Monday, April 5, 2010

Contemplate the Passion

Sermon Preached at the Noonday Devotion on Good Friday, April 2, 1020.

    Good Friday is a terrible day to preach.  We have the readings with their details of the Passion.  We have the great hymns of the Passion with their powerful poetic view to the suffering of Jesus.  We have the stark reality of an empty chancel and a rough wooden cross.  What can we say that will not distract from the visual image, the profound word picture of the Passion, the drama of suffering and death?  What can we say?
    For many of us our contemplation takes on the form of realization or awareness.  I did not know that crucifixion kills by asphyxiation.  I did not know that the nails were designed to keep the crucified from hoisting himself up to get a deep breath.  I did not know how many of the details were foretold in Scripture.  But this is not the contemplation which Jesus hopes from us as the story of His suffering and the details of His death are told.
    For many of us our contemplation takes on the form of sorrow or sadness.  Like when we hear the tragic story of sorrow our eyes will swell with tears and our hearts will ache for those who endured it.   But Jesus does not call us to sorrow or to sadness.  He does not expect from us eyes swollen from tears and hearts aching at the pain He endured innocently for the guilty.  This is not the contemplation which the our Lord expects or seeks from us as the people for whom He suffered and died.
    What then does God want of us who hear the story, whose minds paint the terrible picture of suffering, whose hearts ache with the pain of death?  Just one thing.  Faith.  The response that God seeks and the response that God expects and the response that the Holy Spirit works to engender in us and from us is simply faith – that we might trust in the Savior who suffered for us,
that we might have confidence in the death He died as our death and indeed the death of the whole world, that we might believe that this is the true and real story of redemption for you, for me, and for all people, and that believing we might benefit from and receive all the benefit of this suffering, pain, and death.
    The true worship of God is faith.  That is what St. Paul teaches us and what our Lutheran Confessions remind us.  So when you come to this cross, come not as the curious to discover its details or the spectators who watch its drama.  No, come with faith as those who see Him die the death that had YOUR name on it.... who see Him suffer for the sins that bear YOUR identification mark on them... who see Him endure it all not out of duty but out of His great and passionate love for YOU.  

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