritual and mental accumulations. As we have grown, we have discovered that not all still apply or are useful but, we are afraid to part with them. Sometimes we are afraid because parting with issues leave us with empty bags and it’s scary to search for what is truly ours. Sometimes we have been ingrained with certain restrictions by society or individuals that have kept us limited. Science, religion, education, culture, parenting and even friends have all contributed to the luggage we carry. Some good and some bad.
It is also Ok to doubt. It is Ok to realize that others have not lived your life. It’s your life not theirs. It’s fascinating at weddings to watch and see who is trying to control the situation other than the bride and groom. I always tell them “It’s YOUR wedding. Do what you want.” Same with life.
Some toys like the old model planes come with instructions and while you assemble them, they have your attention. However once they are assembled, you put them on a shelf and occasionally view them. Some toys have endless possibilities. They are the ones that can be reassembled in many different ways. They are the ones that keep your attention. The more you reassemble your life, the more fascinating it becomes.
Finally, look ahead at the New Year as an opportunity. If there is baggage that is holding you back; let it go. Look back at it and watch it disappear in the mists of time. Then turn your head toward the newness and discover who you are and who you can be.
Some assembly is still required.
A first blog on a new website and Christmas is coming. If I put those thoughts together it could sound like the beginning of a bad joke.
Hopefully what I write isn’t a bad joke although I am sure that at times you will hope for a punch line.
There is a similarity between these two seemingly remote ideas. It can be summed up in the word “new”.
When the idea of computers, websites, etc., was introduced there was great resistance by many. For some it was the dawning of a new era and great possibilities. It represented new ways to search out and view the world. For others it was a threat to all they had learned.“Why do we need something new?” was often the cry.
That similarity extends to Christmas and the present day churches as well.The birth of Christ represented a new and in some ways different understanding of God. The established church of the day was being challenged. The church of today is being challenged. In recent years there has been tremendous change and challenge to the traditional understanding of God and Jesus.
In the Churchill and Gilford churches we no longer subscribe to a fear-based religion but rather a love-based one that welcomes all. As we welcome Christ at this Christmas time let us also welcome the opportunity to search out old and new meanings of our church and our faith.
Merry Christmas, Glen