Tag: good friday

No One Gets Left Behind

HomilyGood Friday, April 9, 2020

John 18:9

“I didn’t lose anyone of these you gave me” (John 18:9) 

I don’t know why I know this, but I know for solders, there is this stern commitment, that no matter what happens, ‘no one gets left behind’. Maybe I picked this maxim up from all the war movies I have seen over the years. “No one gets left behind”.  

To my surprise, as I hear these beautifully woven words of John telling of what he and the others saw and heard as Jesus goes to the gallows, these words above all words were there; or almost there. They really stick out to me in this pandemic threatLike a soldier reporting to his commanding officer at the end of a battle, Jesus says to his loving Father,   

“I didn’t lose anyone of these you gave me.” (John 18:9) 

 These words are now burnt into my consciousness anew. Jesus says to his disciples before this ugly but good day happens, that not one of his people has been or will ever be lost; never be left behind by Jesus.   

These are not easy words for a soldier to say, or for Jesus to say. They might cost you. They might cost you your freedom, your health, your lifestyle, your life. That will be the case for Jesus. This commitment to people will cost him his life.   

Events can overtake the best soldier, even one making this pledge, “No one gets left behind”. As Jesus makes this announcement that he has got his people this far, events now overtaking him. Now comes the hardest bit that will cost everything.  

The threatening posse comes. The payment has been made, the betraying kiss givenSuffering and death are now fated. For us to not be left behind to threats and fear and vile death, Jesus will have to win this last battle – and alone. Only he could do it.   

Like this pandemic with all its huge changes to our lives, Jesus’ suffering must now simply be endured.  

 At the pointy end of a weapon; at the pointy of this demonic transaction; the point of arrest when tension is high and life is at its thinnest, Jesus gives himself. But as he does, he protects the innocent or the incapable. He gives his life so the others can have one.    

As he sacrifices himself like a faithful soldier or friend, he fulfills the great mission of the Father, the Son and Spirit from the beginning of time.  

The great “I AM’ has always given himself up for the sake of his wounded, ignorant, scared and incapable creation. He does it most immediately, most humanly, most unmissably, most painfully this day.  

Whatever has already happened this day, whatever has already happened in this pandemic, and whatever will still happen, Jesus says that in it all he will not lose any of the ones the Father has given him. He will not lose you this Good Friday like no other.   

No follower of Jesus, no baptised son or daughter, no person of living faith in him, no one with any kind of real and right relationship with him, wherever they exist now or existed before this time has been or will be lost.   

Friend, whatever happens to you in all of this, you will remain found, never lost, for however long you might feel lost as you go it alone in these isolated times  

Of course, this is not easy to believe. It is not easy to believe for these close friends in the garden when the power of Rome and misguided religion descend.  

It is not easy for us when the threat of disease and uncertain future is just outside your front door. Just ask Peter. He feels the need to resort to more immediate measures to break out. Out comes the sword and of off goes Malchus’ ear!  

Many are attempting to do similar with this pandemic threat. We are throwing money at it. We are engaging all our medical might, our scientific research, our people management and policing skills. We are throwing the kitchen sink at this thing  

We have to do these things. Just and right governments and organisations in all spheres should do these things for the good of all people.   

Buall this in the end wont be the most telling thing that will heal us fully, restore us to community fully, reset our Western society fully, or our global environment fully and for lasting time beyond this threat  

This is because organisations and governments, though part of God’s amazing grace for his planet earth, cannot deal with what this Jesus can deal with.  

Human power and skills can do much good and should do its best good, but this life-giving Jesus will deal with the great enemy, death itself, in all forms and for all causes – virus or other. Peter, Jesus will deal death the killer blow by forgiveness, not sword  

As he dangles in the hot sun in full shame and resounding pain, to no applause, but derision from the crowd, our shame and pain is hung out to dry  

It does not seem as effective as Peter’s sword. But just like that ear healed in a moment, so Satan’s viral threat of death is killed this good day.  

In the moment of the deepest darkest self-isolation a human being could ever experienceas he gives voice to that cry of total isolation; total forsakenness, this bleeding man gives up his life for the life of this dangerous and unwell creation  

He takes it all so we can live it all.   

He pays for our doubt and sickness and fear and wayward wondering heart bent on self-satisfaction at any cost.  

He gives it all so we can receive it all. He attacks it all so we can live in all of the peace we could ever have without his life on planet earth, at home or running free.   

This virus will come to its end as everything does, even you and me. This man of sorrows who is familiar with all our human ways will live on from this day  

He has lived in his people through many a pandemic, a war, an injustice, a flood, a fire, a wave. Because he lives through it, we can live in it.   

He lives in you now. And that is how you know that what he said still stands.  

“I didn’t lose anyone of these you gave me” (John 18:9) 

He has not lost you yet, friend. He will never lose you. He will lose himself for you. He will find you whenever you feel the loss.   

It’s Good Friday. Our life has purpose. Find the lost. Give yourself for them. Through your loss they and you will be found anew in his love  

No one gets left behind.  

Good Friday

Good Friday – April 19th    So that we may dwell in the Father’s Place

Vicar Shaun Manning

John 19:17-30

17 So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol′gotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 

God who creates, gives life and is life, is now being lead to a place which represents death and where he will suffer death. The One who built with wood and nails as a carpenter’s son, was about to be crucified with these same tools – wood and nails.

It is of comfort when we know someone who has experienced sufferings as we have. If a sinful human being and their experience can bring us comfort, what about the Divine? In Christ, the God of the universe has experienced human devastation and the tragedy of the fallen world we live in.

