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Good Friday - Come and See
Series: So That You May Come to Know the Truth — Gospel of Luke
Leader: Rev. David Thomas
Scripture: Luke 22:47-62, Luke 23:13-25 , Luke 23:26-43, Luke 23:44-49
Date: Apr 7th, 2023
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There are loud voices around us a lot of the time.  They cry out different things.  Luke tells us about loud voices in our story that are crying out for Jesus’ death.  These voices prevail.  Luke also tells us of a different voice – the voice of a King which cries out loudly.  Let the voice of Jesus drown out all other voices on this day.  Let our ears be attentive to what he is saying. Let our eyes take on the scene as we stand with his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee.  We’ve been following him from Galilee through these weeks of Lent since we heard him introduced by his cousin John.  Since we heard the opening words of his mission in that synagogue in his hometown. 

Let us stand at a distance in the same way that others have stood at a distance in Jesus’ story and in the stories he has told.  Let it be out of humility like that despised tax collector who stood far off, beating his chest and crying out, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.”  Let it be out of fear as it was for Peter, who followed his arrested teacher at distance after his arrest.  What might it cost me to follow this man?  What might this man demand of me?  Let us remember how we heard that forgiveness was on hand in this kingdom of which he spoke.  Let us remember his words about going and doing mercy with; about sitting and listening at his feet.  Let us remember how he was turning convention and expectation upside down.  Let those words echo – good news to the poor, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed, liberty for the captive, the year of the Lord’s favour.

Favour?  How can we talk about the Lord’s favour on a day like this?  It is a heavy day. We’re familiar with heavy days though if we’ve been around for any significant length of time.  If we haven’t – know that you will know them.  Let us be honest about this.  Let us not miss this day.  Let us never go from the triumph of Palm Sunday to the triumph of Easter Sunday as if life, we're all about going from triumph to triumph.  At least what we might consider our triumphs.  Not even life in Christ.  Not even life with Christ.

Life with Christ was never about us.  Let the words of Jesus shock us out of the belief that life is a movie with us in the starring role.  I’m not talking about giving in to self-doubt or undermining ourselves.  I’m talking about life lived as we have been created to live it – following this man who talked about his followers taking up their cross every day.  Dying to overriding self-interest/self-regard/self-absorption.  Look at the man from Cyrene called Simon actually doing it.  Let us stand far off and we watch and listen, and we see and hear the way of the cross.  The way of the cross leads home is a hymn we used to sing when I was younger.  The way of the cross leads home.  How can we call this day “Good”?  It’s perhaps the biggest paradox of all.  Someone has said that the cross is, at the same time, the most terrible event in human history and the most to be cherished because without it redemption would be impossible.  This paradox – the ugly and ignominious (and shameful and public and dehumanizing) death of the innocent Son of God becomes also an object of devotion and reverence because it is through the cross that we are brought home.  It is through the cross that we are invited to places at the table. 

See Simon from North Africa put into action what Jesus as spoken about.  Taking up his cross.  Following in the way of death. Dying to self and, in so dying, finding life.  Freedom in servitude.  Who would have thought?  What a marvellous mystery and one that isn’t to be explained but to be lived and known.    

Hear the voices calling out – Save yourself!  What kind of King is this?  Isn’t ruling supposed to be all about self-interest?  Isn’t ruling supposed to be about taking care of oneself and one’s family and friends and good luck to everyone else?

The irony here of course, is that Jesus is doing nothing but saving.  What kind of king is this?  Hear Jesus' words as he dies in the same way that he lived – praying, in loving communion with his father.  “Father, forgive them; for they know not what are doing.”  Forgiving so that we might be brought into loving communion with God, creator of all things through Jesus, the author of life and in the Spirit who delighted and rejoiced as all things were made.  Creation itself will go dark on this day.    

Before that, let us hear the voices of those who are dying on either side of him.  The choice that is always before us is mocking and scoffing and derision or adoration and trust.  Hear the words, “We are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Let us hear those words and be thankful. 

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  “According to your steadfast love, remember me…O Lord,” sang the Psalmist.  “Look on the misery of your servant and remember me,” prayed Hannah.  “Please remember me, O God,” prayed Samson.  Jesus, remember me. Not simply a prayer that God would call us to mind but that our lives would be touched by the living God.  A prayer which is accepting of Jesus' invitation to his kingdom (to his table), which is coming and which is here.  A prayer recognizing that to be saved is to live in the presence of God in a kingdom which goes beyond space and time or even life or death. 

Hear the words that Jesus repeats from the Psalmist.  Words of trust and union.  “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.”  Listen to the words of the Psalm and let us make this our prayer today – “In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.  Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake, lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”

Let us stand afar off and watch but do not let us stay afar off.  Let us come near this place of grace and mercy today together.  Let us proclaim his death together.  Not a life that was taken.  Not a life that was lost.  A life that was given so that all may know life and light.  May God give us all accepting hearts this Good day.