Good Friday By The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab

[April 9,2009.]

Crucifixion is a horrible death

  • Body writhes to relieve pain.
  • Death comes by suffocation

Why endure?  Jesus’ mission is to proclaim by deed and word the power of God over evil, sin, and death.

  • He is Christus victor – victor over evil, sin, and death.
  • The key to Mark’s Gospel, the first written.

Two parts to accomplishing his mission.

The first part:

  • Make us see our need for help.
  • We don’t want to see it.
  • When he lets us crucify him, he makes us see the truth.
  • On our own; we give in to what is against love and justice over and over and over.
  • Not until he is crucified, do even the disciples get it.
  • That’s the message we need to get today and every day.
  • We need help!

The second part of his mission:

  • To be that help!
  • Jesus means savior in Hebrew.
  • In our speech of today “helper.”
  • He helps by being the victor over evil, sin, and death.
  • He heals sick bodies.
  • He heals sick souls like Zacchaeus and Matthew.
  • His opponents lose every confrontation with him.
  • Read in Starkey how he bests all of his opponents that last week in Jerusalem.
  • When he is hurt, he does not hurt back.
  • He overcomes evil in himself and prays, rather, “Father, forgive them.”
  • When God raises him from the dead, he overcomes even death!
  • And continues his battle with evil, sin, and death today!

And here is the radically new:

  • He shares with us his power, the Holy Spirit.
  • “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
  • “The works that I have done, you will do . . .”
  • No other religion, no other story of Amity offers in the dialog with other faiths.
  • We have a lot to learn.
  • We have a lot to give!
  • And he calls us to join him in his mission.
  • “As the Father has sent me, I send you.”
  • By baptism and reaffirming our baptism in confirmation, we have joined his mission.
  • We are his co-workers in the battle with all that blocks love and justice.

That’s the message we should get this Good Friday.

  • And every Friday and every day.
  • We need help and Jesus gives us is the help we need.
  • That’s the Gospel, the Good news.
  • We need help and Jesus gives us the help we need.
  • Every time we eat of the bread and drink of the cup we receive still more of the help we need!

In a few moments, we will come forward to meditate on the Cross.

  • Let whatever you meditate on include this good news.
  • We need help and Jesus is the help we need.
  • And let each of us bring to the Cross some part of our life where we need help.
  • Let me describe two areas of life where we are called to be agents of Jesus’ love and justice and need his help to do it.
  • They are shared only to stimulate your own sense of where Jesus is asking you to be his co-worker to bring or to increase love or justice.

Do costly things and I will help, God says.

*          *          *

One place we need to be Jesus’ co-workers is to befriend the poor.

  • To be their champion.
  • A champion says his cause / her cause is my cause.
  • I’m here to work for what she needs.
  • I’m here to work for what he needs.

One way to do it is to inform ourselves about the whole story of the poor.

Most of the time, the only stories we hear about the poor are negative.

  • They use their food stamps to buy 12-packs of cokes.
  • They have child after child expecting to be cared for.
  • This family has been on welfare for generations!

Get the other half of the story (I take time on this one because it hardest to cope with of my two examples).

  • There are welfare cheats – about 10% of those on welfare – the other 90% are honest workers.
  • That’s about the same as the 10% for CEO’s who cheat and commit fraud – the other 90% are honest leaders and managers.
  • Get the other part about malnourished children who are damaged for life because they missed certain basics low-income parents could not provide.
  • Get the other part about their poor schools in neighborhoods that don’t have the tax base to make them better.
  • Get the other part about how poor people can be shut out of getting the help they need – read stories like the one in Mother Jones of Jan/Feb – the father of Letorrea’s daughter stopped his child support – when Letorrea went for help she was told she could not get because she had been on child support – get the full story from the magazine – how beside you in the pew.

Then, intercede for them.

  • When the talk at coffee breaks begins to complain about “welfare cheats” — talk about those who cheat the poor out of help they should get.
  • Find out about the case load of social workers in your county – usually it is about 50 – in Alabama it is 25 and the workers are able to do the job – teach using the alarm clock; buy nutritious food; go to Johnny’s school to make sure he is listening while the teacher talks – and their clients move off of the welfare rolls as they learn from their social workers how to live more wisely.
  • And look to social policies like the minimum wage and food stamp allocations and health care – have opinions about them and be ready to dialog about them – dialog that does not put down the 90% we need to care about – while tolerating the 10% abusers knowing they are like wealthy abusers – one reason for church life is to call for standards of honesty and justice in all element of a nation.

Note, this is hearing, from our crucified, risen Lord, the call to make the world more loving and more just; looking for those places where you can join him in that work; and looking to him for help to carry out your role in his mission – doing what he asks with his help!

It’s costly – it costs time to inform yourself – it costs the negative feelings of others when you challenge their convictions – in a small way it’s bearing Jesus’ cross.

*          *          *

Another place to be Jesus’ coworkers concerns our children and teens.

We need to champion, defend and protect our children and teens from the “market-thinking” that runs life today – our children and teens are:

  • Made into consumers, not citizens – customers to be won.
  • There are videos for children as young as four months.
  • Children and teens influence the spending of $670 billion per year.
  • Being taught to recognize brands rather than values – they look for shops in the mall rather than
    people who are honest and responsible.

Here’s a call to costly mission – exert ourselves to be part of the solution.

  • Parents see that your home is the best teacher of the faith – turn off the TV for Bible reading and
  • Grandparents, buy good Bible based children’s story books – ask teachers or church educators you
    respect for books they’d recommend – many books lack depth – they are written to be sold rather
    than to teach, to teach honesty and respect and responsibility.
  • Take them to museums and on walks with you and if you go to a movie talk about the values that
    are being lived out in the movie.
  • Are the bad people dealt with and dealt with in a way that brings them to new life.
  • Are the bad just killed off or are they won over to admitting they were wrong and set on a
    new path.
  • Watch the script.
  • Parents and grandparents, watch your buying of toys.
  • Help the young to get beyond having the latest toy or the coolest clothes to learning the
    give and take of real community and to care when people hurt.
  • Teach compassion.
  • Take a stand on the public issues for children and youth.
  • Health care; teacher quality; career training available to all whether for hard-hat jobs or office

Like Jesus, in your way, confront the wrongs of today and work to overcome them – and count on God to help you; ask daily for Jesus’ help and Jesus’ wisdom.

These are just two of your and my ways to carry the cross – that’s what they are – taking on the world’s wrongs and setting them right.

That’s the call of Good Friday, every Friday, every day!

Now, some meditation time to start thinking of what costly part you will take in Jesus’ costly mission to bring or to increase love and justice – think of our homes and friends; our work – volunteer or paid; our local community; the wider world; our leisure – how we relax; our spiritual health – what we need; and our part in church life and outreach – to serve and to make Jesus known – inter-church or interfaith.

Bring that forward to offer Jesus who endured the cross and who walks with us now – enduring what we endure – coping and correcting and giving us the power to cope and correct – to love and to be just.

We need help and Jesus gives us the help we need.

[The Rev. A. Wayne Schwab; Director of Member Mission Network, Inc., President of Member Mission Press, Member of the Spiritual Formation Committee for the United Church of Hinesburg, VT, Author, Speaker, and Workshop Leader.]