Good Friday Sermons

Good Friday 2016Holy Week marks a sharp uptick in visitors to this blog. In comments, messages, and emails I hear from fellow preachers who, like me, are daunted by the task of preparing the Good Friday sermon. That task is even more daunting for those of us who serve progressive communities. My fellow progressive-christian-preachers tell me of the dearth of progressive-christian Good Friday sermons to be found on the internet and encourage me to re-post my own attempts to rise to the occasion. So, here are the links to some of the Good Friday sermons I have preached over the years of my journey with the progressive community that I serve. The people Holy Cross Lutheran Church have over the years provided an invigorating space for me to pursue my questions. They have also provided the resources which make this blog possible. So, if you find the work posted here  of value to you and your community, please consider supporting this ministry of Holy Cross. I rarely solicit donations. But Holy Cross is a small community that continues to give to others in so many ways and your encouragement is greatly appreciated!!! (Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 1035 Wayne Dr., Newmarket, On. L3Y 1N3)

Follow the links to Good Friday sermons and feel free to use/adapt/repost

2016 I’m still working on getting my body out of the tomb in which it was laid all those years ago. – reflecting on everyday crucifixions click here

2015 Not Salvation! Solidarity and Transformation click here

2014 God Is Dead? click here

2013 Giving Up the Theories of Atonement in Order to Move Toward an Evolutionary Understanding of Jesus. click here

2012 Good Friday Rituals or Crimes Against Divinity? click here

Preparing to Preach on Good Friday click here

I’m still working on getting my body out of the tomb in which it was laid all those years ago. – reflecting on everyday crucifixions

This Good Friday reflection was offered following we explored The Stations – a collection of posters designed to inspire worshippers to reflect upon the crucifixions that happen each and every day. You can view the posters here the art work is by Graeme Mortimer Evelyn

“The tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” Jesus lived so fully, loved so extravagantly, and allowed his passion to help him become all that he was created to be and in Jesus his friends and followers  and generations to come are able to see the embodiment of the LOVE that we call God.

On Good Friday, we remember that passion and we do so knowing full well that the embodiment of the LOVE that is God, failed, suffered, died, and was placed in a tomb. This morning, as we have explored the via Delarosa the Way of Sorrows, we have been reminded of our passions as we have gazed upon reminders of the failures of LOVE. We stand in the midst of images of suffering: the suffering of those who shared a vision for justice and who were executed, the suffering of innocents, starving children, poor children, dead children, the suffering of the oppressed, the suffering of our planet, the suffering of our fellow creatures. recent suffering designed to strike terror into our hearts. Around us the suffering of life in this amazing creation of which we are a part is write large. But not all suffering is of this magnitude. Passion can be laid in a tomb all too easily. It doesn’t take events as horrific as an execution to entomb passion. Most of our suffering is done on a much smaller scale. Many of us have seen our passion die a subtler death. Our passions have been laid in the tomb and without our passion we cannot live fully, love extravagantly, and be all that we are created to be.

I remember a little girl full of life. I must have been about twelve or thirteen. My body was bursting forth as my womanhood was beginning to come alive. I’d saved up all of my babysitting money and bought myself a new outfit. I remember it well. It was the end of the 1960’s and I managed to buy myself a pair of hot pants. They wouldn’t even qualify as short shorts today. But back then, wooo HOT PANTS. And a peasant blouse and a pair of huarache sandals. Oh my, I looked good. I felt good. I felt like I could in the words of Hellen Reddy, “do anything….as the song goes, “I am strong. I am invincible, I Am Woman.”

I was a passionate young thing, ready to face the world and be all that I could be. I had a babysitting job, a good one that paid over the going rate. The kids loved me, because I was the best babysitter that I could be and I looked marvelous. Suddenly, without warning, my employer’s tongue was in my mouth. I didn’t invite it there. I was shocked, dumbfounded, I didn’t know what was happening. He was an old man. He was stronger than me. I couldn’t understand what was happening. All I knew was that I didn’t want his tongue in my mouth. With all my strength, I tried to push him away. But he was bigger and stronger than me.

I’m not sure how I managed to get away. But get away I did. I ran and I ran and I ran. I was a child. I didn’t understand what had happened. I only knew that it was wrong, so very wrong. I also knew that it must be my fault. I was the one who got all dressed up in my Hot Pants. I was to blame. I buried those damn hot pants in the back-yard and it was decade or more before I ever wore shorts again. I buried my childhood that afternoon. My confidence in myself, my appearance, my womanhood, died and was buried.

