Good Friday

I forgot how powerful Good Friday is for people. Whenever I am standing in front of a congregation on Good Friday I don’t expect to see people weeping.  But do feel a sense of sadness every time I read the passion story — even though I have read the stories a million times.

But each time I read the passion story I am caught off guard when the same people who shouted “Crucify him!” had joyously hailed his entrance into Jerusalem just a few days earlier. What could explain such a drastic change of heart?

There were undoubtedly many factors at play, and each person who joined in the shouting had his or her own reasons. But I’ve often thought that, at least for some of them, they were lashing out in anger—an anger driven by fear and disappointment. When they saw him enter Jerusalem they recognized him as the long-awaited King, and thrilled at the ideas of what his kingship might involve—maybe peace? Prosperity? Riches? Surely it would mean that life would somehow be easier and more comfortable for everyone. And when they saw the Lord’s seeming powerlessness in the custody of Pilate, they were crushed. Because what they had wanted more than anything—a decrease in earthly suffering—had not come to pass. In fact, the One who was supposed to make it happen was about to experience the worst kind of suffering in the world. And I believe that this fear and hatred of suffering is what was behind at least at least some of the cries calling for Jesus’ punishment.

This same fear of suffering is at the heart of so many of the scourges that plague the modern world. When suffering is seen as the worst evil, even worse than death, it opens the door for all sorts of malevolent ideas. Euthanasia is seen as necessary. Eugenics starts to look reasonable. Suicide doesn’t seem so bad. Contraception and sterilization appear to make life better. Abortion can even be touted as a compassionate choice for the children who are being killed, on the grounds that they might have experienced suffering had they lived. A terror of suffering always leads to death, whether it’s killing ourselves, our unwanted people, or even our Messiah.

This is why the world needs Good Friday. I don’t just refer to the great act that took place on this day, that reconciled us to God once and for all—that part goes without saying. But the world needs this commemoration of it, a day set aside to focus on the figure of Christ crucified. Because it is there, on the cross, that we learn that suffering is not the worst evil. It is there that we see the shocking truth that we do not suffer alone, that God himself suffers with us. And it is there that we come to understand that our suffering is now bearable, because it has been redeemed.

Pop Song, Thoughts, Psalm

Losing my Religion by REM

Every whisper
Of every waking hour I’m
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no I’ve said too much
I set it up

Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I’ve said too much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

When I was looking through I tunes I this song stood out at me. Reflecting on the end of my second year at seminary.  I am getting ready for internship, moving, ending my job at Good Shepherd as their youth director, and whatever else might pop up in the next couple of months.

I feel like this is somewhat of a dream, I feel that we have to choose our confessions — what we believe in and proclaim it to the world. No matter how much seminary thinks they prepare us, in the end we are not going to have our professors to fall back on. Or as I like to say to have the “theological gods looking over our sholders” it is going to be on us. That excites me but scares me as well.

Lastly, I think that this experience they call seminary has brought me too my knees. I have felt every kind of emotion and I have been humbled by the whole experience. I have done things I never thought I could do, and other things I wish I never did. But in the end I am on my knees thanking God, cursing God and being humbled by just a hint of God’s presence in my life.

I have been wrestling with this psalm for awhile and it just fits in with what I have been talking about:

Psa. 139

1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O LORD, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Slamball

John 2:13-25.  The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Slam Ball.

This is a basketball game unlike any other. It is basketball for the Millennium generation, with action that looks like one extended highlight clip after another. It’s full of instant dunks, instant air and instant gratification.

The secret: trampolines imbedded in the court, in front of the baskets.

A player named Sean Jackson, better known as “Inches,” is one of the new stars of this brand-new extreme basketball league. In Slam Ball, Inches is not limited by the normal constraints of the game — he can perform jaw-dropping 360 degree, through-the-legs, windmill jams. “It’s just like I dreamed about in street ball,” he tells The New York Times, “that I could do a certain dunk in midair, and the man I just dunked on was Michael Jordan.”

Slam Ball. It’s all about fulfilling dreams. It combines the flying freedom of a trampoline, the fantasy of stepping into a video game and the adrenaline rush of an extreme sport.

The game is played on a custom-made court that is 94 feet long and 55 feet wide, with baskets 10 feet high and four trampolines in the court in front of the baskets. Players wear soft helmets and body padding, since midair contact is allowed, and they concentrate their efforts on bouncing, leaping, hitting and dunking.

“Conceptually, it sounds like a wild and crazy and wacky idea,” says Mason Gordon, the creator of Slam Ball, “but when you put a bunch of sports into a blender, it works.” The players of Slam ball experience twenty minuets of chaos – Running around, shooting, jumping and colliding with one another.

In today’s gospel we hear Jesus stepping onto a different court during Passover, he steps onto the temple court in Jerusalem. However, the similarity is the chaos he finds within that court. Millions of people were coming to Jerusalem to get ready for Passover. Passover commemorates God’s liberation of the Israelites from Egypt, one of the greatest events in its history.

