Sermons 2007
Good Friday 6 April 2007

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Good Friday 1998/2007

There were three other people there, three very close to the Cross from which Jesus hung. They were not passive onlookers nor were they hiding away. These were the three people in whose close company Jesus spent the last painful hours of his human life. These three were probably familiar with death, certainly one of them was well acquainted with it. For two of them, this would be the last public execution they would see. For the third, probably not.

They were the two thieves and the Roman centurion. we have met people like these. Many of us have been people like these. I certainly have. Here are several I knnow who fit these categories:

The first thief, the one who mocked Jesus: Ben was lying in his bed, pain written all over his face, tremors coursing through his body. But Ben was also sullen and defiant. He didn't want to be in the hospital; he wanted to get out and get back to his bottle. He still reeked of cheap vodka that had put him there.

Over the next several days as Ben's pain eased, the priest talked with him. Ben had destroyed three marriages in then years with his drinking. He wasn't really sure where his four children were; hadn't seen or heard of them for several years. Didn't seem to care. He refused to admit that he was an alcoholic, although he did admit that his latest binge might have had some cause for his lying in that hospital bed.

The social worker had arranged for Ben to go to a fancy rehab place for alcoholics, but Ben refused to go. Ben was, after all, certainly NOT an alcoholic, much less a common drunk.

Over the course of the several weeks, Ben seemed to look forward to the priest dropping by. Not that the priest was especially sympathetic to Ben's plight; he wasn't. He was direct, even brutal in telling Ben what a mess he had made not only of Ben's own life, but the lives of at seven other people for certain; no telling how many others.

But Ben remained in denial right up until the end. He didn't wait around to say goodbye to anyone when he was discharged several weeks later. Ben's next brief appearance was in the death notices a month later. He had been found dead for several days in a back alley. The priest said a final prayer for Ben, shook his head, and thought about another poor soul he had met long ago.

The second thief, the one who accepted Jesus, and was promised to be that day with our Lord in paradise: Her name was Ruth. She was sixteen years old when the Second World War ended. She was in a garrison town in Germany, whose military installations had been taken over by the conquering Americans. Her parents had been killed in a bombing raid and there were no jobs available for a young uneducated girl. Except one.

The American soldiers were mostly just several years older than she was then. And they were more than willing to pay for her comradeship for an evening, then a night, until she was, by her late teens, able to purchase a rundown house near the kaserne and bring several other girls into business with her.

She always charged a fair price and kept her establishment clean and healthy. By her mid twenties she had been able to refurbish the old house, and add a new dormitory wing, restaurant, and bar. The White Horse had become a well known institution by the time she was in her thirties.

Both the American and German authorities left her alone. She had a reputation for maintaining order among her employees and clientele even when young soldiers were out on the town looking for action on Saturday nights. She allowed no fights, and if a soldier drank too much, she, who did not drink herself, drove him to the gates of the Kaserne, where the military police looked the other way as she delivered her cargo to the door of his barracks.

The priest, then a young armored cavalry lieutenant on courtesy patrol in 1964, recognized that she was a kindly person, a good hearted woman, no matter what trade she was in. She really cared for her young female charges and for the several generations of young soldiers who had trooped to her institution.

Ruth had a sadness about her, though, that showed through her smiles and kindness. She wished her life had been different. But it hadn't been. Even now in her early forties she knew that the choices she had been forced to make in 1945 would hold her captive until she died.

She had very little education and no time to get more; her establishment took up all her time from dawn until midnight. She was aging rapidly and she was very tired. She hoped that someday she might be able to retire to a small cottage and garden in a small town somewhere in Germany, far from the garrison, in a place where no one had ever heard of Ruth and the White Horse.

The priest occasionally remembered Ruth and the conversation he had had once with her long ago. He hoped her soldiers had remembered her kindly on occasion as well.

The Centurion: They were newly minted captains, newly arrived in country, and they were flying in by helicopter to replace veteran company commanders who had been with the battalion since its arrival in Vietnam a year ago. The colonel had agreed to stay on another six months until this new crop of company commanders had either been seasoned, relieved, or killed and replaced. He had had to see to replacements along those lines many times; too many times.

He waited in the shade at the edge where landing zone and jungle met, listening to the whop-whop-whop of the rotor blades as the chopper arrived with this new crew. He remembered how he had been a scared young officer in late World War II and even in Korea. He would remind the new captains that fear was a fact of life in war, that both brave men and cowards were afraid; the difference was what you did about it.

He gathered the wide eyed young men around him and began to educate them into some of the realities of leadership in combat. "The hardest part," he said, "is not the fighting. It's the dying. Sooner or later the time will come when one of your own soldiers will die."

There was an especially still silence in the group. The young captains were all rapt attention, eyes wide.

"He won't die because he made a mistake. And he won't die because the enemy outsmarted him. He'll die because you and I gave an order that put him in the path of the bullet that kills him. He'll die because he did exactly what we told him to do. He'll die doing his duty.

"After that comes the hardest part. We call it a letter of condolence. You'll have to write a letter to his home and you'll have to tell the people who loved him the most how he died. It isn't easy and it shouldn't be.

"Don't give a report of the action; describe the man they've lost; tell them something of how brave he was and how we will miss him every day of our lives. Make sure that they know how valuable he was to us.

"And if there's time, listen to his final words as he lies dying. Remember those words and put them in your letter.

"And don't ever forget that what you put in that letter will be what they have left of him the rest of their lives."

The young captains were silent as he finished. He looked long and hard at them, wondering if they would also measure up, despite their fears, their inexperience, the loneliness of their responsibilities. Time would tell.

The colonel nodded a dismissal and sent them over to where their first sergeants were waiting to take them to their soldier deeper in the jungle.

Three who were there. Two thieves and the centurion. The crucified Christ lives in each of them -- and in each of us.