No, It Is NOT Finished!

Halifax-20120404-00368John 18: 1-19:42
April 3, 2015
Ecumenical Good Friday Service

This was a bit of an interactive dialogue.

When I said the words, “It can’t be finished, oh my God, how can it be finished?”

The congregation responded with “No, it is NOT finished!”

Those words were what went through my head as I remember that day… that day that my first born son hung on a cross and died. Jesus, my first born son, the one whose conception caused me the most trouble, whose birth was the most fearful, whose life gave me the most joy, whose death caused me the most grief… How did we get here from those first awe-filled moments of his conception? I was lying in my bed, sound asleep… And suddenly, a light entered the room, a light so bright… Well, it woke me right up, at least I thought it did. Then when Gabriel spoke to me I thought I must still be dreaming. The Holy Spirit! To visit me, an ordinary Jewish girl, I couldn’t believe it. But there it was, that wonderful light… It glowed and pulsated and hummed… I still remember that light. And in the light was love, a love so powerful and real which seemed to roll over and through me and into me like no other love I have known, before or since. It washed from the top of my head to the very tips of my toes and set up an echo inside me, an echo which would become Jesus. With the love came assurance. This love would not let me down. This love would help be endure whatever I had to face. This love would keep watch over me. And so Jesus was born… born in questionable circumstance. But born in love. And put to death in hate.

It can’t be finished. Oh my God, how can it be finished?

“No, it is NOT finished!”

Do you remember how we found him in the temple teaching the elders? And how they were astonished at his wisdom. Joseph and I knew then that he was no ordinary boy. But I didn’t ever think we would wind up here, in this place.

It can’t be finished. Oh my God, how can it be finished?

“No, it is NOT finished!”

Do you remember his cousin John, my cousin Elizabeth’s son? How she and I spent time together before our boys were born? How even in the womb John seemed to recognize Jesus in my womb. How as John grew, he spent time in the wilderness and then baptized Jesus? When the Holy Spirit descended upon him and we all heard a voice saying, “This is my son, the beloved.” It was after that Jesus began his mission…

It can’t be finished. Oh my God, how can it be finished?

“No, it is NOT finished!”

That spirit that descended upon Jesus at his baptism also drove him into the wilderness. Where he spent 40 days and nights without food. Where the tempter tried to persuade him with power and riches if only he would renounce God. It is paradoxical that Jesus is not tempted to do something evil. Instead he was tempted by his own highest ideals. Tempted to turn bread to stones in order to feed a hungry world. Tempted to demonstrate religious power by casting himself off the highest pinnacle. Tempted to demonstrate his power in the world. Jesus’ purpose was and is to relate profoundly, deeply, and personally with God. Indeed, one loaf of bread would be enough, if the temptation were to merely deal with his own hunger. The temptation would have been to turn the stones into bread to feed everyone. When Satan challenged Jesus to throw himself down from the temple and prove that he was God’s son, Jesus refused. Once again he knew that if he showed the religious leaders of that day that he could indeed be born up by angels, he was dooming himself to a nonexistent future. For a ministry to be based on a sensational event was to be forced to produce greater and greater events in order to keep the people following him. The greatest struggle must have been when Satan showed him all the great kingdoms of the world and promised them to Jesus, if only Jesus would kneel down and worship him. For Jesus had come to save the world and it would be his for the taking if only he could worship Satan. This is the temptation to compromise, the temptation to come to terms with the world instead of presenting God’s way to the world. Jesus resisted and overcame everything that the tempter showed him and left the wilderness determined to meet his future.This was a future that I didn’t envision.

It can’t be finished. Oh my God, how can it be finished?

“No, it is NOT finished!”

Do you remember the fisherman along the Sea of Galilee? How they left their nets and their families and their livelihoods in order to follow Jesus and fish for people. We don’t know if they followed him immediately or they had heard Jesus’ invitation many times. What we do know is that their lives were changed dramatically by their relationship with Jesus. Even as they stumbled and fell… even as they often misunderstood Jesus’ ministry and mission and tried to protect him from the crowds and people. Even as they were often confused… they were faithful… they followed him, knowing somehow that he was someone who would change the world. They couldn’t have envisioned this day.

It can’t be finished. Oh my God, how can it be finished?

“No, it is NOT finished!”

Do you remember how often he shared meals? Tax collectors and other sinners… Pharisees and Scribes… Women, men, children, foreigners and kin. Crossing the boundaries that separate us one from another. Do you remember when he fed all those people with just two fish and five loaves? They had been listening to him preach… it came time for the noon day meal and Jesus followers wanted to turn them away to find food. But Jesus invited the crowd to sit. In the midst of that hungry crowd was a young boy who offered what he had. And it was enough. Jesus took that bread and fish and blessed it and broke it and distributed it… And they were multiplied… in the sharing there was enough for all.

It can’t be finished. Oh my God, how can it be finished?

“No, it is NOT finished!”

Do you remember the bent-over woman? How she had been burdened and hadn’t been able to see anything except the ground for 18 long years. Eighteen long years of looking at the ground. Eighteen long years of her bones fused to one another. And in the midst of the Sabbath service in the synagogue, Jesus called her up to the front. He said, “Woman, you are set free.” And then he touched her. He put his hand under her chin and gently tilted her face up until she looked into his eyes. {lift chin up and make eye contact with someone in congregation} Restored not only to health, but also to community; a daughter of Abraham.

It can’t be finished. Oh my God, how can it be finished?

“No, it is NOT finished!”

Do you remember his encounter with the Samaritan woman? How in their conversation she saw her life in a different way? How she offered him thirst quenching, life sustaining water… and in turn he offered her the water of eternal life. And how she ran back to her village proclaiming him the Messiah. So often it was the women, so many unnamed women, who recognized that there was something different about Jesus. Something within him that made him see beyond the human constructed barriers of race and class and gender… made him see how all of us were made in the image and likeness of God… all of us… not just some of us…

It can’t be finished. Oh my God, how can it be finished?

“No, it is NOT finished!”

And just last week… he rode into Jerusalem with crowd cheering and loud Hosannas ringing. It seemed that everyone was excited to see him. Men, women, children, they all joined together with excitement and anticipation. But it was short-lived. Even as the excited shouts rang out… in another part of town soldiers and authorities were preparing for something different… Some of our own people turned away from him… I don’t really blame them… it’s hard to stand up to the authorities… Do you remember that last meal he shared with his followers? The woman who anointed him with oil… anointing him as both messiah and doomed one. The servant role Jesus demonstrated by the washing of the disciples feet. The bread and cup blessed, broken, poured out and shared. The betrayal… the desertion… the heartfelt, prayerful plea to God for deliverance… The arrest… the mockery of a trial… the denial by Peter… the 39 lashes… The bearing of the cross through the streets by his bruised and bloody body… Nailed to it and hoisted high between two thieves… And here he is… hanging on a cross… a convicted criminal. Long hours of pain and agony…

Oh my God, I can’t bear it… it is finished.

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