Today is Good Friday. I had the privilege of worshiping with people of St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church, Tucson. They have a 3 hour service with 7 homilies on the 7 last words (comments) of Jesus. I preached on the 6th word:
It is finished. (John 19:30)
Collect: O God, whose Son has shown the way of the cross to be the way of life: transform and renew our minds that we may not be conformed to this world but may offer ourselves wholly to you as a living sacrifice through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
1 Corinthians 1: 18
“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
As I was grappling with this passage this week,
I kept coming back to a single thought:
“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” John 13:1
Jesus loved us up until the end,
up until the very last moment
Jesus was loving and serving.
On Maundy Thursday, we remembered Jesus serving the disciples
by washing their feet and by blessing their food.
Even Judas, who was to betray him,
Jesus washed Judas’ feet.
Jesus prays for the daughters of Jerusalem,
and asks God to forgive the people tormenting him.
So when I hear Jesus say, “It is finished”
I hear him saying that he has spent the last of himself
in the love of God and neighbor.
This was the fullness of Jesus’ love,
not that he could accomplish more than any other –
though I believe he could –
but that he gave the fullness of himself until he was empty.
We speak so often of God giving us the strength to do more,
and I believe God does.
I believe God refills us when we give ourselves away.
And yet there is a moment,
there is always a moment,
when we let go.
Having given all we can,
knowing that we do not know how things will turn out,
we let go and allow God to work through others
and through the world.
We give up ownership of the outcome.
And this is what it means to love unto death,
to love fully, not anticipating the end,
but being open to being without, open to an end, even the end.
Christians have been accused of embracing death,
and I think that is wrong.
We do not seek death,
but we seek to empty ourselves,
to give all that we have and all that we are
to God and neighbor.
We know what it means to live fully,
up to the very moment of our passing.
We give willingly, even joyfully if we can,
because for us true life lies not in holding onto
grace, power, love, knowledge
but letting them flow through us,
Jesus emptied himself,
but not for the sake of being empty.
Every action in his lifetime,
every word that passed from his lips,
feeds us, strengthens us, builds us up.
And that is my aspiration,
to give up control of the outcome,
but only so that I can give my full attention to the moment,
to give up knowing about tomorrow,
but only so that I can empty myself today.
I must believe that Jesus is an example to us at all times and in all places,
that his passion and crucifixion may teach us,
not just to wait for the resurrection,
but to give of ourselves to the very end,
to love in the midst of hatred,
to hope in the midst of despair,
to have faith in the midst of isolation.
I must believe that the crucifixion was not some hideous means to an end
that God set up to satisfy an obscure law.
I must believe that it means true atonement,
God giving us God’s very self, that we might be one with him,
through Jesus Christ.
It is finished, then and now.
It is finished because God suffered our company,
suffered our will, our attempts at law,
suffered our doubt and fear, anger and violence,
and met them with perfect love,
God gave love for hate, even to the very end.
In three days, we will recall that God’s love overcame our hate.
In three days, we will see that this kind of openness and vulnerability
was even more powerful than any grasping for power,
than any violence.
Even death will be conquered.
But for now, we live in the moment.
We accept that Jesus spent himself.
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.”