Good Friday

Good Friday

April 2, 2021

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)

There’s a middle ground I’ve been trying to find on Good Friday these past few years. I’m pulled between the necessity of allowing Good Friday to be Good Friday. Of not looking ahead to Easter. Of remaining here on this day in the somber truth of our Lord’s death. Of this being the one day when we don’t preach the resurrection, realizing that we need a faith that can speak to the happy moments and the sad moments in life. Of this day being when we focus on the brutal truth of death that hangs on the cross revealing the brokenness of our world that is in desperate need of a savior.

On the other hand, I still recognize the other truth that even on this day of death and sadness, this day when we read how the sins of the world killed Jesus, that sin and death could never have the final word as long as God is God. That the powers of the world want death to only mean death, but the world does not get the final word. The power of Jesus’ cross is ultimately a life giving one.

Perhaps our task today is to let Jesus be dead. Let Good Friday be Good Friday, but also let us take that ineffable Spirit of Jesus, which he gave up, with us in our hearts today. Perhaps this spirit is hope that tomorrow will be a better day. Perhaps Christ’s spirit is the memories of Jesus’ past earthly life of love and ministry and friendship. Perhaps his spirit is one small flame, a reminder that even though Jesus is dead, we always have the opportunity to carry him with us in our lives, every day, and especially this one, as we watch and wait for what is to come.

Peace in Christ,

Pr. Dan Joyner Miller

 

 

It’s enough

It’s enough

Maundy Thursday 2021

April 1, 2021

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (John 13:1-5)

This is enough. If I had no other reason to love Jesus than this one moment, this is enough. This is beauty beyond compare, love beyond speaking.

Jesus gets up from the table, casts off his outer robe, ties a towel around himself and pours water in a bowel. Then he kneels … and washes his disciples’ feet, an act of crystal purity flowing from his heart, giving himself to his friends who could never comprehend the depth of the love who chose … them.

Watch him as he takes a foot in one hand and washes it with the other. These are the hands that held and blessed children. His hands welcomed lepers who had given up hope of ever knowing the grace of human touch again.

He had bent low to lay his hands on the despairing who fell at his feet, daring to hope  that maybe the mystery in him could and would heal them.

He had held the hand of a little girl pronounced dead, lifting her by the hand and delivering her into the arms of astonished parents.

And now, in an act of exquisite love for the uncomprehending and undeserving, he washes his disciples’ feet, loving them completely and loving them to the end.

I see his hands and in them I see the hands of my Sunday school teacher, Grant, red and chapped from working outdoors all his life, strong from milking cows, making hay and building fence. His hands welcomed us every Sunday to his class with a strength born of a love none of us could begin to understand at 10 and 11.

I see Magdalena’s hands, arthritic, a network of blue veins across the back, weathered and worn from chores indoors and out, hands that gently cared for her orchids, bringing them to blossom, beautiful, but none so much as her. I remember her hands laying atop mine as she prayed for me and for hundreds of others, struggling for words to express a fraction of what was in her heart that we might be warmed by the enduring flame of love she felt within.

I also see my hands picking up Hana, a little Ethiopian girl, who long ago insistently tugged at my pant leg until I picked her up and sat her in the crook of my arm. She patted my face and kissed my cheeks, aching to touch and be touched with a love denied her because of the disease that ravaged her family and made her an outcast. I held her, praying that she might live and grow and one day hold her own child as I held her.

In their hands, I see Jesus’ hands, and in Jesus’ hands I see their hands.

And in all of them, I see the hands of the Love who pours from Jesus’ heart as he kneels at the feet of his disciples and washes their feet. In the touch of his hands, the gentleness of grace, the beauty of blessing, we know the Love who labors in the depth of human souls and works in the great tides of history to love us into truest humanity and create a community joined in the heart of God’s invincible love for all creation.

So it is: If all we ever know about Jesus is this one moment as he washes feet, this is enough for us, enough to know that wherever we are in life’s journey, whether it be dark or light, we rest in very good hands.

We adore you, O Christ, and bless you.

By your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Pr. David L, Miller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange power

Strange power

March 30

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

A wooden triptych sits on my desk at home. Four or five inches tall, it was carved from a single piece of wood. Human figures rise in relief from the walnut background.

On the left, a robed figure stands erect, hands together in prayer. A soldier holds a sword directly in front of him, point down, on the right. The middle panel is Jesus, arms wide on the cross.

Each time I return to my desk, I pick up the tryptic, kiss the relief of Jesus and pray, “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. By your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

This sounds like nonsense, of course. How does a crucified man, suffering excruciating pain and degradation redeem anything? It is the very opposite of success, power, status, wealth or any of the other things we are told we should want.

It makes no sense, until you see … really see … a mother holding and caressing her infant, or a teacher going that extra mile for a troubled child or any of a thousand other instances where love goes out of its way expecting no reward … other than the sheer grace of loving.

Then it becomes clear that if anything is going to save this world it is the willingness to give yourself away, loving beyond any and every expectation.

Jesus dies on the cross, rejected, tortured, humiliated by purveyors of merciless power, eager to demonstrate that they owned him and could do what they like.

But they didn’t own him. He refuses to surrender to the hate that kills him, breaking history’s ugly cycle of paying back insult with injury, hate with more hate. He lives the Love who lives in him right to the end, blessing those who curse him, showing mercy to the merciless, grace in the face of evil.

There’s nothing about the cross that suggests power, yet only this has the power to save us from ourselves.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.

By your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Pr. David L. Miller