What did He do to be crucified? What crime did He commit to suffer such a death?
If he was guilty of anything it was unfathomable love. Love that fulfilled the Lord’s promises of old and becoming sin, experiencing death and despair. Despair that led him to feel abandoned by His Heavenly Father.

It is easy to read this account and forget that the man who is bearing this cross and is crucified with criminals is the Divine Son of God.

Jesus is in the centre of the three, and symbolically this makes sense, for His death is the most significant death of all time. Having a mocking sinner on one side and a repentant one on the other.

19 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Did Pilate know and believe Jesus’ claim? We can’t be exactly sure but it does appear so, or at least that He was used by God to inscribe this.

It was inscribed in all spoken languages of the time and place. Perhaps symbolic to the fact that He is king to all and Lord of all.

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also, his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfil the scripture,

“They parted my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”

25 So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag′dalene. 

26 When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

28 After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so, they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Overview of fulfilment:
Crucified on Golgotha with inscription
In all spoken languages of the time and place. Perhaps symbolic to the fact that He is king to all and Lord of all. And through the Great Commission this would be actualized by “making disciples of all nations”.

Garments and tunic is distributed (to fulfil scripture)
Four parts. Imagine how you would feel as His mother or His friend that they in the last hour they are dividing His clothing. It’ll be like arguing over inheritance in the hospital room whilst the person is dying, but even worse it is strangers doing so.

 

Mention of all three Mary’s, and His command to mother and beloved disciple.
Fulfilling and giving commands in the midst of agony. Even in the midst of His crucifixion He is concerned for the welfare of His mother … the fourth commandment, a commandment in which I struggle with personally, was fulfilled by Christ in His earthly life where He honoured His earthly parents as well as His Heavenly Father … He was also concerned for His beloved disciple. Fulfilling another commandment which He gave in His earthly to love the Lord your God with everything and your neighbour as yourself …  even the night before, love another as I have loved you.

“Mother behold your son”… Some have interpreted this as calling His mother to take care of all disciples for Mary would’ve played a motherly role to the early disciples (think of Luke’s Gospel).

 

And finally …
“I thirst” (to fulfil scripture), vinegar (also scripture Psalm 69:21); “it is finished” and bows His head and gives up His spirit.

Fulfilling Scripture? Commitment to His promises at all costs.
The Lawgiver Himself is fulfilling the Law and all the prophets. “I will be your God and you will be my people”. How? Through Christ … He is the One who not only is Divine but represents you to the Divine, the very mortal one sitting in the pew this morning.

The Law, Prophets and the Psalter anticipated this man … who comes because He needs to come. There is no other way to buy you back but to fulfil the promises and scripture He has given since the beginning of time.

The ramifications of “it is finished” and the salvation it has achieved spills on into your devastation and despair of life. Despair, depression, devastation, darkness and the devil’s use of such things has been entered into and crushed. Crushed by Christ’s fulfilment of Scripture. The fulfilment to bring you to a place where there will be no fears, tears or heartache. And He brought you into this life with His Father both now and for eternity by experiencing fears, tears and heartache and more.

This is who God is, this is who your Saviour is. He is a promise keeping God and nothing can stop Him from keeping them. Even death. In fact, it may even cost bloodshed for Him to fulfil His promises, and it did.

I finish with the words of a beautiful song which reflects on the Lord’s death…

O humble carpenter, down on your hands and knees, 
look on your handiwork and build a house so you may dwell in Me.

The work was done with nothing but wood and nails in Your scar-borne hands
O show me how to work and praise trusting that I am Your instrument.

O loving labourer with the sweat upon your face,
oh, build a table that I too may join you in the Father’s place
oh, in the Father’s place!

 

So may this Carpenter bring you peace this Good Friday in His death, dying the death we deserved on the wooden cross. He did this so that you may dwell in the Father’s place with Him.

May He keep your hearts and minds safe in Him this Holy weekend and evermore until you meet Him in Paradise.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Fills My Tomb

Sermon, Good Friday

March 30, 2018, St Petri

Luke 23:44–47  

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[a] When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”

“Privilege is the power to open doors in my life”, says Joseph of Arimathea.  His Dad taught him this about getting on in life. If you are privileged, then you have power to get on in life. If you are not, then you haven’t. So, you better work at finding some privilege so the doors to the good life remain open for you!

For my Dad, it was not privilege that was the power to open doors but hard work. Hard work was the power to open doors. Same result thought – endless slavery to trying to make it in life – trying to open those doors to privilege. It is all on you and it is a heavy load.

But this man Joseph from Arimathea then came across someone with a completely opposite approach to power and privilege, and therefore a radically different take on being human and living life.

He discovered that Jesus had all power possible but denied all the privilege that goes with it. That got Joseph thinking……  Why does Jesus give up the power and the privilege? Why would anyone do that? Wouldn’t giving up power and privilege or even hard work to earn privilege close doors to a full and good life?

Not according to this suffering and crucified Son of God. It is in the giving up of power and privilege for the sake of the weaker, the different, the doubtful, the rebellious, the disliked, that his vision of life is found.

We might not want to find his vision for our life. We may choose to still go for the power and privilege. But how fleeting can it be? Oh, those poor cricketers who have striven so hard to be the best, only to come badly undone and now cop the disdain of the deeply disappointed.

If we are still chasing the dream of power and privilege over others for its own sake, then we will tend to only be able to be like Joseph of Arimathea – we will only be able to follow Jesus at a distance. Why so? because we will sense that following Jesus closely means being like him – a person who willingly gives up power and privilege for the sake of others.

