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Cross Connection: A Sermon for Good Friday
April 21, 2014, 9:02 am
Filed under: Sermons, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

 

In the beginning was God. There was nothing else. Then God began to create. Light and dark, suns and planets, water and land, plants and animals. Us. The image we have of God creating humans is one of loving craftsmanship. God’s desire is to be so close to this human creature that God is tactically involved. God scoops up mud, molds it into a body, and breathes God’s own spirit into it. God touch and breath are on the human.

 

That moment is one of deep connection. The human, alive and yet still held in God’s hands, still in the process of receiving God’s breath. Then God releases the human to become its own person. There is a necessary separation that occurs in order for there to be relationship. There has to be some amount of distance, God has to relinquish control, in order for this creature to be able to be who the human is and interact with God as someone distinct. God’s intention is still to continue deep connection, even as God allows the human freedom.

 

Those among us who have parented might understand this dynamic best. A pregnant mother knows the child within her is utterly dependent on her for life. Mother and child are connected in a deep way that will never be replicated once the child is born. Yet birth is something we all celebrate: we rejoice that this new creature is beginning her own life and will explore the world through her own experiences. We would not want the child to return to a state of dependence and dissolve back into the control of the mother’s womb.

 

From that moment of birth, parenting is a continual process of letting go. This sometimes painful work is to nurture the child into independence. The most difficult moments are those when independence feels like a rejection of connection, of relationship. A parent’s desire is to love the child and be loved in return.

 

Like a good parent, God’s desire is for the human to be distinct enough from God’s own self to have a self of its own. This independence means being able to live within this creation and experience it as a creature within creation. It means being able to turn towards God in relationship, as separate persons are able to do, rather than simply being consumed or dissolved into God.

 

This means that God experiences the painful side of granting independence. God’s desire to be in relationship with the creature is not always returned. Throughout scripture, we hear of God’s work to build relationship and humanity’s rejection of God’s advances. Holy words paint a picture of God as pursuing lover, attempting to woo the people with promises of lovingkindness, faithfulness and protection. There are moments in which the people respond with faithfulness, and certain heroes of the faith who seem to be more connected with God. But on the whole, the Bible tells a story of a people who are constantly turning away from God, their loving creator.

 

Finally, God chose a different approach. Perhaps there was too much separation between God and humanity. Was God so distinct that the close relationship God desired was too difficult to maintain? Instead of waiting for us to turn to God, God moved and came to us. God set aside glory and power and became truly human. In Jesus, we see the creator choosing to become the creature. Jesus is God with us. Jesus is God’s strategy to fully know what it is to be human, and to restore the deeply connected relationship God intended to have with humanity.

 

Jesus embodied God’s love. His work of welcoming, healing, and forgiving were signs of God’s love for all people. Many people recognized God in a new way through Jesus’ work. Yet others became even more distant. It seemed as if this strategy would end like all the others, with God reaching out, with humanity seeming to respond in relationship, but finally, with humanity rejecting God once again.

 

People certainly rejected Jesus. We heard today the difficult story of his betrayal and denial from the mouths of two of his closest disciples. We heard the crowd calling for his death.

 

Jesus doesn’t back away from this rejection. Instead, Jesus, God come for us, goes directly into this rejection. Jesus enters the cross. This is not simply another strategy to try to turn the people’s hearts back to their true and faithful love. The cross is God’s full and complete coming to us.

 

The cross is the ultimate act of reconnecting.

 

The cross is God’s headlong straight-for-it run into our strongest statement of rejection. It is the epitome of humanity’s statement that we don’t want a relationship with God. But God doesn’t accept that answer. God doesn’t turn away, God doesn’t give up, God doesn’t wait for us to change our minds, God doesn’t take no for an answer. God decides that the God-human relationship is no longer going to depend on human work or choice, God is the one who will solidify it.

 

Jesus dies on the cross to say, “no amount of hurt that you can pour onto me will make me leave you.” Jesus says, “I am with you. Betrayal will not push me away. Denial will not push me away. Death will not push me away. I will always be faithful to you.” Jesus says, “I love you. Now and forever.”

 

As the disciples, beginning to glimpse Jesus’ love, laid his body in the tomb, they thought their relationship was over. It was not. The wonder of Easter morning is that God has raised Jesus from the dead, restored him to his divine position, and there Jesus is able to continually bring humanity into relationship with God. God has done everything to welcome you into a life-giving relationship of love. 

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