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Saturday, March 24, 2012

LENT 5 Sermon
“The Friday of Holy Week According to Mark”
March 25, 2012

So I am sitting in the small waiting room of a local tinting business, getting the much bubbled rear window tint replaced on the back window of our car when the owner brings up the issue of the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17 year old who died this week after being shot once in the chest.  An update is playing on the news in the waiting room.  The reporter reporting that the man who shot Trayvon apparently on a citizen’s crimewatch patrol, had been told by the 9-1-1 operator to not pursue. That the police were on the way. Well, most of us know the relevant undisputed facts. The young man on crime watch, acting alone and of his own accord, did pursue. And in the end Trayvon was dead. Several new parallel investigations are underway to get at the truth as best they can.  There is understandable outrage over the circumstances that would lead to the loss of such a young life as well as the initial handling of the investigation.   

We cannot place ourselves in the heads or hearts of those involved  - nor is it helpful to speculate on motivations of the specificity of facts yet unknown. And in this country we try people in courts of law. Which is how it should be in this case. But while we wait for the results of these investigations and tempers simmer and flare up, while the talk shows and the news shows and the newspapers and the radio people do their jobs, some admirable, some not so much, we Christians have a voce to bring to the conversation. There are some things we can say.  This terrible tragedy does invite reflection of a most personal and uncomfortable kind when cast into the light of Good Friday in the Gospel of Mark, the day into which our Gospel now leads us.

Good Friday. Jesus hanging there on the cross. Mark’s Gospel telling time by his suffering. Dawn, 9AM, noon, 3 PM, Evening. Luther says that to which our heart clings is our God. When we cling to something, we hold on tight. With the last ounce of our strength. We place our hope, our trust, our future, our very lives in the care of that to which we cling. What are we clinging to in our lives this day? If what our heart clings to is our god, then what god is it?   Is it the god of fear? The god of power? The god of self? The false gods of this world revel in such possibilities. Delight in them, rubbing their hands and smiling with glee.

To what does our heart cling?  Clutching to the very last? Digging in. Every beat placing its hope in that to which it clings. To what does our heart cling? Who is our God?

Did you hear how the people who derided Jesus worshiped such gods as power and fear and hate?

“You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!" "He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe."

The mocked. They spat. They ridiculed. They taunted.

Whatever their hearts were clinging to that day, they could not comprehend a God for whom strength is made perfect in weakness, one whose coronation begins with humiliation. Whose calculus is defined by the last being first and the first being last.

Do we grasp the silence? Jesus had not spoken since his sham of a trial. But now hanging on the cross he utters one final phrase: Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus here quoting from Psalm 22, its opening words. But Psalm 22 takes an interesting turn not long after. The voice of lament gives way to a voice of trust. A voice of hope. A vice of unshakable promise:

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame

 And later still the psalmist declares:

For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.

Despite the wound of forsakenness in his soul, the psalmist will not cede to the false gods of this world any power, any dominion, any hope. The psalmist has done the calculus and found that despite the weight of evidence of total abandonment that the God of all creation, the God of the Universe, the Lord of All, reigns with power and dominion and might over all forces that might oppose. And further, that this is nothing new. That it has always been this way. And we know that it will be made perfect in and though Christ on the cross.

For those who listen to the gods of this world, whose hearts cling to fear or power or  hate, the calculus looks different: A young black man wearing a hoodie is a danger. People of color become reasons to check the locks on our cars, to worry about the safety of our neighborhoods, to worry about the values of our home if they choose to move next door or down the block or around the corner. Reasons to move away to a new town where everyone will be more like us and less like them and we can feel safe and that is OK to allow such thinking, such fear, such tenacious racist thinking to become the last branch to which our hearts will cling for dear life, become our gods and hold sway in our lives.

While the wheels of justice need now to turn and turn and turn to bring some measure of healing to deeply wounded families and a deeply wounded world in the death of this young man, we, ourselves, need to take responsibility for our patterns of speech and action and for our acquiescence to a culture that breeds such false gods as those of power for self and fear and hate.

Good Friday, in the hours of darkness over the land. When hope has all but been extinguished and every last person left mocks his suffering and even God appears to be absent, the cross on which Jesus is nailed beckons us close and whispers: to what does your heart cling? Who is your God?   Who is you God?


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