But friend, today is a day to draw close to him because the ‘others’ he serves in love, is ‘you’. Jesus willingly gives up divine power and sacred privilege for you – so that you can have these today and forever in him. This is so much more dependable, longer lasting, solid and deeply satisfying and fulfilling version of being you.

His cross reveals that it is in the giving up of self-power and privilege that a broken rebellious sinner receives from Jesus more power and privilege than is humanly possible. Close to him you receive the power to pray to God as your own loving parent and ask him to change you, change people and situations in Jesus’ name. By his name pronounced upon you at baptism,  you share the privilege of being forever a son and daughter of the creator of all things.

Luke shows us that Joseph only follows at a distance……until this moment. In this mercy act he gets right up close and personal that Good Friday.

Something must change in him. Is it because he was confronted by an innocent man suffering unjustly whom he knew lived to a totally different beat and he was unsettled to the core. Probably. Are we unsettled by his call to be the same way? We should be.

Being in close proximity to the powerful man now powerless, and this privileged Son of God, stripped bare and publicly shamed by unclean lips makes me wonder.

Do you wonder? Would you wonder enough to draw closer, respond, speak, act, do?

Joseph wondered about this; wonder enough to respond; to get closer; do act, to speak, to even take a significant risk.

Joseph takes a huge risk and asks Pilate for permission to take the dead Messiah’s broken body down from that cursed tree.

On Good Friday, will you take a risk and approach the body still hanging today? As it was for Joseph, so it is for many. People are watching. There is shame by association to Jesus in the offering – more so in Australia today than there has been for the last 50 years.

But, out of sheer wonder and a strange sense of connection and even respect; even love for this Jesus, Joseph handles his dead body and places it in his own grave.

Would you place him your grave – the one you have paid for or will have to eventually pay good money for?

Would you let him be in the place where you were supposed to be buried and remembered? Would you get them to put his name on your grave stone not yours? Would you rather they remember him, not you?

Joseph looks at the tomb he has paid for now filled with Jesus. Jesus is filling up Joseph’s grave.

But what with?

The Centurion overseeing the brutality and shaming tells you.

“Surely this was a righteous man.”

That is what Jesus is filling up your grave with; HIS righteousness. Your grave is now no longer cold and dead but alight and alive……

Indeed, for any sinner who was once dead in body, mind and spirit, the Lord of life fills us up these ‘bodies of death’ (Romans 7) with his divine righteous life.

My dead spirit, mind and body is now by sheer grace of God in this Jesus on the cross, filled with his holy love, light and life.

He gives me his life, his beautiful life with his goodness and kindness and mercy and peace between us.

And he gives me all of this when I was left for dead on the side of the road. I was a rebellious stranger to him – like those thieves and murderers with whom he hung; like those violent ‘yes’ men enacting the carnage without a brain in their heads….except for this one of them

“Surely this was a righteous man.”

IF your death is now filled with his life and your self-righteousness is no longer necessary because you have his righteousness in your body, then you can trust that his grace is really too good for you but still true.

If he fills up my grave with his light and life and peace forever in him, then my privilege comes from his ability to open the doors of heavenly grace to me, not my ability to open doors of power….. and I am changed. I am free from the pursuit of power and privilege.

He is filling the tomb. He will burst it soon. Then you will burst with joy at the privilege he gives.

Jesus, by your imprisonment we are freed.

By your wounds we are healed.

By your death we live.

By your being abandoned we are welcomed into your holy community.

By the taking of all our sin to Golgotha we are clean and holy and pleasing in your eyes.

For this we thank and praise your holy name.

Amen

 

 

Dead of Alive

Homily, GOOD FRIDAY

April 14, 2017, St Petri. Pastor Adrian Kitson

Matthew 27:19-20

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.’

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

It must have been an uneasy peace at best for Claudia, Pilate, the Soldiers and the religious elite. They were looking for some relief from God’s prodding through this man Jesus. They must have at least half-thought they had found some rest from a suffering conscience by getting rid of this man who claimed to be God.

They are not the only people in history to try to silence God’s whisper. Many are still ignoring dreams, words, experiences, thoughts, prayers, churches, and stories of faith. Many are still trying to believe that it does not matter – this faith, this church, this religion, this man, this claim. For many of our family and friends, faith in Jesus’ word from the cross is at best a misguided hope. After all, He is dead.

Jesus, for many is a like a stone in your shoe removed, a lose thread in your underwear snipped, a troublesome relative avoided, a winning opposition team supporter silenced. It is easier if he is gone.

If he is just noble man who came to a sad end he can now only be an example to us. Then we are free to choose or not choose to follow his example and we can choose to bask in our own likes and dislikes, our own wins and losses, our own dreams of how it should be and how everyone else should be.

Claudia had a dream. She sensed that killing Jesus was unjust and dangerous. Her husband however was under extreme pressure from the fickle crowd. He found it too difficult to follow his wife’s advice of having nothing to do with killing this man. Talk about a dream – it was a real nightmare!

It makes you realise that Jesus was just a nightmare for those who had much to lose by his presence and truth. This is still true now.

We have been told for at least 40 years that Jesus and his claims and those who trust them will soon be gone. Religion will die out, they say. If only this religion would face the inevitable and play dead!

Our discovery of the stars, the forces of nature, the history of the natural world, the intricacies of the human brain… will all eventually be fully understood, and more importantly, mastered by us.

As far back as the late 50’s we heard that there will be no need for a God in this future; no need for any divine presence and spiritual life. By solid research and unrelenting unbelief, we will get there to this lovely human-centred utopia in which we are the masters of our own destiny, the givers of our own vision, the realizers of our own dreams, the creators of our own ideal world with no nightmares anymore.

