Posted by: dacalu | 7 April 2012

Into Your Hands, O Father

This afternoon, St. Philip’s in the Hills, Tucson had a Good Friday service in which there was a homily for each of the seven last words of Jesus, the seven phrases spoken from the cross.  I had the honor of preaching on the last: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

At first glance, it would seem a very simple statement.

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Jesus breathed his last and gave up the ghost –

That moment when we cease to be a person

and become just a body.

Or perhaps I should say, that moment,

when this flesh ceases to encompass the soul

and turns out to be nothing more than flesh.

It is the last surrender.

But I think there is something else here as well

for I believe that we are called

to have the same spirit that was in Christ Jesus

I believe that the spirit that dwelt in Christ was the very Holy Spirit

which we consider one with the Father and the Son.

So it’s a little silly to say “Me, into my hands I commend me.”

On Good Friday, we remember that most perplexing of divine mysteries,

how is it that very God from very God can die?

What does it mean for God to die on a cross?

And for us to kill him?

It defies understanding on so many levels,

and yet let us look at this one.

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

 

In some ways, we can say that the Father and the Son are one,

but in others we might say that the Godhead is more easily seen

in the Father.

Mind you, I do not say that Godhead is more fully present,

only that we find it easier to imagine God

immortal, invisible, and omnipotent,

the Creator, dwelling on high.

After all, Jesus tells us to pray to the Father.

So perhaps Jesus in his humanity is trusting to his divinity,

trusting to his oneness with the Father as God from God,

Light from Light, True God from True God.

Perhaps he is trusting in the plan which God ineffable,

God beyond understanding, has laid down

from the beginning of the world.

 

But still, there is more to this saying

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Because I do not believe that Jesus’ spirit was his own

from birth until death and suddenly handed over

at the last minute.

It seems more sensible to say that Jesus’ spirit

was and is and ever shall be in the hands of the Father.

Yes, death is a moment of surrender,

but all of his life was an act of perfect worship,

in obedience not just to the will of God,

but to the spirit of God,

to the spirit of love alive in the world

made by a loving God.

On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus said

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me;

yet, not my will but yours be done.”

His spirit was entrusted to God from birth.

And this allowed him to be the person he was,

even on the cross.

Persecuted, abandoned, unknowing,

Jesus’ spirit was one of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Three words of care for those around him:

For his persecutors:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

For the others being executed:  “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

For his mother and his disciple:  “Behold your son; behold your mother.”

Two words to God in the lines of the 22nd psalm, in faith and hope:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

And two words for himself and his context.

“I thirst.”

“It is finished.”

Now, these words come from four accounts of Jesus death.

I do not know that they all must agree with one another,

but they certainly agree on this one account.

 

Jesus never lost himself.

I would hazard he was the only one on that hill

who was not overcome by fear.

The religious authorities were scared of who he was.

The Roman authorities were scared that they were losing control.

Jesus followers feared that the powers of the world had overcome

their messiah.

Victimized in body and mind, he never failed in spirit.

He never failed to be the fullest expression of himself,

and of God in him.

 

His body was pierced, but his soul was not.

Despite our best attempts to terrorize God,

despite our selfishness, arrogance, and apathy

Jesus continues to will the good for God and neighbor.

This is our example,

that Jesus, throughout his life, but even in this moment,

even in the depth of suffering and on the brink of death,

Jesus’ spirit was the spirit of God,

the spirit of compassion and love

selflessness and self-full-ness become the same thing,

in this human who showed us what it means to be fully human

in the moment that defined divinity in the Christian sense.

That God so loved the world – that he dwelt among us,

lived and died as one of us, and in his time,                                                                         even suffered our will that he should die.

And made of that great betrayal,

the foundation of our eternal life together.

For the resurrection is the ultimate reconciliation

in God’s forgiveness of our betrayal.

“The light shone in the darkness,

and the darkness did not overcome it.”

 

And so I ask of you,

I beg of you,

let the same spirit be in you that was (and is) in Christ Jesus.”

Let us commend ourselves, and one another, and all our life to God,

so that his Spirit may dwell in us.

and that we might find the fullness of love and forgiveness

in realizing that only in this way

can we be fully ourselves.

 

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

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