God's always "hooking us," pulling us back: back to the Word, back to the Meal, back to the Font...back to the community.

This blog is for the purpose of sharing around each Sunday's Bible readings & sermon at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.

Get Sunday's readings here. We follow the Narrative Lectionary.
(In the summer, we return to the Revised Common Lectionary' epistle or Second Reading here.)

So, what's been hooking you?

So, what's been hooking you?

Here you can...

Sunday, April 1, 2018

March 30 -- Good Friday

Friends in Christ.  Did you hear that?  They just laid Jesus in the tomb.  That means, it’s finished!  Christ gave up his Spirit, commending himself to God, commending himself to himself if we’re Trinitarians.  This happened, the scripture says, at 3pm.  No more Jesus on the cross this evening.  He was there for 3 hours this afternoon...and three whole worship services here at SVLC this week: on Sunday, last night and all afternoon today.  He’s down at last, and peacefully laying in the tomb!

So now, all we get to do is give thanks...in the garden.

Here’s what I’d call tonight: Tonight’s a “Passover garden party”.  It’s not a funeral reception after a death.  We’re not crying and telling stories about how great Jesus once was.  This is way different.  We know how this is going to turn out!  We know Jesus is going to rise from the dead.  Tonight we just get to linger around the empty cross.  Party in the garden… that is, give thanks and be together.  It is serious, yes, but it’s all good, here in the garden.  Welcome to the garden, friends!

The garden is important: It all started in a garden.  Way back in Genesis.  That’s where Christians understand the fall of humanity to have taken place.  So what better location to redeem humanity (on a cross) than in a garden?!  Lush green trees and plants and flowers everywhere.  (What a blessing that our SD hills are nice and green right now.)  Life, right there where the cross is. “Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified,” John says.  Powerful imagery, huh...

...but it’s a party, so that means excess:  More images!  You don’t just have one food item at a party, one drink offering, one friend.  Parties are about lots of good things.  We already have one powerful image: “the garden cross”.  But let’s pile another powerful image on!
Jesus is the Passover lamb!  This is unique to John’s Gospel.  In the other Gospels Jesus is celebrating the Passover himself.  [pause]  He’s around for it...in fact he completely re-defines it!  But he’s there, on Thursday evening in the upper room, right!

In John, Friday is the day of Preparation for the Passover (or Passover Eve) — the paschal feast/passover feast hasn’t happened yet...until Friday night.  The Day of Preparation — Friday/today in John’s Gospel — in the light of day, the priest would literally lead a lamb to the slaughter, and the priest would actually slaughter the lamb...in “preparation” for the Passover feast that night.  Here, Jesus is the lamb, the saving symbol — remember the Exodus story? — so that Death “passes over” the homes where the slaughterd lambs’ blood is painted on the doorposts.  Remember that back in Exodus?

It’s strange, kind of gory stuff for us today, I think.  But it’s the symbol that’s so powerful: here, Jesus himself is the lamb that saves us from death, and then (there’s more!) frees us all from slavery to the oppression of our sin.  Remember the Israelites safely passing through the Sea, escaping the murderous grip of the Egyptians?  That’s sin and death for us, through Jesus!  Because of Jesus we get safely past the jaws of death, and the grip of sin!

So theological!  Is your head spinning?

Here’s a modern image:  from baseball, of course.  Opening Day yesterday!  Perfectly timed for Holy Week illustrations.

You know what image I’m going to use from baseball for this Good Friday in the Gospel of John?

The sacrifice bunt!  Jesus gives himself up to get us home safe.  It’s like we’re on third base, and Jesus squeeze bunts us in!

Jesus brings us home this evening!  And ask any ball player: crossing that plate is the best feeling in the world.  That’s why Good Friday is so good: We’re safe!  We’re free.  We’re alive.  And Jesus, while he just got called “out” isn’t out for good.

This is Love Divine.  Divine sacrificial love.  Baseballs just an image to help us.  Jesus is love divine gushing out for you and for me and for this whole world this night.  Jesus love us — what’s not to love — but Jesus loves everyone.  Even all those people we fail to love!  

Now, having encountered this love — all we can do is give thanks, and turn outward and share it.  First we share our prayers for everyone in the world...

We have this longer prayer tonight, called the Bidding Prayer, because God’s love is so overwhelming, we can’t HELP but turn outward now and pray for every single person and thing in the whole world.  And that’s just the start of our love for them.  We’re not stopping with “thoughts and prayers.”  Jesus washed the feet of his betrayers and told us to do likewise…
We pray too for our enemies and then we wash their feet.  That’s the kind of Divine Love we follow and try to model our lives after.  

So we pray for everyone because God’s love is so overwhelming.  And finally, because God’s love is so overwhelming, we can’t HELP but come bask in the glory of the rough-hewn cross this evening.  Just linger and sing and pray and sit together and give thanks.
To the world, this cross is ugly foolishness.  But to we who are being saved, to we who have been saved, it is the beautiful power and wisdom of God!

This is a GOOD FRIDAY.  THIS IS A GREAT FRIDAY!  Jesus just bunted us home safe.  Thanks be to God.  AMEN.

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