Grace and peace to you, my sisters and brothers in Christ. Today we gather to remember Christ’s death on the cross. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the quiet dinner in which Jesus commanded the disciples to love, has led to the cross. At dinner, Jesus spoke of giving his body and blood as he shared bread and wine. Today we remember that body and blood, broken and shed on the cross, for us. At this service, we’ve retold the Gospel, sung hymns of praise and remembrance, and prayed to God, in Swedish. I admit, I don’t know any Swedish, and that’s why you’re hearing me preach in English. This year at Zion, we are especially celebrating our heritage with our 125th Anniversary. For this one day a year, we return to the language services were originally conducted in. But I think there’s more than nostalgia that keeps this service going. There’s a fundamental theological reason that we use a language that is different from our everyday working language to remember this Good Friday. What happened that day on the cross is for all people, for all time. Pilate had a plaque written to hang with Jesus. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews”. This message was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Pilate meant it to be a message of humiliation, able to be read by anyone on the street. But here Pilate becomes an evangelist. He makes it clear that the event on the cross is for the people of every nation and language. God was incarnate at a specific time, in a specific place. Jesus walked and talked with the people of Israel, in their language, in their cultural terms. He died once, on a hill, hung on a cross, about two millennia ago. But this is an event that transcends history. It is for the people who lived miles away and never heard of Jesus. It is for those first Swedish immigrants to America, for those who gathered a century ago in this place. It is for new immigrants speaking their own languages, and for the generations to come. It is for us.
Jesus’ life has been about showing people God’s love and teaching them to live into the kingdom of God. His suffering and death on the cross is the culmination of that message. God’s love is not bound by any borders. There is no place where God is not. Jesus Christ was active at the creation of the world, humanity, and all life. On the cross, Jesus draws all life to himself. Jesus does not die for only his fellow Jews, the people who had known the covenantal God, but for all people. Jesus died for Pilate, who got the whole message of what Jesus’ kingdom is about all wrong. Who was so afraid for his own political power that he had Jesus killed. Who worshipped the Roman Emperor as a God. Jesus died for this sinner, and for many more. Jesus died so that no one would be separated from God. He suffered and died to show that God is willing to suffer, to be abandoned, to die, all so that the least among us would know God’s love. When we are faced with suffering in our own lives, we are not alone. Jesus who suffered on the cross is not distant from any who suffer. Jesus shows us that God is not afraid of suffering, but is very present in suffering. On the cross, Jesus shows a God who is not found only in mansions, only among one ethnic group, only loves good people. Jesus died so that we, who are sinful, could be clothed with his righteousness. So that we who are ungodly could be united forever with God. On the cross, the power of sin and death is taken into God’s being. On Sunday, we will celebrate that it is broken. But for today, we remember that God shatters our expectations of who God is. God chooses suffering rather than power, oppression rather than privilege. God chooses this for our sake. Jesus’ cross is the point of unity for us who are scattered. Through the cross, we of diverse languages, strange to foreign ears, become brothers and sisters. Jesus’ arms, stretched out on the torturous cross draw all together. May the peace of Christ, won on the cross, guard your hearts and minds.
1 Comment so far
Leave a comment