Friday, March 21, 2008

How could a good God let...

(Good Friday, The service of Tre Ore)

Grace, Mercy, and Peace be to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

John 19:28-29
"After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth."

imageBeing a vicar, an intern studying for the pastoral office, I have yet to preach at a funeral. But today I feel like I am. Tonight, on Good Friday, God dies. In my appointed verse, God thirsts. When tragedy strikes, when things are grim, we ask, "How could a good God let evil happen in the world?" Either he is not powerful, or he is evil. He is weak, or is not good.

This is when the answer to that question shows itself the clearest: today,  on Good Friday, the final day of wrath that we call good. Good Friday. This is when God has death, letting sinfulness take him, so that we may be called good, that we have life.

The authors of the Gospels, especially Matthew, suggest that the forsaken suffering expressed in this verse was foreshadowed in the 69th Psalm.image

"I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink."

"Gall for food, and vinegar for thirst."

Hearing that their prisoner is thirsty, the grounds men find what is available: wine vinegar diluted with water, common refreshment for field hands and soldiers.  "Ah, so it is written that this is the King of the Jews? Well, well, beggars can't be choosers. He'll have a km_thirst_rayround of what the commoner orders up: sourness. Not on a chalice either, not in a cup, for his highness, but on a sponge.”  This is bitterness at its worst. Yet this is the best  we can offer God.

We offer up bitterness, while God rains life water on all the earth. God steps off a thrown... to dwell in flesh with us, to tabernacle among us. And on this cross is the appointed place and time, where the Christ was promised to die for our benefit.HandsJarWater

Dwelt… tabernacled with us. Please see the blessing in this curse. Please see God in this forsaken place.

Forty days in this Lenten desert, one does thirst for water. Look carefully where we find it. The Samaritan woman at the well was given living image water, so mid-day her shame will no longer drive her alone. Before  Lazarus was raised, Jesus wept. By Jesus' passion dead men walk again. The man born blind was healed by the sight-giving waters of Jesus mouth. He even washed in the Siloam pool filled by the abundance of God, cascading down to us from heaven Himself, rivers of life, flowing from the side of His throne lifted up, baptizing the guard and all in water and blood.

When blood and water separates, that is medically death, life no longer circulating, but settled. It is settled. It is finished.

1 John 5:6-8. “This is he who came by water and blood --Jesus Christ; not by water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.”

It is by His stricken thirst, that our thirsts are quenched. It is with His dying vapors, that we have living water.

AA man scooping sand, pouring sand down his throatnd it seems cruel, that while he's already hanging on a cross, we offer up to him more wood and more bitterness to satisfy His thirst. He does not need to be reminded of the bitterness he is taking for us. For it is already too vivid to behold. This is forsakenness, smitten by men who he came to serve; deserted by God ...that even the Holy Spirit Himself is breathed out and leaves this flesh cursed.

But He lets us know that He thirsts… maybe as a good reminder of how in our flesh we thirst. How in our place He has thirst, so we may thirst no image more. For if the Son of God is drying up, with His bones brittle, His blessings gone… now you may finally wonder, just where are those blessings now?

They are yours. He has given them up, so you may have it. God has been shunned so that you may receive all things good.

Today is Friday. Some are working for the weekend, looking forward to relax from a long week of hard work. Others are weak by hardly working. Really though, we all hardly work. Compared to this, this moment: when God is lifted up on cross, this is where His greatest work is accomplished. Not because of what He actively does, working hard… but because WHO does the work, passively. It is God who does the work. It is God who is dying.

The work week that began in Genesis chapter 1 had begun in darkness. But how did it end? The work week in Genesis wraps up today in Good Friday. In the beginning, God spoke, “Let there be Light,” so he separated the light from the darkness, the evening, the morning, the 1st day. God spoke and separated the heavens water drop a watery expanse, the 2nd day. God spoke again, and again, creating life from Word: vegetation on the 3rd day, seasons on the 4th day, creatures on the 5th day, and man on the 6th day. Here the 6th day, Friday, God made man, on the day man killed God. No wonder the number 6 is a curse word for numerologists. But is this 6th day, a curse word for us? Or is it a Friday we can call good? If on your lips we can call this day good, remember why: He who died.

image I’m preaching to you the words “I Thirst” shortly before Jesus breaths the final word, and let's His Spirit go. He thirsts in order to fulfill scripture, to show us that God's image promise is true. That the heel of Jesus will be bruised, but the snake's head is crushed. Especially important, when people would extol mother and vicar's above the One who is anointed head of the church.

We are evil. We are weak. God is good. God is powerful. God is a just God because punishment must be served when there is sin. God would not be a just God if he let sin go, unpunished. God is so powerful that even evil raging against Jesus serves his good purpose. God would not be powerful if he did not let this darkness swallow him into the ground, in order to destroy the grave. For all who believe in Him, this is a good Friday.

In the three hours of darkness, a storm has come and gone. The final day of the old creation is closing. The tempest swirling around us …is a darkness behind us. When He was thirsty, we gave Him our best: vinegar… bitterness for His thirst. When we are thirsty, He gives us living water at His great cost. Amen.