My God, My God, why won’t you just fix stuff?
We have known almost from the beginning of our lives that things are not right. When that kid in second grade looked over Mary Grace’s shoulder, copied the answers, and got the same perfect score she did, we knew it was not right.
When we passed the note in junior high and someone else got in trouble for it, we knew it was not right, and yet we did not say a thing.
I knew every time I rode my bike past that ramshackle house where the migrant workers landed for several weeks every year that people should not have to live like that.
When we figured out how to game the time-clock in that summer job, we knew it was not right; and yet it seemed so easy to justify. “I work hard. I deserve it. No one appreciates what I do around here.”
Now, what we know is not right is so much bigger. It’s hard, O God, not just to bury our heads in the sand. What we see in the world cannot be what you intend for the world. You do not intend for The Ukraine to be the setting for a power play in which people are coerced, controlled, and killed. You do not intend for Syria to be decimated and hundred of thousands of innocent people to be killed. You do not intend so much strife and division in the land where your Son came to bring peace to the world. You do not intend for innocent people to die daily in shoot-outs over turf wars in Chicago neighborhoods only 20 miles from where we live. You do not intend for ferry boat accidents to take the lives of high school students. And on and on and on.
You do not intend that there be so much garbage in the oceans that we can’t distinguish between pieces of trash and pieces of tragedy. You do not intend for there to be places where the air is so foul that living creatures cannot even breathe without becoming sick. You do not intend that we who have perfected the art of excess burden the rest of the world with our garbage.
And we know the pain and heartache of brokenness even closer to home. In our own families and our own lives, you do not intend for beer and bourbon and valium and vicadin to take control of peoples’ lives. You do not intend peoples’ lives to be consumed by cancer or heart disease or MS or ALS or Alzheimer’s.
For our whole lives we have heard that your death on the cross was so that our sins could be forgiven and that we could have the promise of eternal life. We believe that, as far as it goes. Tonight it doesn’t seem to go far enough. What about everything else? What about your promise that you sent your Son to save the world? How is that working? Why does it seem that there is no progress toward the kingdom of peace that you have been promising for years, for centuries, for millennia?
Tonight when we would love to have answers, we see only a cross. We see and witness and reflect on the event of your own Son handed over to sinners just like us to endure cruel torture and eventual death.
And so, tonight, we wonder. What does it all mean? How does it all fit?
Tonight we see no reasonable explanation. Least of all tonight do we see any reasonable explanation. So maybe tonight we are called simply to trust that you are God. That in the death of Jesus, all of our violence, our cruelty, our self-centeredness, and our greed are wrapped up and placed on his shoulders.
Tonight, we feel your absence. We wonder about your silence in the face of all of it. We know it would be easier to find other gods: to keep busy, to make a name for ourselves by doing good work, to perpetuate the fallacy of perfectionism, to honor the needs of our own families and expect that others will take care of themselves, to look at the big problems in the world and convince ourselves that they are not our responsibility and we can do nothing about them.
But then we look at the cross again. We see that in our Lord Jesus’ determination to follow his work and his purpose to the very end, you intended to create something new. You have created a people who would die to themselves and rise again to your larger purposes. So that when we look at Jesus’ broken and dying body, we see somehow, mysteriously, that you do have other intentions than what we see superficially. We see that through the cross you have called us to that larger vision and purpose in and for the world you have created, the world you love beyond description.
Tonight as we stand in the shadow of the cross, you do not stand over us in anger or judgment thereby inducing shame. You do not call us in such a way that overwhelms us. You simply call us to the cross. You call us to kneel before it, even to kiss it. And you promise that in your Son’s death, we are given life. Not life as an end in itself. Life as a means to bring life to this broken, hurting, strife-torn world.
So, dear God. My God. Our God. Accomplish what you will and what you intend. Work in us. Accomplish what you will. We are ready. We are willing. We offer ourselves to you. At the foot of the cross.
(A sort-of sermon at Faith Ev. Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois on Good Friday, April 18, 2014.)