But the script has not played out. The advertising has not delivered the promised hassle-free self-determination. The scientific proofs for no God have fallen short. Religion is not declining but increasing in the world – everywhere but in this Western society.

We in the West are in full flight, heading further into a human centred universe with no God, and we firmly at the centre. We will probably keep pressing on with this faith in a closed universe for some time yet. We seem harder to shift on this than North Korea on communism and nuclear weapons!

But we, even in the West, are still hungry, we are still fighting, we are still often unwell, we still die, we seem at a loss to know how to be community or family at peace. We are still searching. We still know what it is to feel alienated, lost, judged, condemned, lonely, and fearful of what may come.

But can Jesus on the cross the game-changer? Surely he can’t offer much from there for here. Claudia says it well. He is dead now, anyway. And that is better. We can all rest from region, from those annoying but crucial questions of who we are why we are here and whose we are.

Claudia, asks the question: is he a criminal breaking all the rules of our expectations, or just a lunatic who knows no better – an object of our pity. Or is he the One who had direct connection to God and offers it to you and me today?

His message was clear. He said his time has come to rule the world by serving it, loving it, empowering it to be true community with its Creator.

And here is the “ah ha” moment: if this man on the cross is the Lord of life and death, that means I am not; we are not. His humility, his strength in suffering, his forgiveness in injustice, his giving of everything for me means I am called upon today to lay down my ego and my dreams for life and my family and my career and my very self.

Will I do this? They are MY dreams and my visions. I have EARNED them. I have learnt my vision in the school of hard knocks. I deserve my dreams. I am entitled to this life and how I choose to live it!

But I look at that cross on the wall and it jumps off the wall and I feel myself going to the wall. It speaks because he speaks from the cross. He screams from the cross. Seven telling words that send a ripple across our nice calm pond.

I cannot just have nothing to do with killing this man _ I do every time I reject his sacrifice for me and place me at the centre!

Surely today I cannot dismiss or kill him. I cannot just let him lie in the grave. His words live. They move me, they melt me, ….. even us Lutherans who only dance on the inside!

Friend, does regret steal your sleep? Do the questions keep you awake? Does his gracious stare and prayer from this torture unsettle you, challenge you, undermine you, as he did for Pilate and Claudia and all who had much to lose? He should.

It would be easier in a way if we went with Pilate and Claudia on this. Letting Jesus be dead cost us less, we think. There is no challenging question and no call to follow and no Lord of my life except me.

But then we are worse off. A dead Jesus makes everything mean less. Without these words of forgiveness, hope and promise everything turns into nothing of any lasting value. Eat, drink and enjoy the gourmet Vintage Barossa and the fruits or OUR labour for tomorrow or some day we will die.

Claudia told her man to have nothing to do with this man. Plenty of people give the name direction today. By my own heart, I shun him often.

But friends, his blood, the wood, the sand, the rocks, the pain, the look and especially the words scream a question that demands our response either way today. “Who do you say I am?”

Friend, for life and for love and for the vision of God for his world including you, don’t follow Claudia’s advice. Have plenty to do with this man today.

Hear his words from his cross. Hear the question he asks you. “Who do you say I am?” He asks in love, not hatred, in mercy not judgement.

Stare into the costly call of these seven words from the cross. They are life and love unfathomable.

Look into what may seem a nightmare to the human ego, but is freedom that allows us to learn and love and truly live together in holy community and holy serving, as we have been served and still are.

He is not dead and praise God, by his grace, neither are we!

Amen

Living in the PROMISE – At the Cross – Good Friday

Good Friday Homily 2016Living in the Promise titleyello daisy

John 18:28-40

28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

 

 “He took my place and this changes everything”.

Like a person who has been in a major vehicle accident where another person in the car wreck has suffered serious injury or died; like the surviving members of the crew and passengers of the Titanic; like a family who still have their home after a bushfire while others have lost everything; like an employee who has avoided being retrenched while others were not so lucky, Barabbas the rebellious extremist is suffering from what we have come to know as “survivor guilt.”.

I heard about this very hard thing that many people around us have experienced as a result of the Pinery fires. It is this terrible false guilt at being more fortunate than others. It is false guilt.

Survivor guilt is not rational or realistic or right, but it just comes upon people who have fared better in a tragedy. It comes upon people who care about others and want the best for others. The very fact that a person has this untrue, unjustified “guilt” says a lot about their character – they care!

If there was ever a man in history who fared very well compared to another man who did not, it would be Barabbas.

Unlike the survivors we have mentioned, Barabbas’ guilt is true and rational. He is a fair and square guilty man under the rule of law that most countries would hold. He is guilty of sedition – trying to overthrow the government by illegal means. He reminds me of the extremist movements/leaders we have been concerned about these last 15 years.

But Barabbas gets off free when he does not deserve it. He is freed by a weak and corrupt man; that man Pontius Pilatus, who caves into to popular hatred and sets the guilty man free while imprisoning, torturing and eventually executing the innocent man in Barabbas’ place. Jesus the innocent, unjustly an violently treated, is condemned as a criminal.

I wonder how Barabbas lived the rest of his life? Did he spiral into depression, never shaking off his survivor guilt enough to be free and live fully and much more completely than he ever could have without that man Jesus taking his place?

Did Barabbas ever know who Jesus really was after his unjust release from certain death and after Jesus’ rising from death to usher in that “kingdom from another place”?

Or did Barabbas eventually move on from the guilt to be captured by a new found freedom and love of a God who has done this kind of thing and would do this kind of thing for a lot more people than just Barabbas with a heart full of thanks to Jesus and faith in Jesus?

Did Barabbas end up living his life trusting that his freedom and life were completely dependent on that condemned man that literally took his place on the gallows?

