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The Empty Cross? Sermon - Good Friday 2013

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Sermon delivered to Christ Church Lutheran
March 29, 2013 - Good Friday

"The Empty Cross?" - Text from John 18:1-19:42 

 You should listen to the delivered sermon. The text is provided below for convenience, but as with any delivered sermon, I go off the text as the spirit leads me. 

Just this morning I got onto the BART train on the way here and listened to an altercation between a man in a wheelchair and another man who was carrying his backpack on his back, completely unaware that it was in the face of the other man. I have to admit, it annoys me as well when trains get crowded and people fail to realize that carrying their backpacks creates more of a sense of crowdedness. Although the backpacked man moved an the other wouldn't let it go, persisting in commentary about how rude others are. He was in the place of a disabled person in a world of able privilege, and ready to challenge anyone who would get in the way of his entitlement. Of his victimhood.

But now, the abled man told the other to "take it easy", which geared up the disabled man three levels up. He said, "What are you going to do, beat me up?" The able bodied man, seeing that he had no possible way out backed off, and then got off one station later, and broke the dialogue, he probably was not expecting that his day would start this particular way. And I know if I were him, I'd be feeling a bit oppressed by the sitaution, someone yelling at me for an innocent mistake, my not being able to say anything in return. I'd feel somewhat the victim.

"Take it easy." We have other platitudes that everyone is familiar with. "Don't sweat the small stuff." "life is too short." "Get off the cross."

I'm not immune to these things. I was having this conversation online. I was helping a friend change her profile picture to one of a political nature. Once she had done so, another friend of hers made snide comment disparaging to her political perspective, and having been drawn into threads with this individual before, I offered my own viewpoints about trolls returning to their place under bridges.

It was not not go so far as saying it was a productive conversation or that I was entirely healthy in my approach to the conversation, but I certainly believed I was on the right side of the topic. My political perspective was about individual freedom and no, I wasn't really name-calling because troll is an internet term relating to the very behavior he was demonstrating. I had politics on my side as well as context. So I was righteous. Or maybe self-righteous, I'm not sure, but in response to his sudden sense of victimhood, I said this: "Get off the cross, someone else is already there."

And this person responded to me, "That cross is empty. My savior has been resurrected."

Now, I have my mind set on Holy Week, and of course I want to think about this literally, no, the resurrection doesn't happen until this coming Sunday; but that's church time. Out there, we live in the real world. But the truth is, that :cross is not empty. That cross is never empty. Jesus is ruling from that cross. And to try to place ourselves onto it is to make ourselves immune from criticism, from admitting that we are in need of the risen savior.

Of course, I do this. I find myself trying to hang on the cross as much as I see other people do it. But I can't. There's no room for me on the cross. We can only have one Christ. Because whether or not we want to live in the resurrection of our Lord, we have to remember that Christ conquered death at the crucifixion!

We've come a long way to get to this point. Jesus has come a long way to arrive at this point in his ministry. Three years of ministry, thirty-three years of life on earth. Eons since the fall of man. Death has been holding domain over mankind in all that time.

But now Jesus hour is come. Earlier in the gospel of John, in Chapter 11, Jesus is weeping for his friend Lazarus because death has taken him. Jesus doesn't weep for his own fate but the fate of someone else. Jesus has his own fate well under control. The entire gospel reading of John is one of control and direction, leading us down the passion store to a foregone conclusion. Jesus takes on death, and is victorious over it.

Death is vanquished! Jesus Christ, death's mortal enemy, has, in climbing aboard that cross willingly, conquered death so that it no longer has power over any of us. This is the good news of the text from John, that death no longer has power over humanity.

The cross belongs to God, not man. This is the cross on which Jesus Christ took on death to defeat death and the devil. Humankind, on its own, is completely and utterly powerless over the tendrils of death. For an indeterminable length of time, since the dawn of humankind, death was the guiding force in human life. Each and every human being, every tiny little spark of life had been snuffed out in a moment, every accomplishment, every relationship, every thought, every feeling, every little mote of identity, gone as simply as the snuffing of the flame of a candle.

We were dead. It mattered not that we were born, moving around in our lives from birth to childhood to adulthood to old age, that we farmed our fields and hunted our game and tended our flocks and sold our goods and managed our households, and created our laws and balanced our books. Learning and growing and finding love and joining in happiness and making families; providing for those families.

We were still dead, breathing and thinking and walking dead, because that was the inevitable conclusion to our lives, our bodies would simply stop breathing, pumping blood in our veins, our brains would shut down and our mortal flesh sent to the grave. And no matter how we tried to preserve the dead bodies of those that had passed away before, The cold deep mud of the earth eventually reduced our flesh to nothing more than mulch to be ground up and fed to worms and roots, ocean and molten lava.

That is the state of mankind to which Jesus was sent. A humanity held sway by a power of hopelessness and dismay; of an ending so certain and tragic.

Now, with the victory of Jesus Christ, every individual has been given a golden opportunity to life everlasting. In rising to the cross, Jesus Christ has defeated death once and for all so that we can live. We are no longer at death's command, Jesus has given us a new and wonderful life everlasting.

So when we want to claim the resurrection as our own, we have to remember to live in the crucifixion, the moment in time when the Lord, our god has defeated sin, death and the power of the devil; the moment in time that our new life has begun, the moment of time that we have lived for, in our past, our present and our future. This new life is ours, because he has risen and defeated death from the cross, by virtue of the cross.

We have been at subject to the oppression forced upon us by the power of death, and Christ has rescue from the restraints of bondage, torn off the chains that have bound us to death. Christ has been on the cross to defeat the darkness, so we don't have to climb aboard it.

We can sit at the feet of the cross, giving it our honor and praise, glorifying what it has done for us. We can bow before it, adoring it and giving thanks. And we will join him in his kingdom, while he rules over it and creation, from that cross. Because only he, our almighty and powerful, all-knowing and ever-loving God, in the son, Jesus Christ, could ever have defeated Death.


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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on March 29, 2013 6:16 PM.

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