But instead of finding people preparing themselves spiritually for the event — Jesus found entrepreneurs selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others changing money at their tables. Upon finding this Jesus Made a whip of cords, he drove the sheep and the cattle out of the temple. He also pours out the coins of the moneychangers and overturns their tables, before saying; “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s houses a marketplace!” (John 2:13-16). Jesus did not want them to sell things in order to make a prophet in the temple. That would be like having a billboard sign in the front of our church advertising for Nike, or Pepsi or instead of our hymnals having a green, or blue cover they would be covered with stickers for different organizations in the community. It was not only about what they were doing but about how they were doing it…..the people selling were trying to take advantage of the travelers, they thought it was going to be easy to sell their items for high prices and no one would know the difference but Jesus knew.

This is a different side of Jesus. We are use to seeing Jesus acting very calm and holding his composure. But this is a different scene as well. If you can imagine yourself among the different business immersed in his surroundings. There are people running into one another there is yelling, selling perhaps crying or fighting. It probably seems like a mad house. There is no control by anyone — until Jesus steps in. Jesus takes control and drives the evil out of the temple.

Lent can be a time of reflection, preparation and the recognition of the wonderful things Jesus does for us in our lives, things that no matter what we do Jesus is going to continue to do. Also it is a time to think about the upcoming death and resurrection of Christ. But like the temple court and the Slam ball court we can find ourselves being push around and crashing in midair in the midst of chaos – we feel like we have no control over our lives. We get caught up in running between appointments, studying for tests, doing homework, taking care of the kids, paying the bills – we sometimes forget to take time for ourselves. We sometimes forget to give up our control and to let Jesus take control.

Lent is a time for us to sit back and remember the things that God has done for us in our lives – to remember the things that God has freed us from…..

When wee feel like we want to overturn the tables in our marketplaces, to start again – We hear God’s voice echoing from the Old Testament lesson “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;” But it is hard to accept that because we become so consumed in our day to day lives to really pay attention.

The season of Lent enables us to take a step back and to revaluate — I know for me this Lenten season I have taken the time for reflection – I have started an online journaling experience called a blog. I am attempting to write in my blog every day during lent. While some might find this cumbersome and restrictive, I have found it to be very refreshing and renewing. I have been able to reflect on the day, to see where God is acting in my life and somehow my life seems less chaotic and crazy.
One of my first entries I wrote, “I do not know what I am going to write about in here, I have always wanted to keep a journal, but I never know what to write. I guess we will see what comes out.” Two weeks later I realize how much I do write, how much I look forward to writing and finding that Jesus is in my daily actions and how much – without full knowledge am comforted by Jesus’ presence.

Others I know have Taken upon the ELCA “Here I Step” challenge which By walking two miles a day during the 40 days of Lent their journey the 80 miles from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth to the city of Jerusalem. For them it is also a time to escape the realities of the world and to spend their devotional time with God.

We are freed out of the love of God for us not by what we do or do not do. Our devotional time does not earn God’s favor but only enabling another way to see God’s love in our lives. A love that is there regardless if we do devotionals or not and A love that leads to freedom and salvation.

Freedom for us can be found in the Ten Commandments – before the Ten Commandments are given God freed the people from slavery…. God did not say to us here are your commandments and if you follow them THEN I will free you. Instead God said — I will free you, I choose you FIRST and I will give you eternal life…

God reinforces that God is the only true God; the God freed us and who has brought us salvation. That salvation came through Jesus – who when he was questioned about the destruction and resurrection of the temple Jesus shifts attention from the temple in Jerusalem, to the temple of his own body, which will be destroyed on the cross and then raised in three days.

For years, the temple has been the place of God’s presence on earth … but now, with the coming of Christ, the body of Jesus is where God is seen most clearly – after the resurrection of Jesus – through the eyes of the disciples and then passed down to us.

The freedom of slavery out of Egypt and the presentation of the Ten Commandments is like going to the Emergency Room…..
No matter who you are, where you come from, or what kind of insurance you have, you are always going to get treatment from the emergency room doctors. They are going to fix you and make you better, no questions asked. But there is a bill after the treatment, but insurance, like grace is there to pick up the bill.

Through the story of the overturned tables in marketplace we see another side of Jesus and we need to let Jesus’ full humanness sit within us.

Jesus didn’t get angry when he was tired, exhausted and all worn out. That is what we often do when we are tired and exhausted. When we do not have the time for ourselves….. But this was not the cause of Jesus’ anger.

Rather Jesus got angry when he saw injustice and irreverence. He got angry when he saw people charging outrageous prices for the animals and when he saw how people were desecrating the temple, God’s house. He got angry when he saw their lack of respect and lack of reverence.

When we are getting pushed around in our lives, for one reason or another, we too feel that anger, that frustration of lost control.

But this wasn’t the end of the story about his anger. We are suspicious that many of these same people who were in the temple selling goods at unjust prices were also at the cross on Good Friday, watching Jesus being crucified. Jesus prayed to God, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

In our busy social world of the twenty first century, it seems that the Presence of God is being moved to the margins and to the sidelines. Even within our temples, we have often forgotten how to pray to God but simply chat with other people seated around us, or to take on the demands of the world, demands that sometimes seem overwhelming, and forget about God.

It can be easy to forget that God’s love, and grace is always around us – God creates order in our lives that sometimes may seem chaotic like a game of slam ball —- and God first chooses us to be free from the bondage of slavery into eternal life – For it is not up to us to do anything to earn our salvation because it has already been given to us by the death of God’s son Jesus on the Cross.

Amen