Sermon on “Good Friday” by Very Rev. Canon Patrick P Augustine at Christ Episcopal Church, La Crosse, Wisconsin

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Particularity of the Cross of Jesus
Holy Week is the enactment of "Heilsgeschichte" the salvation history of humanity. It is always a temptation for us to ignore between Monday to Good Friday and move quickly to Easter Sunday. Good Friday reminds us of the Cross of Jesus Christ. All four gospels tell of the hour that Jesus spent hanging on the Cross and of his death. What is remarkable about these accounts is the multitude of Old Testament quotations and prophesies are fulfilled in the death of Jesus.
Crucifixion was probably the cruelest method of execution ever practiced. Early Christians were ridiculed for they believed in Christ the crucified. It is quite surprising that a cross became the Christian symbol. But in spite of the fierce opposition which came through satire, contempt, abuse and scorn – and physical persecution – the Church grew. It grew from the Cross. The Cross became its proud symbol. The candidates for baptism then and now are marked with the sign of the cross. Cross was in the early church and is even now erected over the graves of Christians. It has been a custom of the Church that from Christian birth to Christian death we are identified and protected by the sign and symbol of Cross. It seems from the second century Christian Church adopted the Cross as their universal emblem. Tertullian, an early church father and the North African lawyer-Theologian in AD 200 wrote: At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign [the Cross].[1]
My own father who was a priest in the Anglican Church of Pakistan often blessed people with these words:
May the Cross of the Son God
which is mightier than all the hosts of Satan
and more glorious than all the hosts of heaven,
abide with you in your going out and your coming in.
By day and night, at morning and at evening,
at all times and in all places
May it protect and defend you.
From the wrath of evildoers,
from the assaults of evil spirits,
from foes visible and invisible,
from the snares of the devil,
from all passions that beguile the soul and body:
may it guard, protect and deliver you. On this Good Friday the Church is reminded that Cross is the heart of the Christian faith. Just as Jesus himself lived under the shadow of the Cross, so must his disciples live and proclaim the radical message of ‘Cross-tianity’ that ‘Christ …died for all’ ((2. Cor.5:14) and through Christ all may find salvation. And the message of the early church is very clear as St. Peter addresses the Jewish leaders quite fearlessly on the nature of salvation offered through Christ: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).[2] Hans Kung writes: Easter is rightly understood only if the burden and strain of Good Friday are not forgotten." In the crucified Christ, the weakness of God is revealed as the staggering power of God to save. Imperial Rome will not reign. Caiaphas and the crowds will not be the victors. The law that brought about Jesus' death is not supreme. The scribes and the Pharisees will not prevail. But there, with dried Roman spit on his face, looking like something out of the slaughterhouse, is "the foolishness of God" and the weakness of God" --Jesus the Victor, wise as heaven and stronger than the gates of hell.1 There are seven Words Jesus uttered from the Cross. The first Word Jesus spoke from the Cross is: “Father forgive them, as they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). What the Lord had preached in the Sermon on the Mount, he now puts into practice. He knows no hatred. He does not call for revenge. He begs forgiveness for those who nail him to the Cross, and he justifies his plea by adding: “They know not what they do.” This is an important message for our world today. We hear today beating of drums of war with the message of revenge and hatred coming from many places such as Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, Palestine and Egypt. Many in our world are blood thirsty and hatred is like an acid diminishing
1 Synthesis: The Cross, March 25, 2005
the goodness of our common humanity. Our world is in need to hear the message of the Crucified from the Cross of Jesus.
The last Word from the blessed lips of our Savior on the cross is: "It is finished" (John 19:30). "Father, I commend my spirit into your hands" (Luke 23:46). Jesus has accomplished His father’s plan of salvation. So in his final Word, the great mystery of the Cross shines forth. The synoptic Gospels portray Jesus’ death on the Cross as a cosmic and liturgical event: the sun is darkened, the veil of the Temple is torn in two, the earth quakes and the dead rise again. Even more important than the cosmic sign is an act of faith: The Roman centurion—the commander of the execution squad—in his consternation over all that he sees taking place, acknowledges Jesus as God’s Son: “Truly, this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39). At the foot of the Cross, the Church of the Gentiles comes into being.2 Through the Cross, Jesus gathers friends and foes to be a new community of love to form a worldwide fellowship. The blood of Christ becomes the healing ointment for the nations and the bonds of death and hell are broken and humanity is reconciled to God.
This is the good news regarding what God in Christ has done for us. That he came to save us from our sins, and not just us, but the whole world (1 John 2). That he was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5). That in Adam all have died, but in Christ all are made alive (Romans 5).
Hear my friends, the good news and specific news that God has come to us in Jesus Christ, was crucified under Pontius Pilate. The power that has tyrannized the old creation has been broken, defeated, overthrown. God’s kingdom is now launched in power and glory, on earth as in heaven.3 We look forward to joyous Easter. The work of salvation is complete.
Therefore: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
May the blood of Christ may heal our wounds and unite us as one body. And our mouths may burst with praise:
2 Joseph Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, Pp.202-240
3 N. T. Wright, Simply Jesus, p. 193
Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle; of the mighty conflict sing; tell the triumph of the victim, to his cross thy tribute bring. Jesus Christ, the world's Redeemer from that cross now reigns as King. [1] Tertullian, De Corona, Ch.111, p.94. [2] George Carey, The Gate of Glory, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1992. p208-209.

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