"All Is Not Orderly"

Date Friday March 30, 2018
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Good Friday Sermon

The Passion According to St. Mark


     A few weeks ago I purchased some Easter cards to send to friends and family; this is one of them that I debated about purchasing. I liked it because my favorite flowers, zinnias, are pictured on the front and a couple of the flowers are shades of orange, one of my two favorite colors. But, I reconsidered because of the white cross edged with glitter.

     Even though it’s an Easter card, the cross is all wrong, or so would say Dr. Walter Bowman who taught Systematic Theology when I was in seminary. Dr. Bowman pounded into our heads that lovely looking crosses were a travesty. He hated it when people wore crosses as jewelry, and the more gold or diamonds there were, the worse it was. Why? It’s because such depictions of the cross, even expensive ones, cheapen its meaning, Dr. Bowman said.

    The cross was an instrument of torture and death. It was barbaric. Pastor Vince Gerhardy writes that someone he knows begins a presentation on the death of Jesus by hanging a gallows around his neck, to remind his listeners that this is what the cross really is – a device used to kill people, to execute criminals. (1)

     All this is to say we should never water down or pretty up the death of Jesus or disregard his sacrifice for us. Only great love would lead to such a great sacrifice.

     Jesus came not only to share in the mess and muddle of our human existence, says author NT Wright, but to be the place where God would pass judicial sentence upon sin itself, sin as a fact, sin as a deadly power…. Remember, the Bible speaks of a God who made the world and loves it so passionately that God must and does hate everything that distorts and defaces the world and particularly his human creatures. So, in the person of his Son, Jesus, God takes upon himself the pain, the shame, the horror and darkness – that is, the condemnation - God must pronounce over that deadly disease we call sin. (2)

     The result is forgiveness so that while death may claim us, it cannot hold us. But, that’s Sundays story. Tonight’s story is centered on the cross.

     The cross of Christ; it is depicted in many ways. For example, George M. Bass describes a church in Europe where, at first glance, the crucifix above the altar looks like many others – a mixture of tragedy and triumph – for the body of the dead Lord hangs there. But, if one looks more closely at that cross, details not usually included become evident.

     The sign with the “King of the Jews” inscription on it, hanging over the head of Jesus, is not straight or securely fastened to the cross. It has torn loose at one corner and dangles from a single nail. Also, the crown of thorns has fallen off the head of the Lord, which is tilted toward the earth. (3)

     The effect of this combination of details is to imply that Jesus has been abandoned as he hangs there alone. Something is amiss, all is not orderly.

      And, actually, that is the case on that Friday we now call “Good”; all is not orderly because the crucifixion led to a major shake-up. The prescribed order of life, that sin leads to death and death is permanent, is in limbo in the hours between Good Friday darkness and Easter Sunday dawn. We wait to see what the new order of things will be.

     The sign with its inscription hangs askew, the crown of thorns no longer draws a trickle of blood. All is dead quiet. It is finished … there is no glitter on the cross … or so it seems. AMEN



(1)   “Children of the Cross” by Pastor Vince Gerhardy, April 18, 2003, Sermon for Good Friday

(2)   “The Word of the Cross” by N.T. Wright, April 5, 2007, NTWrightPage.com

(3)   The Pilgrims and the Passion: Messages for Lent and Easter by George M. Bass, 1973 Augsburg Publishing House, pg. 59