Sermon Good Friday, Yr C

Good Friday Yr C, 6/04/2007

Heb 10:16-25

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

 

“Jesus the New and Living Way”

 

On Good Friday, we focus on the suffering and death of Jesus. In today’s second lesson from Hebrews, we are given several images steeped in the Hebrew Bible. These images highlight the important consequences of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. The images describing this rely heavily on the Jerusalem temple and its sacrificial system. The writer begins in verses sixteen and seventeen by quoting from Jeremiah 31:33-34, which is a reference to the new covenant. The emphasis here is on the forgiveness of sin. There is a wonderful promise here: “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

It is wonderful news that God forgives our sin and remembers our sins no more. Why then do we spend so much time and energy remembering sins? I like the following story as told by Professor James Nestingen at a study conference at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon a couple years ago.

A pastor had a woman come to him with a heavy heart. She had been deeply troubled by the past sin of committing adultery. Now she had fallen in love with a man and she wanted to tell him about this past sin, but could not summon the courage to do so.

Then, they became engaged and she still was unable to tell her fiancé. When they set a date for their marriage, she meant to tell him, but still was unable to do so. On the day of their wedding, she tried again to confess to her husband, but was unsuccessful. After she was married she wanted to share her secret sin, but could not bring herself to confess it.

Finally, she went to her pastor and told him everything. He spoke the words of forgiveness and assured her that her sin was indeed forgiven. She shared with her pastor how relieved she felt.

Then she said to her pastor: “Well, now I’ll go to my husband and tell him the story.” The pastor kept a moment of thoughtful silence, and then replied: “What story?”

This story is a reminder to us that once sin is confessed, repented of, and forgiven, it is gone, wiped out, removed, remembered no more, there is no story to tell. That is the Good News on this Good Friday—Jesus suffered and died on the cross, and, as a consequence, our sins are wiped out, not remembered, completely forgiven.

The writer of Hebrews, goes on to say that Jesus has opened “the new and living way” for us to God. When all other ways had proven to be “dead ends,” God offered Jesus as the new and living way. In this reference, the author has at least two things in mind. First, he says that Jesus’ flesh is like the temple curtain, it has opened us to God, giving us access to God just as the high priest had access to God when he opened the temple curtain once a year on the Day of Atonement. Christ’s sacrifice is new because it is different than the old animal sacrifices offered at the temple. They were only temporary, limited, imperfect sacrifices and, once killed, dead forever. Now, thanks to Christ, there is no need for these kind of sacrifices.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, even though he died, was a once and for all people, for all time, perfect sacrifice to end all other sacrifices. Moreover, it is a living sacrifice, since Jesus did not remain dead, on the third day God raised him from the dead. Such an act of God is one of hope for us, since in our baptism we were baptised into Christ’s death and resurrection. Ultimately Christ defeated the powers of sin, death and evil. One day we too shall be raised from the dead because of Christ the new and living way.

There are several other images of Christ and the consequences of his death for us discussed in this passage. However, one of the most compelling images is the view of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross as an inspiration to us to, in the words of the writer in verse twenty-four: “consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” That word “provoke” seems to be a rather strong one, doesn’t it? We may think of it as having negative connotations. Provoke can mean to irritate, to annoy, to harass. However, the sense of it here is really more positive. It has the sense of encouraging and inspiring others. I like the way Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message: “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out.” It has been said that we can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving. Jesus loved and gave his all for all of humankind—including you and me. Such love hopefully provokes, inspires, encourages us, and is inventive enough to go and do likewise. In a world crying for love the opportunities are endless.

Today is Good Friday, a time to focus on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The word sacrifice in Hebrew means “to draw close.” That is exactly what Christ has done—he has drawn us closer to God. Hopefully, with the power of his love working in and through us, we can draw others closer too, especially those in greatest need of his love. Let us pray: Lord, hold not our sins up against us, but hold us up against our sins; so that the thought of you, when it wakens in us and every time it wakens, may remind us not of how much we have sinned, but of how much you have forgiven us; not how much we went astray, but how you saved us.1 In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

1 A paraphrase of a prayer by Soren Kierkegaard, cited by Mark J. Molldrem, “Friday-The Good One,” at <www.esermons.com>.

 

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About dimlamp
I am, among other things, a sojourner, a sinner-saint, a baptized, life-long learner and follower of Jesus, and Lutheran pastor. Dim Lamp: dimlamp.wordpress.com gwh photos: gwhphotos.wordpress.com

One Response to Sermon Good Friday, Yr C

  1. kiwirev says:

    I’m most impressed…a Good Friday sermon done by the not-so-good preceeding Wednesday! I love the Kierkegaard prayer and the adultery story.

    Have a blessed Easter.

    g-)

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