If he did, that would be wonderful and quite life changing, wouldn’t it? You’d live life as one big response of thanksgiving to Jesus and you would trust Jesus for everything since you know you can trust him with your life because you know his character.

Whatever happened to Barabbas, we live in the same moment he lived in. We are all survivors of God’s just, right and true judgement on our wayward and rebellious spirits. We are all living the life God has given because of that man of sorrows, that man of the cross.

I hear you say, “I am not that bad, Pastor!” “I have not participated in any student uprising that destroyed property or people. I pay my taxes. I do good when I can. I do the best I can with what I have.

I am not claiming to be special. I am not some wild left or right wing extremist, extreme in my views to join a protest or even a rebellion against governing authorities like Barabbas did”.

Fair point. But that is not the point. It is always the case with God that whoever we are and whatever we do or not do is not the heart of it. The heart is the heart of it, and only the Lord of life knows the human heart fully.

He says that no one in this space can be good enough, self-sufficient enough, loving enough, successful enough or family enough to live in complete peace, live in complete love, know complete understanding of the world and the God who created it and sustains it and loves it.

To hold up a list trying to convince God we are not as bad as Barabbas is to miss the heart of the matter. The human heart is flawed. We are out of sync with God. We find ourselves naturally serving ourselves and others and other things more than loving our Creator and our fellow travellers on this life’s journey – even those we know we love.

What parent is perfect? What teacher is always on top of things? What farmer is all knowing? Which of us can boast about how good we are, how special we are, how much God should really give us freedom, acceptance and real life bases on our own merits?

“What is truth”, asks a cynical Pilate. Well on this holy day, it would be more accurate, truthful and helpful in the end to acknowledge that we are all survivors like Barabbas.

Because of this one man’s unjust treatment, things have been put right and justice has been served by a holy and just God on all of my wrongs, all of my rebellious attitudes, all of my harmful and hurtful words and actions. They are all covered in the blood of this man and it is a holy, sweet, life-giving blood that covers mine.

Because of this man’s condemnation to certain and painful death, my death is not complete or final and life continues now and beyond our death because of him. The dark veil of human death that covers humanity has a tear in it. With Jesus we can slip out from underneath this darkness and live in light and live life stronger, better, more fully and freely.

Friend, on Good Friday you are survivor, not suffering ‘survivor guilt’ but ‘survivor freedom and life’.

Today it is now Jesus’ custom to release one prisoner at a time. Let him release you from dying to living, from self to thanksgiving, from false guilt to truth and the freedom it brings, from arrogance to humility, from distraction to sharp focus that he brings to the mind and heart, from aloneness to great belonging and love in his kingdom of another world now here.

“He took my place and this changes everything”.

Thanks from my heart, I offer

O Jesus, dearest friend.

For all that you have suffered;

Your mercy without end.

O grant that I may always

To your truth faithful be

When soul and body sever

May I be found in you.

(from O Sacred Head, now wounded LH 52)

 

 

Remember what he did – Good Friday

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GOOD FRIDAY 2015 (April 3,)
St Petri

 

Stricken, smitten, afflicted”
After viewing “Stricken, smitten, afflicted’ media clip.
You who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great.
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

Friends, what do we do with a guy like this? What do you do with Jesus of Nazareth and this old story we tell every year? When we remember this cross and this blood and these 7 words he speaks from a place or deep pain and God-forsakenness, what do we do with him?

One thing to do is what that song suggested – Friends, this is a day to feel the weight of our fears, our wrongs, our worries, our doubts, our loss, our pains and any unbelief in this Easter event.

It ain’t pretty but it is necessary – so we, with him, get through these to a much better place because of him and what he is doing for us.

We can let ourselves feel the weight because he takes it all as he holds his whole body weight on iron and wood in pain. By this cross he calls out to everyone who looks long enough and deeply enough into his pain that his death is the end of your death.

So, on Good Friday there is no room for denying any of this. There is little room for falsehood or blaming of everything and everyone else for our evil – or denying evil and loss and the doubts, fears and temptation to forget about him bring into play. Because of a guy like this there does not need to be.

If you ever have any doubt that Evil exists as more than a mere idea; If you ever stop by this cross long enough and let it in; grasp its evil nature, destructive power, sense the goal of the Evil One and the OldAdam within us, then doubt no more as you hear and see this bloodied man on that terrible cross. This is Evil’s goal; Evil’s final destination for all of us – if Evil had its own way, or course.

From some out of control military unit or individual who let that rocket go into flight MH 17, to such a tragic mental illness bred loss of so many in the beautiful but now deathly French Alps, to the any self-loving dictator who oppresses the poor in the lust for power, to any hurtful words we find ourselves inflicting on others, we know evil and we are a part of it. We both are damaged by it and do some damage ourselves.

There are bad things that happen to innocent people and there are bad things done by people doing wrong.

We experience both and are part of both – either as people receiving or doing.

But Evil is not the last word today. The brokenness of humanity, the pain we suffer, the wrongs we endure and the self-centred words and actions we inflict are undone today.

The hands that gave us life, flung stars into space – are the same hands that to cruel nails now surrender to death – for the life of the world.

So mark this sacrificial point in time – Good Friday. That’s what we do with a guy like this.

See who bears our pain, our dirt, our shame, our despair, our violence, hatred and this human arrogance with which we live – the arrogance that replaces this Divine man of love with lots of other loves.

Who bears all of this and brings in a new story, a new life, a new future, a last word of life for us? It is him – the Lord’s man appointed for this death, this cross, this blood this God-forsakenness.
And he is innocent. He did have not do any of it. He did not fall prey to any of Evil’s traps as we are want to do.

