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Good Friday sermon (a must-read, IMHO)...

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regnaD kciN Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-11 12:49 AM
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Good Friday sermon (a must-read, IMHO)...
The following was delivered at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Seattle, this evening, by Fr. Samuel Torvend. I think it deserves to be heard (or read) by more than just those at the Liturgy, or those on the parish's mailing list. I found the last part particularly moving.

April 22, 2011
Good Friday
John 18:1 19:42

Why seek wisdom in what appears to be failure?

On the evening of October 28, 313, the Roman emperor Constantine settled with his army on the outskirts of northern Rome. He had advanced on the city with an extraordinary show of military strength in order to intimidate Maxentius, a Roman general who had rebelled against the emperor's authority. That evening, according to legend, Constantine a worshiper of the sun god saw in the sky a large cross, surrounded by brilliant light, with this inscription hovering over it: "You shall conquer with this sign." The army general in Constantine took this vision as a prediction of the battle he would engage the following day and thus ordered the shields of his infantry to be marked with the sign of the cross a sort of talisman which the emperor believed just might help him in battle. On the next day, his army quickly defeated the soldiers of Maxentius, throwing them into the Tiber and ensuring that each and every one drowned in its swirling waters. In little time, Constantine legalized the Christian religion and thus ensured that its members would no longer experience persecution in the Empire an empire governed, nonetheless, by the exercise of power as intimidation and violence. How ironic, then, this moment when the cross the instrument of Christ's death - suddenly appeared on the shields of the very empire which had crucified him.

Our patron St. Paul writes that to welcome the crucified One, to be marked with the cross, to trace its image over one's body is, in the eyes of the world, utter foolishness utter foolishness, for it is a sign of shame, of weakness, a stumbling block to those who look for a god who could be easily worshiped in an empire or a culture which values intimidation and violence, a culture which values always winning. Indeed, Paul asks, why would any reasonable person seek wisdom in what appears to be utter failure? Indeed, are we not conditioned, are we not trained since the moment of birth to win, always win, to seek honor rather than shame, to "turn our faces away" from the weak, the fool, the loser? And so, one must ask: are the millions of Christians who, this day, stand before and venerate the cross and the Crucified One in song, word, and gesture are not they, and we with them, simply to be numbered among the those who are weak-minded, who can't cope with the "real" world, who need strength in numbers?

Or is it this? That we gather around the Crucified One and his cross, because his life offers a different way of living in this allegedly "real" world? I wonder if this is why we are here, joined by millions of Christians around the world: because we long, because we seek an alternative, another way living in relationship with others, with the earth, and with all those who may be counted as competitors, rivals, or enemies? For you see, dear sisters and brothers, I think this day, this liturgy, is not about the commemoration of a significant event in the past which we can blithely gaze at from a distance. Rather, I think we are summoned, we are asked to consider how we might exercise whatever influence or power we hold in our relationships, our families, our work places, the church, in daily life. Indeed, do we not see before us the One who rejects the practice of intimidation, of cut-throat competition in which some always lose, of violence small and great, hidden and public? Do we not see before us the One who knows how the heart can pervert justice and yet is acquainted with our many infirmities; who loves the weak and stands with them, with us; who pours out his life, his power among the powerless, unmasking human pride and yet forgiving our foolishness? Is this way of living what we are offered by the Crucified One? And, thus, does our veneration of his cross and the reception of his sacred body and blood then become our solemn commitment to this way of living with others in the world today?

In 1972, my parents moved to Los Angeles and there were involved in a church filled with people so they discovered who wanted one thing and one thing only: to be the largest church in the region, a church which would attract the upwardly mobile, the wealthy, the strong, the successful. During their first year, my mother hosted a group of women in her home for a Bible study. In the main entrance to the house, a large and high-ceilinged foyer, my parents had hung an early medieval crucifix of about two feet in height. On the plain wood was affixed the bronze figure of the crucified Christ, the Christ we meet in John's passion narrative: the wreath of thorns more a stylized and simple crown; his eyes gazing out steadfastly, open to anyone; the look on his face resolute yet marked by a restrained peacefulness. After gazing on the crucifix for a moment or two, one of the- women who had come for the study turned to my mother and said in sonorous and patronizing tone, "Perhaps someone forget to tell you that in our church we worship a risen Christ, a vibrant Christ, not a dead man, not a crucifix." The chatty crowd drew to an immediate hush so startled were they by the comment. My mother, usually reticent and quiet, finally spoke. She looked the other woman in the eye and in her gentle yet clear voice said, "I always want before my eyes and in my heart the presence of this Christ" this Christ "who in his flesh knows my weakness and the pain of the earth, for that weakness and that pain can only be cured by one thing, and that is a mercy far greater than what we can imagine."

Fr. Samuel Torvend
Associate for Adult Formation

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Kajsa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-23-11 02:07 PM
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1. This is excellent, RegnaD!

Thank you for sharing this.

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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-24-11 06:59 PM
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2. Wonderful sermon!
Yes, this does deserve to be wider known.
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