Sunday, April 5, 2015

Stand Up

Stand Up
A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
April 5, 2015
at Gordonsville Presbyterian Church, Gordonsville, Virginia
John 5: 25-29
Job 19: 23-29
Let us pray,
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives      
For your eyes show the way
            Your mind knows the truth
            Your being is the life.

25 “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; 27 and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. [1]

We've come now to the culmination of Holy Week, the culmination of the Church Year, the culmination of Jesus' ministry, the culmination of everything good in the world, for on this day we commemorate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for on this morning, when the Mary's had come to the tomb, the stone was rolled away, and Jesus was not there, he had been raised from the Dead, and is Risen. He is Risen, indeed. And what a week we have had. The palms last Sunday, a wonderful service on Maundy Thursday, where we talked about the importance of Remembrance, we shared communion together, and lit candles, including our beautiful Holy Week, Mock Advent wreath out of the crown of thorns. It was great symbolism, and I thank Kelsey for putting in the flowers, and also gathering the rosemary, which Shakespeare reminds us is for Remembrance. We lit 13 Candles remembering aspects of Christ's ministry and then we Extinguished them remembering all of the ways that we treated Christ poorly while he was alive. Father forgive us, we know not what we do. . . Which brings us to Friday. . . Good Friday, also about remembrance, but in this case, our service was centered around seeking to remember experientially, using our senses, through symbols, poetry, and songs. I want to step through those, briefly, because it is good to remember again today, before we go forward.
While on the Cross, Jesus said:

Father forgive them, they know not what they do. . .

He told us not to throw stones unless
We had no sin, but he had no sin,
And so we hanged him instead,
Whipped, and bloody, there he hangs,
Right there on that cross:
Holy hands, Holy feet, thorny crown,
All complete, and yet He forgives us,
Even so He forgives us,
And still He forgives us,
Here is a basket of stones.
Who shall be first? Who shall be last?
Take one, each one is jagged, broken,
Just like you are, none is perfect,
No smooth edges, so grab hold of yourself,
And throw it, do the job and destroy perfection,
He makes us look bad, like fools,
Take one, any one, throw it.
Look he's made it easy,
He turns His back,
He's closed His eyes
Throw it now!
How can we ever
pick up a stone again, then?
Father, do you still forgive us when we do?

This day you will be with me in paradise. . .

They hung me on a cross next to Him,
Next to Him what was I?
No, I, next to Him, was nothing.
Next to me, He was without blemish, without stain,
Perfect, and untarnished, and blooming,
And blinding, His light was blinding.
And I next to Him was not.
I deserved it, well maybe not this,
No one deserves this,
But I was guilty,
I did what they said I had done.
My soul has been withered a long time,
The things that nourish
My roots have all but been forgotten.
I made my way through this world.
I made my bed, and I'll lie in it.
I embrace the darkness
Where I can finally rest.
It is the choice I have always made.
What makes Him?
What makes Him do?
I will surely remember Him?
And that He was Hanged next to me.
Will He remember me,
That I was next to Him?
Maybe I should ask. . .

Woman, behold your son; son behold your mother. . .

Could you imagine watching your child go through it,
The trial, the beatings, the cross?
You know you'd feel every lash.
You'd feel the pain.
You'd cry each tear.
Even the words would hurt
The jeers, the accusations.
That's my son,
I remember holding him,
Him lying there in the manger,
There was a moment when He was just mine,
Mother and Son,
Before the Shepherds came,
Only to this,
It has rent my heart in two.
Behold he says,
If only for one more time,
One more second,
One more day,
I could just hold Him,
Rather than behold Him.
My soul would truly magnify the Lord,
If he would just look again on his lowly servant,
And show one more time the strength of his arm,
And give me one more moment,
Then I would truly call myself blessed.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me. . .

If there is one thing a carpenter knows (bang)
It is nails, nails and wood, (bang)
And the bang of a hammer. (bang)
Joseph showed me how to hold a nail just right, (bang)
To swing a hammer just so (bang)
And the nail would go in, faster (bang)
One swing (bang)
Two Swings (bang)
And we'd be off to the next. (bang)
Joseph sure could swing a hammer. (bang)
I almost got used to the noise, (bang)
So I could hear it without flinching. (bang)
Oh the things he would make, (bang)
Tables (bang)
Chairs (bang)
Even Homes (bang)
He'd never make something like this. (bang)
There just is no art in torture (bang)
And my Father is an artist (bang)
Crafting with care (bang)
A carpenter is a creator (bang)
And a creator's work is never done (bang)
Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani (bang)
Why God, Why? (bang)