This human and divine being thunders in a whispering declaration – we will hear it soon.
“It is finished”. We have reached the end of ourselves and all we hear and see is him and his words – It is finished.

“But it is here that we have a firm foundation” sings the song writer.
Here is the “refuge of the lost”.

Friend, can your hear for real that he has entered our darkness and his light has broken through and there is a river of forgiveness, renewal, resurrection flowing from him to all the sinners who receive his cross and his loss and his love?
This is our claim today.

“Christ is the Rock of our freedom”
“His is the name on which we boast”.

Go ahead and boast today – Good Friday – not in us but in him.

He is the Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, sacrifice to cancel my guilt and our world’s sorrow!

They slaughtered him and his blood flowed freely for all the sinners who ever felt the weight of their shame.

Sense yourself being un-weighted; freed again today.

He is taking the weight and the pain off you.
He is drawing you into his pain so you can lose yours.
He is inviting you into his death so you don’t have one.

What do you do with a guy like this?

Remember him and remember what he has done and recognise what he is still doing.

Friend, whoever you are and wherever you are, sense your eyes being lifted to both view the bloodied man on the cross and the white light man out of the tomb.

As the song writer says, “You will never be confounded” as you build your life on the hope he freely gives today.

Encounter Jesus – Good Friday

Homily Good FridayEG of title art 1
Encounter Jesus – His Suffering
Media Reflection: Simon of Cyrene

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Did anyone encounter Jesus like Simon from a seaside town in modern day Libya, Northern Africa: Cyrene? You have to wonder.
What a place he found himself in, and so unplanned and unexpected.

Did anyone ever or since experience the suffering of Jesus as close and as personally than this stranger from the country?
• He felt the suffering of the man.
• He smelt it.
• He saw it up close.
• He was drawn into it – immersed in it for those moments he helped the condemned man up the hill with that awful cross crushing his spirit.

At the time of course, Simon was like everyone else – just guessing as to what this man Jesus was really doing.

The Nazarene’s way of bringing his influence to bear on the world must have seemed so depleted, so beaten, so irrelevant, so minimal to even his closest associates, like his Mother and close friends, John, let alone to this stranger visiting the city from a long way away.

Simon said it was hard to see the man through the blood. This was violence. This was human suffering. This was the pit. This was defeat and darkness and evil triumphing… it seemed.

Simon said the blood on the cross from his body would stain his clothes and actually stain him. Any association with Jesus’ blood would render Simon defiled – outside the worship of God at the feast of the Passover.

….Too late. He was stained. The soldiers gave him no choice…

But then in the up close and personal exchange of helpless one and helper, the African knew this man was moving, working, suffering, being abused, bleeding, being mocked for something….for someone… he had to be….

Oh friends, O that we could receive that look and that personal connection with this man of sorrows today. If we did, we would truly see him and see his intent…only love….

Friend, on this very Good Friday morning, receive this man by the ear, by this account, by his words….

Hear him in this story we re-live today. It is his story. It is him speaking…

We have his voice. He is here. This story is no mere story. That is our deep conviction in this community. This story is us. It is him resurrected within us and us simply responding to this day.

We know him and what he did.
Simon was helping this man of love carry a cross. But did it really dawn on Simon of Cyrene that this cross of pain Jesus carried was not Jesus cross….but his?
Maybe. We don’t know about Simon, but we know about ourselves.

Is that cross yours this morning? Is its weight your wrongs, your brokenness, your idol making and chasing, your rejection of the hand that gives you life, your determination to do it all your way? Simon may have thought so. Millions since have known so.

Many here now know he carries all of it for them and that is why we are here – to honour this Saviour. To give thanks. The marvel at God’s gracious love in action in human terms we can grasp….

Simon helped the suffering servant carry our wrong, our ignorance, our hard-heartedness, our human arrogance and pride, our self-interest and self-promotion and the abuse and violence it creates. They were dislodged this day. Love, hope, peace, joy, were established as rulers of the world through this man, this divine suffering man.

How must this African’s life been radically altered by this involuntary act of the Jewish man. Seems that one of his sons, Rufus, ended up a Christian in the community in Rome (Romans 16:13) and some of his fellow Northern Africans were there on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10)

How must our life be radically altered by that act of God’s resurrection power and love done in a church community somewhere by water and word?

Simon was claimed as assistant to the Messiah this day. So have we been claimed, assistant to the Messiah.
He is the Messiah – the one and only. He is truth, life, resurrection, life, shepherd of his people.

And yet the King of kings calls us to his suffering and his blood and his loss and shame.
• He calls us into these to be with him in all of it.
• He even calls us to assist him in all of this. He calls us to join him in bearing other people’s suffering with him.

Friend, today enter the cross.
Enter the suffering of your Saviour.
Leave yourself here and put on this man suffering man and be radically altered in the way you bear the cross with and for others.

All of us are being called as assistants to the Saviour in this ongoing work of bearing people’s suffering and human pride and going with him to Golgotha regularly where God nails it and deals with it all, once and for all.

Celebrate the new Passover today. He is the true Passover Lamb who has taken away all sin and its death in the world and still does through us his assisting community.

There is somewhere to go with suffering now.
Suffering is not meaningless or to be avoided at all costs. It just is and he is in it and with us in it and for us through it.
His blood stains us for good. His blood is grace, life, love, hope and future.

Let him stain you today. Let him stain you with grace. Respond to his call to do a Simon, and assist him on the way of suffering we share to the way of life and hope and love with him we share because of this Good day.

Cross of Life

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Homily, Good Friday, March 29, 2013.

St Petri, Nuriootpa.

