Filed under: Sermons | Tags: Cross, david lose, Good Friday, Jesus, making sense of the cross, rejection, relationship
For the past month and a half, you’ve heard over and over in my preaching the word “covenant.” The big idea I’ve been pushing is that our God is a God who makes- and keeps promises. These promises are a relationship-creating and identity forming act that changes those to whom God makes promises.
God comes to specific people in order to be a part of their lives. God wants to be their God.
But they- and we – aren’t always looking for a God.
What does it look like when we reject the promise making God?
Some people say we get what we deserve. Some voices in the Bible understand current suffering to be the price of rejecting God.
But that’s not scripture’s – or God’s- final word.
Tonight, Good Friday, is all about God’s response to our rejection. What does God do when the people God embraces in love push away?
God, in Jesus, embodies the image of our rejection and God’s response.
Jesus is God come to earth. Jesus’ incarnation is the ultimate statement on God’s desire to be close to us. If the distance between divine and mortal was too great to be bridged, God took care of that by becoming human.
But it wasn’t enough just to become human. Jesus entered in to the darkest places of suffering so that we’d be sure that nothing in life would be outside of his experience.
Jesus spoke and enacted God’s love for the world. He taught about the kingdom of God and then showed how it welcomed all people, valued those others devalued. He spoke of God’s desire to free people from oppression and give them life, and then healed the sick and gave the lame the power to walk. He called the religious to remember what’s most important in their faith.
Jesus reached out with God’s promise of relationship and identity through him. Jesus was God’s promise of love for all people.
But instead of embracing him, the world rejected Jesus. Even one of his most trusted inner circle of twelve disciples betrayed him to his killers. Another stood by, denying his connection to Jesus.
Experiencing our rejection, Jesus remained faithful. Nothing made him break his steadfast love for us, he wouldn’t save himself, he wouldn’t leave us. He let us push him as far away as we could- we pushed him into death.
The cross stands as a sign of our constant rejection and a witness to God’s constant faithfulness. The world’s rejection may have pushed Jesus into death, but the power of God’s love would not let that be the end. Jesus was raised as God’s “yes, forever” to our denial “you will not love us.”
When we get a glimpse at how persistent, how always God’s love is for us, then we are freed from the fear that is at the root of our rejection. We don’t need to be afraid that we will disappoint, that we won’t be good enough, that we’ll mess it up. We don’t need to be afraid that God will turn away when our real selves are known, when our hidden secrets are brought to light. We don’t need to compare ourselves to others, putting them down to lift ourselves up, hoping that if we deflect judgment’s focus, we’ll look ok. God always wants you. Jesus has made you his beloved.
On Wednesday nights, we’ve been exploring some of the major ways people understand the cross. We tried to answer the question: what does the cross mean- what is Jesus’ important work on the cross- and why did he have to die. We read dialogs from Dr. David Lose’s Making Sense of the Cross. Some of us may have learned new ways to understand the cross. But we might have been left wondering- what does it all matter? What do all these atonement theories have to do with me? That’s where we left our learning and questioning voices in the dialog. They come to realize that the cross is an event that creates an experience- a reaction in us.
For the voices of our dialog, the cross’ purpose is made real in the way it reveals both our own sin and God’s constant grace. All our lives, we live in the ups and downs of turning away from God and God’s pulling us back into relationship. We live in this cycle, waiting for the day when God will make all things new, raising us to a way of being that will no longer find us turning away.
Our reaction to the promise-making God is rejection. God’s faithfulness doesn’t end when it meets our resistance. Jesus enters in to our rejection in order to be deeply faithful to us. God’s promise to the people of the world, “I will be your God” doesn’t end when people decide they don’t want God. The cross is our clearest message of rejecting relationship, but Jesus goes right there to the point of our rejection. By entering it, Jesus destroys our rejection. Our response to God’s promises will not change the promises. Day by day, our lives are changed as we are continually healed through God’s faithfulness to us. In this way, the place of rejection becomes the life-giving cross. Thanks be to God for this transformation.
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