I thirst. . .
 Have you ever been so thirsty it hurts?
Your throat starts to dry,
And it seems like it is cracking,
Just like the dry dusty ground,
When the sun burns down in August.
It's hot, and you sweat.
It all just flows out of you,
And nothing is replaced.
Jesus is there, and beyond.
He's not just leaking sweat either,
But blood and bile and pus,
Just gushing out, emptying him
Of all the waters of life,
And his voice comes out in a hoarse whisper,
I thirst.
When you are that dry,
And your tongue is swollen and raw,
Even water burns.
Could you imagine vinegar?
It burns your nose.
Even cut with oil on salad,
It leaves your tongue split and burning,
How cruel do you have to be
To mock someone's need like that?
Again did we not know what we were doing?
I've thirsted,
Ignorance is not what it was.

It is accomplished. . .

Is it the weight of this burden,
These chains that drag me down,
Or is it that they have trapped me,
Confining me so I can't be free?
I so want to be free.
I want to do what I want.
I want to control who I am.
I want to define myself.
I want to be whatever I want to be.
It's my right. I've seen it written.
I can be whatever I want.
We call it free will,
But why does it feel more like chains?
Why do I always seem to choose to carry this burden?
Why is it comfortable to live confined in lies?
What is that, Jesus?
What did you say?
It is accomplished?
What is?
Wait what?
It is as if I could fly away.
Is this the light?
I'm so light, even I could walk on water.

Father into thy hands I commend my spirit. . .

It started with a rainbow and a promise,
And then it grew,
To a nation,
A child,
A land flowing with milk and honey,
And demanded a sacrifice of a son,
But not my son.
It then expanded to laws,
A guide to being righteous,
To make a sustainable community,
But external laws are hard to follow.
Give us a king, instead,
Something we can actually see.
He did,
Promising again.
We didn't.
Again hard to follow.
It all brought us to this moment,
A new promise,
A new covenant,
Sealed in the fulfillment of an old promise
An old sacrifice.
This time He writes it on our heart,
For Love
Is more than a promise,
It is more than external,
It is experience.
So take and eat.
Take and drink.
Remember me,
Follow me,
And into the Father's hands commend your spirit.

And then he was laid in the tomb, three days have passed, and now he is Resurrected. I never thought it would be like this for me, but it is true that Good Friday is easier to preach than Easter. It is easy to look at ourselves and look at the world and see the potential for such cruelty, the potential for such anger, the potential for such human degradation. It is harder to point to the miracle, to point out the miracle, to find something new and important to say about the miracle, without cheapening it, without offering false promises beyond the truth. You see it so much, that Easter means you’ll never have any pain, or that you will prosper, that everything will go your way, that Easter is a good luck charm. It is hard to put the miracle of Easter into words that live up to it because none really can, but the word we use is “Resurrection.”
As we continue our study of the Gospel of John. . . and it is here in John Chapter 5 where the word Resurrection is used for the first time. All in all the word Resurrection is found 5 times in the Gospel. Here in chapter 5, then twice in chapter 11, which is where Lazarus is called out and raised from the dead, and Jesus says I am the Resurrection and the Life. . . and then, in chapter 20, the word is not found except in the NRSV subtitles, but the story is there. John has it this way, Chapter 20, beginning with verse 1: We've heard this story so many times, but it does never get old. . .

20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; [2]

That is what we celebrate today, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, rising from the dead, beating back death. . . do you know what the Greek word for Resurrection is. . . and it is the same word in all of these instances of Resurrection in English, it is the Greek word, Anastasis. . . which literaly means up and stand. . .or stand up. . . how cool is that within the context of John 5, when we think of things like upstanding, being an upstanding person, or righteous. . . but even more within the context there is the crippled man with his mat. . . and Jesus tells him to stand up and take it, and walk, and that is the greater context for this talk in chapter 5. . . Jesus heals on the sabbath, the people gathered question him about it, and get angry with him, and it all has to do with authority, where does Jesus' authority to do these things come from. . . the Father. . . remember back to John 1. . . the Word in the beginning. . . God called us out of oblivion into creation, and now God calls again to stand into a new life with Jesus Christ. . . and it is an upright standing. . . people will hear the call of Jesus Christ and come to him. Easter, Resurrection, believe, and receive. . . the message of this Gospel is becoming more and more clear. . . Resurrection, eternal life, perfect sacrifice, power over death. . . all there for us to receive. . . is believing in such things possible?

[1]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Jn 5:25-29). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
[2]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Jn 20:1-18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.