John 18 & 19
The Red. Adele K. Langworthy, preaching
As much as we might like to avoid this day and move directly from remembering a meal with Jesus and his friends in the upper room to the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, we can not. As much as we might like to avoid the somberness of this day and stay upbeat with a life-giving God, we can not. For our own sakes, we need to stop at the cross—to acknowledge the depth that God would go to show us his love for us, to recognize in Jesus his faithfulness to carry out God’s divine plan, knowing the cost and pain it would bring. The cross was unavoidable for Jesus and it is unavoidable for you and me. Stopping at the cross today brings a fuller celebration and a deeper appreciation of the gift of life that Easter brings.
I’d like to share with you a conversation that took place in this very Chapel several months ago. It was Communion Sunday. The children had been in the Sanctuary through the Children’s Sermon, and were then brought to the Chapel where they would celebrate Holy Communion. Each month when they come to celebrate communion, we begin by talking about what communion is about and why it is important for our lives. The month to which I am referring, I began by saying that Jesus was in the Upper Room with 12 of his friends. A little girl chimed in, “He was only with 11 of his friends. One of the 12 ratted him out for a little bit of money. He wasn’t a friend!” Then another child spoke up, “Yeah, that’s right. No way was he Jesus’ friend.” Then another said, “It is so sad that he ratted Jesus out ‘cause then Jesus had to die.” Only for another to jump in the conversation, “What do you mean it is sad? Man, he had to die. If He hadn’t died then we would be dead now.” A girl piped in, “I want to go to heaven with him.” A boy said, “We gotta wait to go, but he is with us now.” “Yeah,” said another, “He died so our sins can be forgiven. And we need that!”
Unfolding before another staff member and myself, was a very theological conversation about Jesus death and resurrection. She and I stood by while the children sorted it out and witnessed to the power of this day and Easter.
They get it! The cross is unavoidable!! Jesus had to suffer like a common criminal on the cross and take on the sins of the world, if we are to know a lasting life with God. The sacrifice of his life was needed, that God might demonstrate his power and witness to the world that Satan does not have the last word!
Bumps, bruises, fractures, missing teeth and facial rearrangements are an almost every-game occurrence for NHL players in their mad quest for silver glory that is the Stanley Cup. Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland observes: “Two months of playoffs will age a player more than an 82-game regular season.” For instance, the Anaheim Duck’s Ryan Getzlaf’s cratered face took a puck to the chin during a playoff game on April 16, 2014. Doctors sewed him up. His face was swollen and stitched, with a jagged line of sutures (doctors said there were too many to count) running from the right corner of his mouth to the left side of his jaw bone. He sipped his meals through a straw the next day and played in the Duck’s next game two days later wearing a face mask. Former NHL star Wayne Gretsky said “that’s how you win championships.” Immediately after being swept in 4 games in the finals to the New York Islanders, he visited the Islander locker room: “guys were limping around with black eyes and bloody mouths. It looked more like a morgue in there than a champion’s locker room. And here we were perfectly fine and healthy. That’s why they won and we lost. They took more punishment than we did. … They sacrificed everything they had. And that’s when (my teammate) Kevin Lowe said something I’ll never forget. He said: “That’s how you win championships’”
Jesus’ life is not a game, but just as in that hockey game, the team had to give their all to win, so, too, Jesus had to give his all—his physical life— to win with God for all of us.
Fleming Rutledge wrote, “How do we measure the size of a fire? By the number of firefighters and fire engines sent to fight against it. How do we measure the seriousness of a medical condition? By the amount of risk the doctors take in prescribing dangerous antibiotics or surgical procedures. How do we measure the gravity of sin and the incomparable vastness of God’s love for us? By looking at the magnitude of what God has done for us in Jesus, the Son of God, who became like a common criminal for our sake and in our place.”