Sermon for Tenebrae

Here is my sermon for Good Friday Tenebrae.  Too much law, you say? Par for the course on Good Friday, don’t you think.  And don’t worry, hardly any law at all in the Easter sermon.

The excuses we come up with for sin.  The rationalizations.  Our hearts are just as good at coming up with reasons why we aren’t guilty for sin, as we are at sinning.  Just like Adam and Eve, who saw that the fruit was good for food, that it was desirable to make them wise.  No really, God, it’s a good thing that I am doing this.  Sure you say I shouldn’t, but if I don’t, I won’t be as wise.  I won’t be well fed, I won’t be as happy. I won’t be as fulfilled.  There are all sorts of reasons.  And they are good ones too.  There are the psychological reasons: I am only reacting to fears that I have because of events in my past.   There are practical ones: I am only doing this because doing it any other way would be more difficult or expensive.  There are even theological ones: The more I sin, the more I appreciate the grace and mercy of God.

There are innumerable reasons to justify your sin.  And if you want, you can think of a thousand of them.  It’s not all that hard.  Rest assured, you are not responsible.  It’s  – – OK.  You are still a good person.

And even when the rationalizations fail, don’t worry, just feel sorry about what you did.  That makes it ok, doesn’t it?  I try and feel badly about what I’ve done, think a few religious thoughts, and then poof, the sin is gone.  I’m ok now, and I can move on.  I can do the most important thing – forgive myself.  That’s the important thing, isn’t it? Can you move on.  Are you feeling ok about yourself.

Lie piles upon lie, and we convince ourselves that the lies are true.

But then, Good Friday comes along.  Now we have a problem.  It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.  On Good Friday, we’ve got a body.  And it won’t go away.  Oh yes, we have a savior.  But on Good Friday, we have a dead savior.

You can ignore your sin all year long.  You can rationalize it, you can explain it away.  But on Good Friday, you can’t ignore it anymore.  Because Jesus is dead.  The blood and water poured out into the ground, and His body hanging lifeless on the tree.  You can’t ignore this.

You can mock it.  You can stand with those who hurled the insults.  Jesus isn’t really the Son of God.  He couldn’t have been what was claimed.  No one can do the things he claimed to have done.  The newspapers and TV’s this time of year are filled with ways to explain away the myth of Jesus.  And you can certainly go that route.

You can take offense at it.  You can say, Isn’t God just a big old meany.  Giving us all these rules to make our lives miserable, then blaming us when we try and have a little fun.  And look at what he does to his own son.  Who would do such a thing.  That’s not for me.

Mock, take offense if you will, but ignore is not an option.  No one who walked by the cross that day could ignore what they saw.  Even today, a society that is increasingly secular, increasingly “spiritual without being religious” must stop and pause to explain away the events of this day.  You can’t ignore the body.  You can’t ignore what he did.  You can tell lies about it.  But on this day your sin hits you.  Having spent the year ignoring it, explaining and rationalizing it away, today ignoring your sin is no longer an option.  And the explanations and rationalizations fall flat as you look at the dead king.

Because today it is clear.  Your sin has consequences.  There is no sin that does not hurt another.  You may not see it.  You may not like to admit it.  But on this day, you see the suffering and pain your sin causes Jesus.  Today you see the result of sin.  The wages of sin is death.  Today you look upon death in all its shameful gore.  We like to dress death up.  We embalm, we make up, and fix up and cover up, and dress up the dead.  Today you see the bruises, you see the cuts, the welts, the torn flesh.  Today you see what death really is.  Even those who despised him walked away beating their breasts for shame.

Today as the darkness closes in, as the mouth of the grave opens to receive its latest victim, you can no longer ignore your sin.  If this can happen to the sinless Son of God, the one in whom the Father is well pleased, what will happen to those who by their sin are his enemies?

But appearances are deceiving.  The death is not the result of a capricious God, but a loving God, who in love sent his son to be your savior.  Jesus is dead because of his love for you.  The grave is not his final resting place.  The darkness signals the time for him to take his rest in the tomb, before he is raised up.  Yes, it is your sin that drove him to the cross.  But you can not hold on to that sin.  You must place it on him, and let his death swallow the sin.  Let him take it away.

We walk to the grave in hope.  The ugliness of death reigns this evening.  But we hope for the resurrection.  The light does not go out.  It is simply removed for a few moments.  It returns.  We wait for the dawn to break.  For the savior to return.

We have made this journey ourselves with loved ones.  We know that the grave is unrelenting.  That death does not give up it’s dead.  That the cemetery is the end of things.  But we go there in hope, because things are not what they seem.  And they are made different by what our Savior did this day.  We wait for the resurrection.  The resurrection of our Lord on Easter, the resurrection of all flesh when our Lord returns in glory.  We wait for the day when death is finally dead, when our sin is no more.  For the day when we see the wounds of our crucified savior.  For the day when we see in all its fullness the salvation that we only taste in this world.  We wait. Amen.

 

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