What is there to say this evening? This evening that we remember Jesus crucified. This evening where we look upon the cross. The cross, an instrument, by which empires tortured and shamed masses into silence. The cross, a symbol when abused, that can still carry a message of shame and force. The cross, a sign that carries a message of good news for us this night.
Tonight we are asked to ponder and linger on the cross by which our Lord, Jesus died. The instrument by which God was crucified.
We come to this day which strangely is called Good, and are invited to pause at the foot of the cross. Though it is tempting to hurry…perhaps even skip past this cross on our journey to the empty tomb and the promises that burst forth from it.
It is important that together we tarry there at the cross, though in all honesty, much of us would rather tarry with Jesus in a garden somewhere.
But it’s in the cross that our eyes make sense of God’s actions and our own humanity.
Theologian Douglas John Hall writes that,
The theology of the cross, is not able to shut its eyes to all the things that are wrong with the world–and with ourselves, our human selves, our Christian selves. The cross doesn’t accentuate the negative…but it does want to acknowledge the presence and reality of that which negates and threatens life. Death and doubt and the demonic are still with us today.
The cross is an unavoidable sign that God places in our midst pointing to all that is broken.
The cross doesn’t banish the darkness; it “lightens” it–which means that the gospel reveals “the darkness” for what it truly is… and that we, whether we like to admit it or not..may be part of the darkness.
As the old hymn “Ah Holy Jesus” sings:
“Who was the guilty?
Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, I hath undone thee.
Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.
And yet… and yet this cross…this crucifixion…the crucified God…in the mystery of faith brings you and me to reconciliation with our Lord. Somehow in this place of the cross, our brokenness is exchanged with Christ’s wholeness. In some unfathomable way, my sin and your sin is taken away.
And the cross provides enough light for us to make our way through this life, one step at a time.
And so in the place of the cross we may ask, how as disciples of the crucified God, do we live in the midst of the ambiguities of life? How do walk this life between the cross and our sin and the new life of the empty tomb? How do we voyage in this murky sea of the “in between”? For our lives are truly lived somewhere in between.
Can we find this answer in the cross? Looking upon our Lord crucified, dying, do we find guidance of how we are asked to be of the living?
Perhaps in this murky sea of the “in between” we are guided by the cross in living in faith, hope, and love.
Faith, as we’re reminded in Hebrews 11, “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not see.” When we look to the cross we can’t see the life promised to us by Christ who bellows, “Father forgive them for they not know what they are doing!” But we have faith and trust in Christ’s promises. A faith that is not divisive or rooted in violence and anger.
We live in this “in between” guided by a faith that makes us aware of how far we fall short of truth and goodness, but it’s a faith that invites us into a way of peace. A faith that tells us that no matter how far we fall our God reaches into the very darkest of places and the graves of our existence and draws us to new life, once again.
And where in the world do we see love in the cross? This instrument of death? We’re reminded of the love God has for us, and the love Christ lives. As St. Paul describes in the love hymn found in the book of Philippians
“who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself”
How do we see hope in the cross? We find hope not in fairy tales that the cross ended all human suffering. Instead our hope in the cross grabs us and thrusts us into the pain of the world. Where do we hope to see Jesus?
Look with hope– the cross reminds us that Jesus is not only in the laughter of a newborn, but in the cries of one on their deathbed. The cross reminds us that Jesus isn’t only in the blessing around a table filled with feast and family, but in the alleys and hotels with families huddled over the last crumb. And the cross grabs us and invites us to go to places where we don’t want to go, but that when we do–with eyes wide open, and hearts of hope–we will find our crucified God there.
In our murky journey through this life, the cross guides us, in the ways of love. That the power of love, to achieve its aim, must become weak and vulnerable. Our Lord teaches us to love our neighbor, and risk not being loved or respected in return. The cross teaches us that God is love and this love is most openly experienced in vulnerability for the world God so dearly loves. The cross leads us and teaches us about suffering love. We are invited to journey as Christ blesses we who are bold enough to be meek and strong enough to be gentle.
We are in the “in between.” May the cross be your guide. And from the cross our Lord walks with us, guides us, forgives us and once again fills for the journey ahead.