November 25, 2007

Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us. – Luke 23: 39
Football fans appreciate the miracle of modern electronics that allows us to review a play just made with the so-called “Instant Replay”. It gives us a second chance to see & hear what really happened. So why this replay of Good Friday in November? Because we might have missed something last Holy Week. If we can stop everything & look at Jesus on the cross, we might be able to appreciate what happened more. It could also help us prepare more adequately for the coming of Christmas.
The rulers, soldiers, & the one thief have berated Jesus for not saving himself. But He was not sent to save himself. His mission was to save others. Jesus is the saved one who spends Himself for others. His exchange with the so-called ‘good thief’ is a fitting culmination for the life of one who defined Himself as a seeker after the lost.
We know that there are people who have a noble game in their hearts & on their lips, yet actually play a villainous game. There is a discrepancy between saying & doing. The way to unmask these possible hypocrisies is to bring onto the stage that great persuader of truth: death. The death of Jesus makes clear His integrity. What He said & what He did were of one piece. He died as one who valued God’s will more highly than His own life. This in turn can help us discover where OUR true identity lies:
A little girl was given her birth certificate to take to her new school. “Be sure not to lose it,” her mother said. So she lost it, & when someone saw her crying & asked her what was wrong, she answered, “I’ve just lost my excuse for being born.” Some of us haven’t found our excuse for being born, or we’ve lost it temporarily.
Not very much in life can make real sense until we find out who we are & begin to grow into that person. And just who is that person? God’s child, His unique child whom He loves totally & irrevocably. This “replay” of the crucifixion is not a sentimental journey into the past. It is a sign & symbol of the way Jesus is giving Himself to us right now. He does this so that we all might have an ‘excuse’ for living so that we can be real to ourselves & to others – to know who we are & what we ought to do.
In A. J. Cronin’s novel, The Keys of the Kingdom, a main character is a missionary priest who has worked almost all his life in China against overwhelming odds. In one scene he is talking to a distressed farmer who was wringing his hands & bitterly complaining because his garden had been washed out by a seasonal flood. “My plantings are all lost,” he cries. “We shall have to start all over again.” Fr. Chisholm replies quietly, “But that’s life my friend: to begin again when everything is lost.”
The plantings of our lives often get washed away again & again, & we feel lost, isolated, purposeless. Looking at our Lord on the cross gives us the strength to begin again because God is with us, living & reigning among us. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” we echo the words of the criminal hanging next to Jesus; but our Lord has entered into His reign & has not forgotten us. To see Him clearly now in this way, is to see clearly who we are in God’s eyes & who we must become to one another. AMEN!