Sermon for Good Friday - Mar. 30th, 2018
Luther Memorial Chapel
Rev. Michael C. Larson
There are few moments so bitter as to be not included or to be left out. For a child, there is no pain so bitter as to not be invited to a birthday party – to be shutout. Even adults, don’t really get over this sort of thing – being excluded. It hurts.
I have heard that with social media, with facebook and Instagram – those who are wired in – are constantly aware of all the things going on that they are not a part of. It’s led to loneliness, and isolation, in a way never experienced before.
Dante in the Divine Comedy describes hell as a place where souls walk around like bystanders. Shutout. Separated from God, completely alone. Separated not just from God but from all humanity and all that is good, and true, and beautiful. Hell is a lonely place above all things.
Just imagine our first parents driven out of the garden, ashamed, and defiled, lonely – barred from the tree of life by cherubim and a flaming sword.
Man was driven out, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed a sort of wall - cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. This far and no father! So much for walking with God in the cool of the day.
Scattered, displaced, and shutout. It is to this family that you belong - malefactors and outcasts - alienated. But above all, those who are painfully shutout – excluded – from the realms of holy angels – spanning light years - from sin that separates - from death that destroys, and the devil which condemns to a lonely, isolated, shadowy existence.
Feeling left out hurts. But nothing hurts so much as to be cut off and separated from the God of love.
But after man was driven east of the garden, God did not leave us without consolation. He promised a son – to bridge the divide – between God and rebel man. A mediator - born as a sweet child, so gentle, and so harmless, that we prodigal sons and daughters would lay down our arms – and find out way home.
Remember the temple. Remember the holy of holies. Remember the high priest once a year stepping forward to offer a sacrifice. “Here and no further,” God had warned Moses, “You cannot see my face. No one can see me and live.”
So how marvelous it is when that all changes. When Jesus is born the whole world can peer into those stable doors. What a wonderful surprise when Jesus tells the disciples, “don’t you get it? Don’t you understand? Whoever has seen me has seen the father.” The father and I are one…and this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Remember the worship, the temple, the priests, and sacrifices. But now look at the temple fashioned in human flesh. The true High Priest is here. The one to answer Job’s prayer “If only, if only, there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together” – said Job! Truly, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. And so when our mediator and high priest was offering himself up as a sacrifice to God – to secure peace – in a blood soaked cross – he cried out tetelestai. It is finished.
Simply put, someone opened the curtain. Someone tore down the veil. This someone was Christ your Lord.
So brothers and sisters, we are completely free to enter the Most Holy Place without fear because of the blood of Jesus’ offering. We can enter through a new and living way that Jesus opened for us. It leads through the curtain – which is Christ’s own body.
He has spotted you. He has heard you, and he has invited you. What once separated you from God has now been removed: “Now in Christ Jesus, you who were far off from God are brought near.” He has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. You can now go where you could not go before.
That’s right. He canceled the record of charges that stood against you by nailing it to the cross. And what joy filled his heart to do this for you.
What’s it all mean? It means you’re included. You’re not left behind. God has not forsaken you. He’s not even angry with you. For all of you, who are in Christ, every drop of God’s wrath has been vanquished.
His blood cleanses you and marks you as his own. You belong to a kingdom with a crucified and royal King. And you are his royal subject. You’re not a bystander. You have a special place at the family table. You belong to God and he knows your name. You’re baptized into his death. Your sealed in his resurrection.
Ultimately, today is not a day of mourning. We call it good Friday for a good reason, because we see how dearly God loves man.
Easter morning is already a foregone conclusion. It’s finished after all, because how could he who had no sin, possibly remain in the grave. We know what’s coming.
So we’ll save our alleluias for Sunday morning. But for now, know in your heart, that nothing stands between you and God, except of course the tree of life, on which hung the salvation of the whole world. The holy cross - upon this blood-soaked bridge angels ascend and descend – giving you safe passage to the throne of grace. You can look at God and live.
He has drawn near to you. And when he comes again, it’s won’t just be the temple curtain, torn. The heavens will be rent asunder. A myriad of angels will descend at his command. And with choirs of angels he’ll lift you gently from your grave.
You won’t be shut out. Tonight all of heaven stands open to you. In the name of Jesus. Amen.