Sunday, September 10, 2006

Good Friday

One of my favorite stories is of the little boy who was giving direction to a church and he said, “It's that building down the street with a big plus sign on top

"Good Friday answers the question of how a "Bad Friday," a very bad Friday became "Good Friday" and a big plus sign. The great "Good Friday News" the writer of Hebrews (9:1-17 explains in lawyers language, is that we are the "heirs" of Jesus. We all are the beneficiaries of the "Notarized Will of Jesus".

All the debts have been paid (Jesus paid it all with his own blood). We just need to step up and accept our inheritance as the blood kin of Jesus and thus realize we are the beneficiaries of His "last will and testament."

I finally went to see the Mel Gibson movie, “The Passion of the Christ. “ As I sat watching, I found myself turning my head away from the relentless scenes of blood and violence.

When I went home, I read again the passages about the crucifixion in all four gospels …passages I had read many times… but now realizing that just as I had covered my eyes from seeing the blood in the movie, I had read hurriedly past the blood and gore of the scourging and the cross in the Bible record. Like the typical woman, the sight of blood makes me squeamish. And here I am, reading Hebrews 9 and writing about the bloody cross of Jesus.

I suppose we all would like to imagine…and re-imagine a Gospel "without dripping blood." It is an unpopular theme.I sing a lot around the house, and this week I was looking at the large number of hymns about the cross and the blood of Jesus.

It seems so central in the Old as well as the New Testament. Blood is not only in hymns like The Old Rugged Cross and Power in the Blood but hymns like Blessed Assurance with a line like “Born of his spirit, washed in his blood. "Well, just the phrase "wash in the blood" had also raised questions in my mind as a child...“how could anyone be washed in blood and come out clean."

Who in their right mind would be intersted in "dripping blood?"And, how we all like to think we are in our "right mind." We are not like those "fundamental" Christians. That is why we memorize John 3:16 and read quicky and dismiss Hebrews 9.

But when we hear the American Red Cross say, “Give Blood…give the gift of life,” we are reminded of the value of life giving blood. We know loss of blood means loss of life. So washed in the blood of Jesus means being washed in life, real life…the essence of life…the plus of life.Blood is the vehicle of transferred life in medicine as well as in the Bible. In Exodus 24:5, as we see Moses in the old blood covenant taking the blood of a lamb and sprinkling it on the people.

To our ears this sounds strange and the people may not have been happy to have blood sprinkled on them. But this blood of the lamb used in the Old Covenant is also in our Scripture in Hebrews today. It points to the cross and eternal LIFE through the the shed blood of Jesus, God’s spotless "Lamb of God."As we know, Communion symbolizes the blood covenant we have entered into in remembrance of Jesus last supper, and the sacrifice of Jesus for our salvation.

One of our family stories is about the first time my granddaughter Lillian, a bright and beautiful child like our wonderful children here this morning, took communion at age four or five. When she was at the altar with her parents and sister and heard the pastor said. ”This is the blood of the New Covenant,” She apparently was listening to the words; because she clamped her mouth tight and shook her head and refused to drink it.

Her beautiful mother, Sheila talked to her about the meaning of communion and told her she could not go up and take communion if she refused to drink the grape juice. Grape juice? So she, knowing for sure what was really in the cup, the next Communion, she not only drank it but smacked her lips, and rubbed her little stomach and smiled up at her mother to show she was not only obeying by taking communion but doing so joyfully.

I think this kind of aliveness and joy is an appropriate response to Communion for a 4 year old or any of us at as we realize …this life giving blood of the new covenant is to bring us, as beneficiaries of Jesus back from the deadness that sin has placed upon us. On C-Span recently I heard a sad looking girl, who identified herself as an atheist… talking about how she does not need a God…that she is in control of her own life.

Poor child! There comes a time when even the strongest among us are helpless and not in control of anything. I takes a long time for some to realize our best minds are too weak to comprehend all of the mystery of God and "our arms are too short to box with God." We accept Christ by faith but, thank God it is not a blind faith!

Albert Einstein said "the fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious...the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true science. Einstein and other prominant scientits have concluded there is room in a rational universe for incomprehensible wonders.

On the cross Jesus identifies with us in out helplessness and brokenness. It is his blood transfusion that brings about vitality and transformation in our life.

A few years ago I went with some of my family and other Trinity friends up to Daisy United Methodist church in the Chattanooga area to hear my grandson Benjamin sing with his College Glee Club and Bell Choir.One of the young students gave her testimony. She was the daughter of a Methodist Minister.

A few weeks earlier, her grandmother had died, a friend died and her father was transferred after a nine year pastorate.Moving after 9 years in her young life was a traumatic event. Then in the midst of the move, her mother had a heart attack so it put a great deal of the packing on her young shoulders.She said she kept looking up and asking “Lord I know you are there but. why! Why is all this happening in my life?

Most of us do not live long until we realize we need more than just a few religious band aids to patch up our brokeness. No ritual "first aid treatment" can heal the grief bruised and sin sick soul. Spiritually, we are told throughout the New Testament, we need a heart transplant...a blood tranfusion... we need God.

I heard Vic Pense, from Peachtree Presbyterian tell the story of a man driving his car in eastern Washington State one day and having to stop and wait because a large flock of sheep were crossing the road. As the man watched the sheep, the phrase “lamb of God “kept driftingthrough his mind, As he waited, he got out of his car and walked over to the shepherd and asked him ‘What does the phrase “Lamb of God” mean to you.”

The sheep herder told him: “each year at lambing time, there are some baby lambs as well as some mother sheep that die. The shepherd said, inevitably, he said, there would be a ewe, who would be full of milk, but her lamb had died and she refused to feed a lamb she does not recognize as her own.There would also be a baby lamb whose mother had died so it was starving because no other mother ewe would accept and feed it.

But the shepherd learned that he could take the mother sheep’s dead lamb and cut it throat and pour the blood over the little orphaned lamb. Then the mother sheep would recognize the blood and accept and welcome the lamb that had the blood of her own lamb on it.

Through the gift of being washed in the blood of the lamb that had died, the living lamb is recognized and accepted and nourished and saved.Dr.Pense went on to say, “When we are covered with the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, God sees us through rose colored glasses. God sees us as His own through blood tinted glasses!

“So we do not come to the communion table to have a priest of the old covenant sprinkle blood over us or dip his finger in the blood of a spotless lamb and place it on us. We come forward to take the blood and body of Jesus inside us as in Jeremiah prophesy that one day…one great “Plus Sign” day God would put his new covenant inside us…in our heart.

Thus by accepting his sacrifice for us, we share in his body and blood and become blood kin to Jesus and blood kin to one another. Thank God. Praise God! Amen! --

1 comment:

Joan said...

thank you for this very thought provoking sermon. I am sure the "blood" emphasis in Christianity is off-putting and confusing to a lot of people -- this was a good exposition of the topic.