Friday, April 22, 2011

Dying like Jesus, a Good Friday sermon from awhile ago

You don't expect to end up in a deathwatch. Nobody does. It doesn't matter what your name is or where your from, whether Geelong or Melbourne, Berkeley or San Francisco, Jerusalem or Galilee. It doesn’t matter whether its here and now or there and then, you are just one more unnamed disciple. It doesn't matter much.

What does matter is that somehow you met this Jesus one day and things turned around. He seemed to offer a way into the mystery of life, a way through the accumulated smog of evasion and denial and obfuscation: all the tired and tried and less than true ways where we fail to meet life or each other: where we waste time. He seemed to come just in time, to speak a word, to be a way to get past all the dead ends in the world into something that was new -- both more holy, and more fully involved with flesh and blood and community and relationship. More life. New life.

But maybe you were wrong (and maybe he was too) because here you are at the end of the week, where what you thought would be the new beginning and the final goal of your life will soon be turned into a tomb with a stone put across the way.

And you saw it all: the betrayal by friends, the sham trial, the worst aspects of religious and civil society, the hierarchy at its lowest. Though none of that is really new, and you can see it on your television every day. But what was different here, what showed up with such contrast, is that this death-dealing happened to the liveliest person you had ever known.

The man shone with hope! A hope that enabled you to see your own life, path, ministry and meaning with a clarity and depth you never had managed before: an enlightening love that connected you with yourself and others too; extending out like a beam of light widening out to exclude nothing and nobody! Because this Jesus made it all seem new. It was like you saw the world through his bright eyes, and all were connected, cleaned up and clarified, everyone and everything somehow born again. And now all that has gone dark and dead.

The liveliest human being is dead. After the speedy execution, the friends peeling off to their confused solitude, the rich man offer a resting place for the one who had seemed to be such a beginning. You're standing there because there seems to be nowhere else to go from here. But where can you go from here?

What do you do when hope dies? Where do you go when the ideals and ideas, the stuff, the breath, the face, that gave you joy, started your heart jumping, led you to live; when all that falls away, and you see the dead-on possibility that personal, social, corporate, religious, political, bureaucracy, mediocrity, evil might just win after all?

You turn away from the cross and look back to the City, Geelong, Berkeley, Jerusalem, here and now, then and there, wherever. And it might not be too late to go back there, to follow the herd, merge with the majority, carefully avoiding any confrontations that might lead to more blood flow, because next time it might be yours. So the safer way from here is to avoid excessive hope, stay away from too much love, keep to the shadows, live life low.

But maybe it is too late for that now. Even if Jesus is dead, even if it is or was just a glorious daydream; the idea of expecting less than a miracle of life, even in the face of the death of hope, looks like a kind of living death. And that just can't happen now. Maybe you have seen too much light, remember too much of the sun, even in this benighted land, to put on spiritual dark glasses and play it safe.

You look at the waiting city, and just for an instant it is as if you are seeing it the way he saw it, as if the light were still there, coming from somewhere behind you, but stretching out like the start of some indefinable kind of sunrise. Even if it is in opposition to everything you have ever known, there might be another way.

Maybe you will just have to die to that old way of life and try to live like Jesus too. Even if it doesn't last long, even if you end up here again, in your own time. It is not the worse way to go. It is learning to live and die in the sight and light of love. And maybe, just for a little while, his dying life can live in you, and you can remember him in your limited days.

You will go now, into your own city, carrying the seed of something you cannot understand, something that has to do with love and life and death and what will last. You will return to the city that does not know how much it has to lose or gain. But you will remember what you have heard and seen. And something more.


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