I wasn’t sure if I could tell you this story today. Not because it is so very tragic or sad. But because as some of you must know, the residue of this particular death, lingers with me still. It is no secret that to this day, I struggle with my body image. I have, for most of my life, tried to hide behind my weight and I became a master of wearing layers and layers of clothing to cover up what became for me my horrific body. I’m still working on getting my body out of the tomb in which it was laid all those years ago.

Each one of us could tell a story about the death of our passion. We have all laid to rest some passion. Our passion for justice, may have died at the hands of our own cynicism. Our passion for the environment, killed by our own sense of being overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude task of taking on the empires of our day. Our passion for endangered species killed by our own inability to know where to begin. Our passion for the plight of the poor, overcome and snuffed out by the overwhelming need that we can never seem to achieve enough. Our passion for the oppressed smothered by the sheer numbers. Our passion for justice strangled by our need to pay the bills. Our passion for love snuffed out by our failures. Continue reading

Good Friday Sermons

Good Friday 2016Holy Week marks a sharp uptick in visitors to this blog. From comments, messages, and emails I hear from fellow preachers who, like me, are daunted by the task of preparing the Good Friday sermon. That task is even more daunting for those of us who serve progressive communities. My fellow progressive-christian-preachers tell me of the dearth of progressive-christian Good Friday sermons to be found on the internet and encourage me to re-post my own attempts to rise to the occasion. So, here are the links to some of the Good Friday sermons I have preached over the years of my journey with the progressive community which I serve. The people Holy Cross Lutheran Church has over the years provided an invigorating space for me to pursue my questions. They have also provided the resources which make this blog possible. So, if you find the work posted here  of value to you and your community, please consider supporting this ministry of Holy Cross. I rarely solicit donations. But Holy Cross is a small community that continues to give to others in so many ways and your encouragement is greatly appreciated!!! (Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 1035 Wayne Dr., Newmarket, On. L3Y 1N3)

Follow the links to Good Friday sermons and feel free to use/adapt/repost

2015 Not Salvation! Solidarity and Transformation click here

2014 God Is Dead? click here

2013 Giving Up the Theories of Atonement in Order to Move Toward an Evolutionary Understanding of Jesus. click here

2012 Good Friday Rituals or Crimes Against Divinity? click here

Good Friday: Not Salvation! Solidarity and Transformation

Listen to a version of this here:

rough crossAccording to the American novelist, Joyce Carol Oates: “Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions.” Following last year’s Maundy Thursday worship, I received a very rude reminder of our all too human habit of investing passion and authority in invented symbols. Our efforts to remember the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth are bolstered year after year, decade after decade, century after century by the symbols we followers of the Way have invented and invested with passion and authority. So, after our regular Maundy Thursday ritual of removing invented symbols from the sanctuary, I went looking for our own sacred Good Friday symbol. Each Maundy Thursday, we followers of the Way get together to remember Jesus by focusing upon the symbols which represent to us the events of the night before Jesus died, when he gathered his followers together to eat the Passover meal. At that supper Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it and the rest as they say is history. Our Maundy Thursday Eucharist is packed with symbols, from the hand-basins in which we ritually wash one another to remember Jesus washing of his followers feet, bread and wine which we ritually consume as Christ given and poured out for us, to the ritual stripping of the sanctuary of all of the symbols in which we have invested passion and authority, in our efforts to re-member Jesus.

The rituals of Maundy Thursday prepare us for the rituals of Good Friday and so after our worship, I went downstairs to venture into the cupboard under the stairs to retrieve the stark symbols of this congregation’s Good Friday rituals. It is the same every year, a rough-hewn cross, fashioned out of the trunk of a Christmas tree that once adorned this sanctuary. A Christmas tree – evergreen, a symbol in which we invest our passion for everlasting life, stripped of it’s branches so that only the trunk remains and then cut so that the top section can be lashed with twin to the main section to fashion a cross of sorts. A rough-hewn cross in which we invest our passion for what we have come to call the passion of Christ. Each year, once the sanctuary is stripped of  all the symbols which we have invented to facilitate our ritual remembering, I journey down beneath the stairs to retrieve our rough-hewn cross to facilitate our Good Friday remembering. This year, I had designed our remembering ritual, so that we could pay particular attention to our rough-hewn cross. This sermon was built around an exercise of re-membering which I hoped would help us to participate in the very act for which symbols are invented. Symbols are created to point beyond themselves, to direct our focus to that which lies beyond the symbol. This year, my Lenten sermons had focused on a definition of Divinity which describes God as beyond the beyond and beyond that also. So, this Good Friday sermon was written to use our rough-hewn cross to examine the work of the cross in the lives of the followers of Jesus, so that we might see beyond the symbol to the One who is beyond the beyond and beyond that also. I planned to place the rough-hewn cross here on the floor of the sanctuary, right in the middle of our circle so that as the Gospel according to John’s symbolic narrative, which has become known as the Passion Narrative, was read you could gaze upon our rough hewn cross and as my sermon began I would literally and figuratively take apart our invented symbol so that we might peer beyond it. I planned to sit here in the midst of you and unlash the vine that held our rough-hewn cross together and as I untied the vine, I would do my level best to untie the bonds that our religious tradition have placed upon the symbol of the cross and perhaps encourage you to question the passion and authority which is all too often invested in this invent symbol of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Then with dramatic flare, I planned to put it back together again. As I used the old Christmas tree trunk to pull together our history and tradition, and the withered vine to lash our troubled attempts to remember back into the form of the cross in the hope that we might see the cross from the perspective of the 21st century followers of the way which on this day of days we struggle to be. Continue reading

