Friday, April 14th, 2017 – A Good Friday Sermon on the Gospel of John 18-19

You can listen to this sermon here.

Grace, peace, and mercy are yours from the Crucified Christ. Amen.

If you take a drive down 3rd street here, about three blocks or so, you’ll see the old Northfield Train Depot under construction. Many of us have watched over the past year as it has been uprooted from its old home on one side of the street, to its new, more prominent home on the other. No longer hidden behind buildings, but out there in the open for all to see. We’ve watched as workers have cocooned themselves underneath the depot each day in the winter months, building a new foundation for something I wasn’t sure would survive the process. But slowly but surely, like an injured human going through rehab, it is starting to stand up straighter. Its face is brighter and its color is starting to return.

And if you look closely, you can see a small yellow with black lettering sign right next to the building that says, Caution: Depot Being Saved. I slammed on the breaks the first time I saw it last week. Is that really what it says, Caution: Depot Being Saved. Not Caution: Depot Under Construction. Hard Hats Required? Not – Caution: Loose Soil. Watch Your Step. Not even – Caution: Depot Being Restored?

No, it says, Caution: Depot Being Saved.

Who knew salvation was so risky and needed to come with a warning sign.

I thought that could be a good sign for us this Easter weekend: Caution: Humanity Being Saved.

As we continue on this journey of the Great Three Days, today we walk to the cross. And we can try to make sense of it. We can try to explain it. Or better yet, we can just try to experience it with our bodies. To listen with ears and sing with our lungs the story of God’s death and our being saved through it. And to see what stands out to us in our particular moment in life. This is the story so many of us need. A God who suffers with us in our need.

Here is what stood out to me.

In a few moments, you will hear John Ferguson begin our Gospel reading this way, “After Jesus had spoken these words…”

That’s how it begins.

Which begs the question – which words? What did Jesus say right before we head into the passion story?

Well, he’s praying. And he finishes his prayer this way: Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me maybe in them, and I in them.

Those are the words. And it is immediately after those words, that Jesus and his disciples head out into the garden to meet the lynch mob looking for Jesus.

Whatever follows, whatever we’re about to hear, whatever we can hold onto and dare to digest…is for the sake of making God known to us. So that we would know God, and know that Jesus, and the love that God has for Jesus, are alive in you.

There are all kinds of moments in the story that will share this with us, but I want to draw your attention to one moment in particular. That moment at the foot of the cross, when Jesus is in the last moments of his death. Hanging there on the tree, looking through blood and sweat and pain and human cruelty and human shame and betrayal and sadness, he sees his mom.[1] And the one disciple who stuck around. And he says to his mother, “Woman,” and the gesturing with his eyes to the other disciple, “behold your son.” And to the other disciple, “Behold your mother.”

And immediately after that, Jesus says these words, “I am thirsty.”

I am thirsty. Most of us hear that as a sign of his humanness and his tortured death. But I think it is more.

A couple of weeks ago, some of us heard another story from the Gospel of John, about Jesus meeting a woman at the well. And there he said, “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” And the woman says to Jesus, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty.”

And he does.

But now Jesus is thirsty. Why?

Because in this moment, Jesus has finally, fully poured himself out for us. Giving the world all of the living water that was within him. And in doing so giving to us all that he has .

And the moment when that is complete – the moment he becomes thirsty, fully poured out of living water – is the moment from the cross when he creates in us a new human family. Giving up his seat at the family table, offering his chair to this beloved disciple who is unnamed (maybe because your name belongs there).  “Mother, this is your son now. Behold him.” “Beloved, this is your mother now. Behold her.”

And in that is our salvation. In that is our being saved. Jesus pouring himself out for us on the cross in love, so that we might be created into a new human family.

At the foot of the cross. God makes the human family complete. By making us God’s family. By pouring out God’s own life and living water into us. So that the love with which God has loved Jesus may be in us. So that God may be in us. In our life… together. Because that is the way. The way to abundant life. New life now. Eternal life. That is the way we are being saved.

Preacher Michael Curry tells a story about an interview he heard on NPR years ago. It was an interview with a man named Norman Gershman. He is a noted photographer. He had recently completed a documentary and published a photographic essay entitled, “God’s House.” It’s the story of the Muslims of Albania during the Second World War. As the armies of the Third Reich were infecting Europe, destroying everything that they touched…rounding up Jews and others and killing them, the Nazi armies moved toward Albania. Word was forwarded through diplomatic channels to the Foreign Ministry of Albania, that they were determined to turn over the names of all Jews living in Albania.

The foreign minister of Albania was a Muslim.

And he refused.

Before the Nazi arrived in Albania, the Jews of Albania disappeared. The reason was that this foreign minister organized a network of Muslim communities. And there were the words he used to inspire them – “The Jewish Children are your children. The Jewish people shall eat at your table and sleep in your homes. For the Jewish people are our family.” And the Muslims of Albania saved over 2,000 Jews from the Holocaust.

At the foot of the cross, Jesus saw his mother and his disciple and said, “Woman behold your son.” And to him, “Behold your mother.”[2]

And then Jesus, “I am thirsty. I have poured it all out for you to see. My living water is no longer in me. It is in you. The human family.”

On the cross, Jesus shows us the way. That we are most alive when we pour ourselves out in love for one another. As one family. And like that depot, being saved like this – it will up root us. Caution: it will put our comfortably settled lives at risk. We will no longer stand in the places we’ve always stood. We will be changed. We will be different. But through it we will be given a new foundation to stand on. And the color of life (abundant life) will start returning to our cheeks again. When we pour ourselves out in love for each other. Our new human family.

And that sign idea from earlier – I got it wrong. It shouldn’t say, Caution: Humanity being saved. It should say, Caution: Human Family Being Saved.

May we all meet each other tonight at the foot of the cross – the place where we are being saved.  Amen.

[1] Michael Curry, http://download.luthersem.edu/media/cbp/cbp2010/20101004-s.mp3

[2] As told by Bishop Michael Curry at Luther Seminary in 2009. http://download.luthersem.edu/media/cbp/cbp2010/20101004-s.mp3

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