A proclamation based on the hymn, “When I survey the wondrous cross” (Isaac Watts)

and Galatians 6:14

“14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”.

1. When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss

And pour contempt on all my pride.

2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ, my God;

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood.

3. See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down:

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

                                                               Isaac Watts (1674-1748), alt.

That hymn was released in 1707 by the English composer, Isaac Watts and is a paraphrase of St Paul’s words in his letter to the Christians in the area of Galatia where he says,

“14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

Friends, in a world where trust in all institutions, including the church, and now even the great Australian love, sport, is diminished where will we find real hope for ourselves and all people?

In what we=ill we place our trust for our wellbeing as individuals, families and societies? If the church is not trustworthy, the government is less so, and even sport is tainted with cheating and big dollars brought on in part by big gambling, then where will we turn for peace, for hope, for lasting love?

Of what shall we boast: our scientific achievement, our sporting prowess, our new status as a wealthy nation with a very high value on its dollar, our possessions, our freedoms, our wonderful geography, our “fair go” attitude? Are these the things we will turn to for hope and lasting peace and love?

Not one of them last. All of them are temporary in their very nature because we are all temporary in our very nature.

Friends, Jesus Christ and his suffering and dying for a world in need and pain is hope. He is life itself. That is the claim he makes on you. This is claim of a billion Christians around the world today. That is the invitation he delivers to your door today.

It is a noble thing for a person to die for a friend. It is even more impressive for a person to die for a stranger. But it is completely overwhelming for a person to die for an enemy.

This is Jesus; dying for the enemy – dying for that which breaks us human beings and turns us against each other and against our creator. Dying for people who have no idea what they doing and who cannot see that they are in fact “wretched, naked, and blind” in terms being holy and perfect before the Creator.

But friends, he is wretched – no longer recognisable as a man.

He is naked – shamed and mocked.

He is blind – blood in the eyes will do that to you.

Ah this is love. This is self-giving, self-sacrificing love every human being needs to be whole, and loved and hope-filled.

Has anyone seen such a love? Better than an ANZAC dying for his country, greater than an imperfect parent’s love for their child.

Anything I could give to him as pay back would not be enough. If all creation was in my hands and I gave it to him as a gift to pay him back for the life he has given me – it would not be enough.

So all I can do is boast – not in me but in him. All I can do is give him my life, my all.

Survey this wondrous cross, friend.

It pours contempt on all your pride.

It kills all my vane things that charm me most.

But it is life, because he is life.

There is sorrow and love flowing down mingled together on you now.

Love and sorrow meet you.

Boast! Boast in his sorrow and his love for you.

Tell the world that lasting hope and love comes by belief, not sight. Believing is seeing.

Wait.

Wait for the full vision of him to re-appear on Sunday.

Wait for Sunday.

Wait for Sunday because today it is Friday, and Sunday is comin’…

His Word form the Cross

THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF JESUS

THE FIRST WORD                 Luke 23:33-34      

When they came to the place called “The Skull”, they nailed Jesus to the cross there, and the two criminals, one on his  right and one on his left. Jesus said “Forgive them, Father! They do not know what they are doing.”

Meditation on the First Word

“They do not know what they are doing”, he said. They do not know?  How can that be? ‘They’. Who is “they”?

It is so easy to call others to account. It is easy to name and blame others; the Romans military, the fickle crowd Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas; they all played their part and conspired against Jesus, or simply followed orders to maintain the peace;and in doing so, keeping Jesus’ kingdom from infringing on theirs.

But are they the only ones who ever push away Jesus when his kingdom encroaches on our little kingdoms of comfort?

Where are we when others cry for justice?

Where are we when those disenfranchised by our order and our wealth call for compassion?

Where are we when the hungry and the lonely  ask us to share our prosperity, our security and our power?

Where are we when Christ is crucified among us?

Surely he should have raged at the sinners who nailed him to the tree.

Surely he should rage at us for the evil we do, the evil we do both knowing and unknowing.

Yet stunning compassion is there in the first words that he utters.

He intercedes instead of raging; he prays for us before the Father.

This is;

Compassion that called him into being in his mother’s womb

Compassion that compelled him to the cross

Compassion that brings incredible, unbelievable grace to sinners

Compassion that echoes through the centuries

to all who participate in the killing of Christ:

Compassion that cries out from the cross:

“Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing”

Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

THE SECOND WORD         Luke 23:39-43  

One of the criminals hanging there threw insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” The other one, however, rebuked him, saying: “Don’t you fear God? Here we are all under the same sentence. Ours, however, is only right, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong.” And he said to Jesus, “Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!” Jesus said to him, “I tell you this: Today you will be in Paradise with me.”

Meditation on The Second Word 

Can we immediately see ourselves in the first thief?

Full of anger – because we are not comfortable or secure in our own skin.

Full of impatience— because we believe God is not rescuing us from the evil and injustice we are experiencing?

Full of hate – because we suffer because of the wrongdoing of others?

How much do we want God to snap his fingers and make right what we have made wrong? How we wish he would act and remove our pain, grief and sorrow.

How easy it is to cry “save us” and to rail against God  when there is no magic cure, no miraculous recovery, no legions of angels, to take away pain and bring wholeness.

How easy it is so often to scorn the Messiah, to mock the goodness of the world and condemn the Light of the world because we are unwilling to face what part we have played in shame, condemnation and darkness?

Yet there is goodness. There is a cure for our broken spirit; a cure that does not promise magical solutions but promises that the pain and trouble we experience is not the end, that death which casts its shadow over us is not the end;

that when all this is over, when the suffering is finished, that the final word is not torture and defeat but life — life springing out of the ashes, life transformed and fulfilled in God’s presence—which He calls ‘Paradise’.

