Monday, April 4, 2016

Good Friday: An Ordinary Death, An Extraordinary Result

Good Friday 
March 25th 2016

Eternal God, who created all things ordinary and extraordinary, help us to see clearly the work that you are doing in our midst despite the sinful desires we give in to, grant us the grace to move beyond our deaths into your eternal life, through your Son who loved us so much and the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen. 

We gather together today as ordinary people. Its important to remember our ordinariness. Its important to remember that at one point in time this day was an ordinary day. 
When we think of ordinary we tend to think of boring, repetitive, normal, typical, common place, run of the mill, regular, routine... in other words, very much not special. It's waking up each morning, going to work, sorting through the mail... And sometimes the ordinariness of things can get in the way of enjoying them. I know most of you are thinking at this moment, that's not today! Today is very much not ordinary! Definitely not ordinary. Today is the day that we remember Jesus' death. 

I want to remind you that death is pretty ordinary. Every year we watch as the plants of the earth die. Every year we know that millions of animals die. (Many on the side of the road.) Every year we see on the news that millions of people die. Ordinary people. Ordinary deaths. Accidents, cancer, disease, malnutrition, disaster, old age. We die every day. And Jesus continues to suffer his humanity when he joins the ranks of millions as he says, “It is finished,” and gives up his last breath. But God does some amazing things with the ordinary, transforming them into the extraordinary.

One of the unintended central themes of Sunday School this past year has been looking at the ordinary things in this world that Jesus makes extraordinary. In his ministry Jesus never uses anything extraordinary to make his point. He never orders away for something special. He never goes looking for some extraordinary experience to embark upon. He uses the ordinary things around him every day to teach and share about God. He used bread, fish, wine, water, a table, the birds of the air, fig trees, sheep. All things that were and are very ordinary, normal, run of the mill, routine. And yet, because Jesus used these things to share about God, they have become extraordinary. Again and again Jesus takes the ordinary and through being fully present makes it extraordinary, including this week, the pain and suffering he endured and finally at the end, his death. We know his death to be extraordinary because of what it does for us and for what comes after. But the sorrow, the pain, the suffering that caused his death was terribly, horribly, horrendously, ordinary. Yet, Jesus did not let what was ordinary stop him from seeing God's creation as it truly is, beloved of God. 

We tend to think of the death that Jesus died as completely extraordinary. But at first glance, Jesus' death can seem kind of ordinary. Jesus suffered ordinary pain and suffering throughout his ministry. The pain of being cast out, for being blamed for things not his fault, for trying to share love to those who are not the in crowd. Some of us have suffered because of these things too. The Romans crucified thousands of people, slaves, and pirates, enemies of the state and for treason. Thousands of people were flogged, beaten, whipped throughout the years of the Roman Empire and beyond. But unlike all those pirates and enemies of the state, Jesus was innocent. Yet, he suffered all the same. 

When we think about all the losses we have ever felt, the breakups, pets dying, friends gone away, mothers and fathers and siblings and children dying, the things we miss most and the things the disciples were most likely thinking about on this day two thousand years ago, were not the extraordinary moments, but the ordinary moments. We remember most the gestures our loved ones made, the way they sat in a particular way or seat, the way you could tell they had been through the house, the faces they made on a daily basis, etc. This is what Mary and Joseph and Peter and Mary Magdalen and John were all remembering, the way Jesus laughed or the look he got when we was thinking... because he too was a man - a son, a friend, a teacher. And he used those ordinary roles, the roles we have in each other's lives, to change and transform our lives into something extraordinary. 

We gather together today as ordinary people, made extraordinary in Jesus. We gather together to remember Jesus' death. An ordinary death by all standards for the time. However, we know the rest of the story. We know how Jesus makes death extraordinary. We know that through Jesus' death our own deaths are transformed. Jesus changes death just as he changed every other ordinary thing he used. This death, this day, has become extraordinary because it was overcome.