Not Salvation! Solidarity and Transformation: Good Friday sermon 2015

rough crossI am indebted to Marcus Borg for once again guiding me through Holy Week. Marcus’ words echo throughout this sermon. His last book (sadly his last book, what shall we do without him?) Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most provided me with a way of seeing beyond the cross for which I am grateful. I am also grateful to James Carroll whose book Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age, remains a constant source of inspiration.

Listen to the Good Friday sermon here

Good Friday Sermons

Good Friday2015Holy Week marks a sharp uptick in visitors to this blog. From comments, messages, and emails I hear from fellow preachers who, like me, are daunted by the task of preparing the Good Friday sermon. That task is even more daunting for those of us who serve progressive communities. My fellow progressive-christian-preachers tell me of the dearth of progressive-christian Good Friday sermons to be found on the internet and encourage me to re-post my own attempts to rise to the occasion. So, here are the links to some of the Good Friday sermons I have preached over the years of my journey with the progressive community which I serve. The people Holy Cross Lutheran Church has over the years provided an invigorating space for me to pursue my questions. They have also provided the resources which make this blog possible. So, if you find the work posted here  of value to you and your community, please consider supporting this ministry of Holy Cross. I rarely solicit donations. But Holy Cross is a small community that continues to give to others in so many ways and your encouragement is greatly appreciated!!! (Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 1035 Wayne Dr., Newmarket, On. L3Y 1N3)

Follow the links to Good Friday sermons and feel free to use/adapt/repost

2014 God Is Dead? click here

2013 Giving Up the Theories of Atonement in Order to Move Toward an Evolutionary Understanding of Jesus. click here

2012 Good Friday Rituals or Crimes Against Divinity? click here

Giving Up the Theories of Atonement in Order to Move Toward an Evolutionary Understanding of Jesus: a Good Friday sermon

eloi eloi lamaI am indebted to Michael Morewood for the theological insights in his book “It’s Time: Challenges to the Doctrine of the Faith” for helping me to see beyond the idols in my head! This sermon was preached on Good Friday 2013 at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Additional Good Friday sermons can be found here and here

The account of Jesus’ execution that we have just heard from the Gospel according to John lacks the rawness of the earlier accounts of Jesus death. The author of this account wrote at the turn of the first century, some seventy to eighty years after the Romans executed Jesus. That’s enough time for two, maybe three, or possibly even four generations to have pondered these events. The first account of these events, the Gospel According to Mark was written slightly earlier, sometime after the year 70. Most scholars date it between the years 70 and 85. That’s still 40 to 65 years after the execution; still time for one or two generations to have pondered these events. Perhaps it’s the closer proximity of the Gospel according to Mark that gives it much shaper raw feeling when it is read. Or maybe it’s the decision of translators down through the ages to preserve the intensity of Jesus’ cry from the cross in Aramaic. I don’t know about you, but I cannot begin to contemplate the events of this dreadful day without hearing the echoes of Jesus’ plaintive cry, in his mother tongue: “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?”

“Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?” “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?” The rawness, the bitterness, the desperation of this horrendous moment, and all the horrendous moments that have transpired before or since are captured in Jesus plea, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” I have always imagined a dying Jesus gathering up what little strength he has to raise his head to the heavens and cry: “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?” In most of the films depicting the crucifixion that I can remember seeing, Jesus looks up, up toward the heavens to utter this painful cry to God.Jesus’ question has haunted the followers of Jesus for centuries as Christians have struggled to understand how and why Jesus died.This question has left the followers of Jesus tied up in knots for nearly 21 centuries as our ancestors in the faith have struggled to offer up answers to the questions of the faithful. Why did Jesus have to die?

