Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday: "It's Not Complicated"

A Homily for Good Friday 2015

Have you ever taken the time to read through, let’s say, the Book of Leviticus? In modern Bibles, you often find chapter or section headers that describe the contents of the portion of Scripture you are reading… Starting with Leviticus 1:1, here’s what you find:

  • Procedures for the Burnt Offering
  • Procedures for the Grain Offering
  • Procedures for the Peace Offering
  • Procedures for the Sin Offering
  • Sins Requiring a Sin Offering
  • Procedures for the Guilt Offering
  • Sins Requiring a Guilt Offering
  • Further Instructions for the Burnt Offering
  • Further Instructions for the Grain Offering
  • Procedures for the Ordination Offering
  • Further Instructions for the Sin Offering
  • Further Instructions for the Guilt Offering
  • Further Instructions for the Peace Offering

Okay, I am going to stop there. That’s a summary of the contents Leviticus up to half-way through chapter 7. You pick back up at the beginning of Chapter 11 with clean and unclean animals, and keep going through the highlights of the High Holy Days to the relatively obscure regulations concerning the redemption of property. Twenty-seven chapters, the majority of which consists of regulations for Covenant Life.

There are other laws in the Old Testament which discuss other principals of Covenant Life… but I am not going to spend the next hour introducing you to them. Instead, I am going to share with you something that I think, for some, is a bit of a secret.

It’s just not that complicated.

Not anymore.

You see, as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, Christ Jesus is our true high priest. He is able to offer, and has offered – as we just heard – the one, full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for sin… not just for our sins, but for the sin of the whole world. He came and fulfilled all that had been written of in the Law and the Prophets. He cancels the old covenant, because it has been fulfilled. He truly means it when he boldly proclaims, “It is finished!”

And so, you see, it’s just not that complicated anymore.

To be sure, we are called to live a life based on a clear moral and ethical code as Christian believers; but it is not that moral and ethical code that justifies and redeems us. It isn’t the complexity of our worship. It isn’t the astuteness of our biblical studies, nor is it the vocabulary of our prayers.

Our redemption is secured through Christ Jesus’ righteousness, which is poured out upon us through the gracious, loving, and merciful will of the Father through the working of the Holy Spirit.

In Old Testament practice, the rituals, the laws, all were designed both practically and pragmatically – yes, if you could keep them perfectly, you’d be drawn close to God… but from a pragmatic perspective, nobody could keep the entire Mosaic Covenant. It would up being a death sentence.

You and I, as Christian believers, yes… we will sometimes fail at keeping the moral and ethical imperatives of the New Covenant. But when we fail, we need to assemble spotless animals, proper weights of grain mixed with specified additives, etc. We are simply called to look to the Cross of Jesus Christ, and there to be brought to repentance and renewal in him.

It isn’t complicated…

For the just shall live by faith.

May this day be a day in which, beholding the Cross, our faith is strengthened, and our hope renewed.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Holy Thursday

Today, my brothers and sisters, we enter into the Paschal Triduum, and we enter that celebration with this solemn memorial of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Holy Thursday also bears with it many other theological significances. All of them are very important… and yet today, all of them are irrelevant.

On the night before Jesus dies, as he prepares for a final meal with his disciples, he stoops down to wash the feet of those who have gathered with him in the Upper Room. In this act of unabashed humility, Jesus demonstrates in a profoundly personal way what his mission on earth is all about.

On the eve of the ultimate confrontation between good and evil, between hope and sorrow, between death and life, Jesus Christ demonstrates that everything he does is pervaded by a love that knows no bounds. None.

The Creator Word and God of Majesty stoops down with pitcher, basin, and towel to wash the dirty, gnarly feet of his disciples; because for God, nothing is more important that showing that he will go to any length to bridge the chasm that exists between him and his creation by virtue of the fall of Adam and Eve.

In the face of the hatred, cruelty, sinfulness, and brokenness of the world, the Jewish leadership, the Roman occupiers, and yes, even in the face of the Devil himself, Jesus ministers simple service and love and demonstrates them as the means to overcome every obstacle that would stand in the way of a new and eternal life with him.

What more is there to say?

What more needs to be said?

If perfect love casts out fear, then the image of Christ washing the feet of his disciples in one final, personal, quiet act of loving service to his disciples… his closest friends… and even his betrayer! should cast our own fears as far away from our minds as the Father casts our sins from us.

The Foot Washing… simple service in the face of unrelenting hatred.

Let us listen.

Let us learn.