At the edge of the abyss

A sermon for Good Friday

Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22:1-11, Hebrews 10:16-25, John 18:1-19:42

It is finished: three years of ministry, three years of teaching, healing, and signs of power. It is finished: three years of increasingly tense encounters with Jewish authorities. It is finished: arrest in the dark of night, the all night trials before Annas, Caiaphas, and Pilate, and Peter’s denials. It is finished: the mocking abuse of soldiers and police, the Jews desire for the release of Barabbas – Bar – Abbas: son of – father. It is finished: the Jews’ proclamation they have no king but the emperor, and crucifixion on a cross. It is finished.

It is finished Jesus, the intenerate rabbi from Nazareth is dead. Two marginal, mostly secrete followers, remove the body, prepare it with myrrh and aloes, wrap it in a linen cloth, and place it in a tomb. It is finished. There is nothing left to do; the messianic hope is gone; the promise of restoring the House of David is vanquished, the potential of glory is lost, the ring of Hosanna has dissipated, It is finished. There is nothing left to do. The hopeless stand at the edge of the abyss, they ponder ~ what’s next; all their bearings are gone; they’ve no clue how to orient themselves.

I recall the moment our landlord, justifiably, pulled our lease. Plateau Gymnastics was gone. I may well have thought It is finished! I know I stood at the edge of the abyss. I knew what was next: the myriad detail of closing a business. Still, I was lost, unable to find my bearings. It is finished. There is nothing left to do. The edge of the abyss is terrifyingly real. ‘Nothing’ is an all-consuming experience.

Some of you have similar experiences; unexpected death, unanticipated diagnosis of severe illness, job loss, financial collapse, the failure of a long perused dream or ideal. You know the feeling; it is finished!  There is nothing left to do! Today we recall the moment when all creation knew it is finished! When all creation knew there is nothing left to do! Today we recall the moment the cosmos stood at the edge of the abyss. We bring our collection of  it is finished experiences with us. Through these experiences we connect with the cosmic moment.

I expect all of us want to move on. We have this urge to swap stories of how we moved on; or not. We have the desire to tell each other “It will be alright.” never knowing, or saying what ‘alright’ is. None of us – none of us is eager just to be just to exist at the edge of the abyss, when everything is done, when there is nothing left to do.

But that is exactly where we are. It is exactly where we should be. The cross shaped abyss, like some divine black hole, strips us naked, sucking away all pretense of: glory, power, wealth, position, privilege, success, accomplishment, knowledge, wisdom, wit, piety, and righteousness, it sucks away all pretense ~ until it is finished; there is nothing left: ~ except ~ ourselves ~ our souls and bodies just as God created us.

My hunch is~ we should stay here awhile. My hope is~ we will. My prayer is~ we can.



Divine Discomfort

This week our Ministerial Alliance holds noon time services that includes a light lunch, inviting people to prepare for Easter in the midst of their daily lives. Every day we hear from a different preacher, in a different church (not the preacher’s),  are inspired by different music and are served an interesting variety of  simple lunches.  It is church as I expect we should be a multitude of people with widely varying religious beliefs joining to hear differing perspectives, everyone respecting the other.

Today is Maunday Thursday and if your observation is focused on Jesus establishing Eucharist, or Foot washing there is an element of the unexpected, a surprise that begins to reshape the disciples understanding of who Jesus is; and it is uncomfortable.

May your day be blessed by those who experience faith is different than you, so that your faith may be unexpectedly expanded, especially if it begins in divine discomfort.



Evenets of last week

I know it’s Holy Week and expectations are postings to be in that realm; however, the events of last week bear sharing.

Late Tuesday evening (last week) I received a phone call for chaplaincy help at a grizzly industrial accident. In listening to the people involved, particularly one person at the accident site, I heard “There is no job here that isn’t dangerous.

Wednesday morning the Ministerial Alliance meet the newest police recruits. They introduced themselves to us; we in turn introduced ourselves to them. Every pastor thanked them for placing themselves in harm’s way, that we might live safer lives.

Saturday afternoon I presided at the Burial rite of a much beloved man. The church was packed far beyond anything I’ve witnessed before. At the reception I had a conversation with the deceased’s brother in law, who is an intriguing person. He was an officer commanding a nuclear submarine off the coast of Norway during the Cuban missile crisis. He mentioned thinking about family as they waited. Yet another incident of people who put themselves and their families in harm’s way so we can live safer, better lives.

These are but three examples of many ways many people give of themselves (literally) for others, for us. I wish it wasn’t so; however, it is and I am thankful for their response to calling. It gets me to thinking of how the church might be about the work of creating time and space in which all God’s people and live safer, better lives, all the time. Maybe this something to say about Holy Week after all.