In pulpits all over the planet, preachers are struggling to help their listeners cope with the realities of the violence that murdered the One whom we seek to follow. I have spent most of my life, struggling to understand exactly why Jesus died and what Jesus’ death means for all the generations who have trusted and followed Jesus. I have studied the answers that have been offered by successive generations of Jesus’ followers. I can recite chapter and verse of the various theories that have been offered by the church to explain Jesus’ death as all part of God’s grand plan to reconcile humanity to God. I can tell you about the Apostle Paul, who looked back to the Book of Genesis to try to fathom a reason for it all and settled upon the story of Adam’s disobedience as the source of our sinfulness. I could talk for hours about the theologies that hang on that apple. I know far too much about the fall and original sin and the need for reconciliation. I could recount the various theories of how God went about settling the score; of making us one with God. The theologians called this process of reconciliation with God, atonement and then proceeded to develop all sorts of theories of atonement. Lutheran pastors are required to study them all; all the way from the moral authority and ransom theories to the favorite of the last few centuries aptly named the satisfaction theory. Continue reading

The Echoes of Jesus’ Cry and Giving Up the Theories of Atonement: a Good Friday sermon

Crucifixion 3I am indebted to Michael Morewood for his theological insights in his newly released book “It’s Time: Challenges to the Doctrine of the Faith” for helping me to see beyond the idols in my head!

Listen to the sermon here

Listen to the full worship service here – Special thanks to the Rev.Susan J. Thompson for her leadership. As always our worship was empowered by the magnificence of our gifted musician Marney Curran. Special thanks to Gary Curran for his solo.

Download the worship bulletin here (3 pages, print double-sided and fold into a booklet)

GOOD FRIDAY. Searching beyond the talk of sacrifice to see the Good News.

 

 

Re-posted from last year.

The Church’s Good Friday obsession with talk of  “sacrifice for sin” has been breed into the bones of this particular preacher.  I have been trained to speak the language of the Church.  I know full well the many doctrines of atonement that have been proposed to explain the reasons Jesus died upon a cross.  I’ve been studying the historical context and the theological consequences of Jesus’ death for more years than I care to admit.   Yet every year, I find myself wanting to book a vacation or call in sick so that I can avoid the awesome task of preaching on Good Friday.

 I’ve put it off tackling the Good Friday texts as long as I dare.  So today, I picked up my copy of “The Last Week” by John Dominic Cross and Marcus Borg, together with my copies of John Shelby Spong’s “Resurrection: Myth or Reality” and “Jesus for the Non Religious” and spent the day in pursuit of a sermon.

What follows is not the sermon I will preach on Good Friday, but rather, the notes I made to remind myself not to fall into the trap of talking about the events surrounding Jesus’ death in the way I was trained to speak of those events.  I offer up my notes hoping that those who are engaged in the struggle of grappling with how to talk about the cross in the 21st century might find some solace in a fellow struggler’s ruminations. 

For those of you who don’t have to come up with a sermon for Good Friday, I offer these notes as my humble attempt to see beyond the rhetoric about the cross to the Good News. As always I am indebted to Dom and Jack for their scholarship. 

There are many ways in which our focus upon the cross is disturbing.   Not the least of which is the way in which we as Christians tend to talk about the crucifixion as Jesus’ passion.  I have always thought it a tragedy that we should describe the events of Jesus’ crucifixion as Jesus’ passion. I’ve always understood talk of an individual’s passion to be concern with those things that people lived for. And so to insist that Jesus’ lived to die a horrible death might sooth those who seek to turn Jesus into some sort of preordained blood sacrifice.

But for those of us who look to Jesus in search of the face of God, such talk seems is indeed a crime against divinity. For what kind of petty, sadistic god would engineer the birth of, foster the life of, and then engineer the death of a beloved child. Surely such a god is no more than a wicked illusion of our own making.

I wonder what Jesus himself would make of the god we have created. I wonder what Jesus himself would make of our Good Friday commemorations? I suspect that if Jesus is anything like the accounts of his life suggest, he would be mortified, and I mean that literally…I think that Jesus would be mortified …mortified ie shamed to death…of what has become of his life’s passion; for if Jesus’ was passionate about anything, he was passionate about life. Jesus declared, “I have come so that you may have life and live it abundantly.” Jesus’ passion was about living. Living fully, abundantly.  Continue reading