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April 9, 2004

Good Friday, 2004

(John 18:1-19:42)

On this solemn Good Friday, I just want to make three little points. First, notice again how Jesus responds to all the terrible things that happen to him. He is betrayed, denied, rejected, abandoned, arrested, tried, condemned, hit, mocked, abused, tortured, and crucified, and yet how does he respond? He doesn’t yell at anyone. He doesn’t scream. He doesn’t blow up in anger. He doesn’t strike back. He doesn’t hurt anyone, and he doesn’t kill anyone. Instead, Jesus responds with love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness. He is completely crushed by total violence but responds with perfect nonviolence. It is this perfect nonviolent suffering love which redeems us and saves us and reveals to us that he is God.

Second, as his followers, we have to practice that same perfect nonviolent, suffering love which Jesus displays on the cross. In his suffering and death, Jesus teaches us not how to hate, not how to hurt, and not how to kill, but how to live, how to love, how to pray, how to serve, how to forgive and how to die. He teaches us not to inflict suffering on others, but to be willing to undergo suffering for the sake of others without even the desire to retaliate; not to put others on the cross but to be willing to undergo the cross for the sake of others; not to kill people but to be willing to be killed, to be martyred, for the sake of humanity.

Finally, we have to make the connections, to connect the Good Friday story to what is happening in our lives and in the world, to see that Christ continues to be crucified around the world, in the hungry and the victims of violence and war by the unjust systems of the world. Only the methods of death have changed. We don’t nail people to wood anymore; instead we electrocute them on death row or blow them up or allow them to starve them to death, legally, legitimately. Christ tells us that what you do to the least of these, we do to him. So I offer one terrible example. In the last five days, since Palm Sunday, our government, our soldiers have killed 280 Iraqis in the village of Fallujah, and another 460 others across Iraq, in an effort to “bring the peace.” Forty eight hours ago, on Wednesday afternoon, our country bombed Fallujah and blew up four homes, killing 8 women and 16 children. Then we targeted the mosque which was filled with people attending afternoon prayer and we killed 40 people who were at prayer. That is Christ we crucify.

We can not come to the altar and venerate the cross and at the same time support the ongoing killing and crucifixion of Christ today in the world, by our soldiers and our government. Instead, our job is stand with Christ in the crucified peoples of the world and to do what we can to stop the ongoing killing and bombing of Christ in our sisters and brothers, no matter what their race, religion, or nationality, no matter what our government or soldiers say. We have to make a choice--to side with the crucifiers or the crucified. Unlike our government leaders--Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Ashcroft, who side with Pilate and the crucifiers of history--we are a community that sides with the crucified peoples of the world.

Today I invite you to be with Jesus as he carries his cross, to stand with Mary at the foot of the cross, to let Jesus offer us his forgiveness and love, to go to the tomb, to share his suffering love, and to stand with the crucified peoples of the world, so that we can truly be Good Friday people, attentive to the crucified Christ in the world, and become Easter people and share in the new life of his resurrection.

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