To the compassionate thief

To the one who could still recognize God himself in this dark suffering,

To the one who tried to comfort and protect that broken God-man,

To the one who sought this good — Comfort was given

“Today, you will be in paradise with me.”

 Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

THE THIRD WORD                    John 19:25-27  

 Standing close to Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s  sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there; so he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time the disciple took her to live in his home.

Meditation on the Third Word 

Who can grasp the grief?

the grief of a mother watching her son suffer?

the grief of Mary watching him die?

And who can grasp the grief of the son?

The son who must see his mother mourn?

What gift can a man give his mother?

What can he offer when he is gone?

How can he help her?

Hold her? Comfort her? Honour her?

“Woman, here is your son”. Here is “the one whom I I love”, to love you, and for you to love. One who knows me. One who is my brother and who can speak of me. One Who can hold you, comfort you and honour you; One who shares your grief. “Here is your mother”. Here is one I love, for you to love, and to love you. The one who taught me, the one who fed me, the one who wiped away my tears the one who hugged me, the one who grieves with you.

Women, behold your son; son, behold your mother.

 Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

THE FOURTH WORD                 Mark 15:33-34        

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Elo-i, elo-i, lama sabach-thani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 Meditation on the Fourth Word 

Of all the agony of that tortuous day the lacerations of the scourging, the chafing of the thorns around his head, the convulsions of his tormented, dehydrated body, as he hung in the heat all the day,

nothing reaches the depth of this anguished cry of desolation “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus, who found his purpose and strength in the presence of God who was sustained by the immediacy of his relationship with his Father, and who endured all by the tangible power of God

always at work within him ; always a centre of vitality and peace, found himself totally alone on the cross.

Jesus, whose very being was God, found himself utterly,

absolutely,

despairingly.

cut off from all that gives life and breath

cut off from all that gives purpose and hope

cut off from the source of his being

cut off, even from himself, plumbing the depths of the human condition to walk in the place of the utter absence of God, in the place of sinners in the place of those who reject God.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In these words is the central mystery of the crucifixion which cannot be fully comprehended,

that there is no despair so deep or evil so overwhelming or place so far removed from joy, light, and love from the very heart of God

that God has not been before us, and where God cannot meet us and bring us home.

 Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

THE FIFTH WORD                  John 19:28   

     After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.”

Meditation on the Fifth Word

There is a kind of timelessness about hanging on a cross.

It is not a quiet death, that is over in an instant, in one glorious moment of martyrdom like being torn apart by lions.

A cross is as much an instrument of torture as it is a gallows from which to hang, and as the day wears on seconds stretch into minutes which stretch into hours until there comes a point when time can no longer be measured

except in the gradual weakening of the body and its ever more insistent demands for that substance which is so vital to life so foundational to all living things so basic to existence as we know it: — water.

Water to moisten a parched mouth

Water to free a swollen tongue

Water to open a rasping throat that cannot gasp enough air.

Water to keep hope alive to keep life alive just a few moments longer.

Water, to a crucified man, is life.

“O God, you are my  God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where no water is.”

A thirst for water is a thirst for life and a thirst for life is a thirst for God who promises streams in the desert mighty rivers in the dry land and living water to wash away every tear.

Here, at the end of it all those promises seem far away, – distant.

And yet Jesus – forsaken by God still utters those words fort all who thirst in all the deserts of the soul to the Father who hears the cry and announces hope for new life.

“I thirst.”

Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

THE SIXTH WORD                      John 19:29-30     

 A bowl was there, full of cheap wine mixed with vinegar, so a sponge was soaked in it, put on branch of hyssop and lifted up to his lips.  When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished”;

Meditation on the Sixth Word

What a sigh of relief!

What a cry of deliverance, that finally, after seemingly endless pain and gasping torment, it is over at last.

The suffering is ended.

The ordeal is finished and nothing remains but the blessed peace of the absence of all sensation.

When all there is, is pain its ceasing is the greatest blessing of all even when its ceasing comes only with death.

But Jesus’ cry is more than just welcoming the ending of pain it is more than joy at the deliverance death brings.

He does not merely say, “it is over” he says, “it is accomplished, fulfilled, achieved”.

Jesus’ cry isn’t a cry of defeat and despair It is a cry of success and triumph – even at the moment of death – that the race has been run, that he has endured to the end

that the strife is overand the battle is won.

Jesus’ cry is a cry of relief to be sure but it is also a cry of victory:

“The work I came to do is complete”. there is nothing more to add.

“It is finished”

 Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

THE SEVENTH WORD                   Luke 23:46   

Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Meditation on the Seventh Word 

It is the end, the very end, the end of the ordeal, the end of the suffering.

Jesus, alone on the cross, tortured, exhausted, abandoned by his friends, forsaken by God, gasps for a last breath and gathers the strength for one final cry.

Why would he choose to speak so close to the end?

Why would he muster the last energy he had to cry out with a loud voice?

Couldn’t God have heard his thoughts?

Unless God wasn’t the only one intended to hear. Unless his voice was pitched loud so that we too might hear this final dedication of his soul.

A dedication made despite the pain,

despite the mocking,

despite the agony,

despite the sense of horrible aloneness he felt.

A dedication made to God

before the resurrection,

before the victory of the kingdom,

before any assurance other than that

which faith could bring.

Jesus entrusts his spirit — his life —     and all that has given it meaning — to God in faith,

Even at the point of his own abandonment when the good seems so very far away he proclaims his faith in God, the darkness cannot overcome it.

“Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit”

 Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

You suffered and died that we might be made whole.