STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH APRIL 2, 2021

Rev. Sabrina Ingram                                                                                                                            GOOD FRIDAY

 

WORSHIPPING TOGETHER

 

L:       The night and day are dark and difficult.

This man did not deserve to be hit and spat upon—denied, forsaken, mocked.

P:        Crucify him!  Crucify him!

 

L:               This is the hardest part of the journey – Jesus betrayed, arrested, brought before the authorities, tried, and condemned.

Beaten, rejected, a crown of thorns pressed on his brow, and the crowd chants “Crucify him!”

P:        Crucify him!  Crucify him!

 

L:               Head bowed down, the Lord of life is condemned to die.

O Lord, was this for us?

P:        God, forgive us for all the ways we have left you

and not followed you and your ways.

 

L:                It is finished.  The temple veil torn.

The world is dark.  Silence.

 

L:        Let us pray.

All:             God of truth, keep us from being distracted from following you, until the journey is complete, and death is trampled down by death and eternal life is given to all.  In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Extinguish the last candle.

 

Hymn: O Sacred Head Now Wounded

 

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

Lord Jesus, we remember your walk through the streets of Jerusalem, carrying the weight of your cross and the weight of our sin on your back.  Beaten and whipped, your body – weak and in shock; the blood running down your face from the crown of thorns crammed on your head, mixes with the spit of the soldiers.   The crowd that was calling for your crucifixion and delighted at the spectacle, are growing silent.  Women weep for you.   We hear your cries as they bang the nails through your hands and feet, the moan from deep within your body as they hoist up the cross.   You can see the soldiers dividing your clothes, the Pharisees watching gleefully to be sure you are finished, your mother and  the women looking up  with tears running down their faces.  You hang there in unimaginable pain as the fluid fills your chest and you struggle to breathe.  Your death will be a mercy when it comes. 

 

We like to think that we too are at the foot of your cross.  That we are faithfully holding vigil with you to the end.   We speak in metaphors saying we come to the foot of the cross with our burdens and sins and lay them at your feet.  But we confess to you that is our pious fantasy.  We cannot sit at the foot of your cross because we can not bear to witness the pain you are suffering.  We would be sickened by the blood and bodily fluids that would seep onto our heads every time your writhed in pain.  We turn away to spare ourselves discomfort and guilt. 

 

Yet you are there, taking on our sin, washing us in your blood, dying for our salvation.  Lord Jesus, forgive us.  Forgive us for being the source of your suffering.  Forgive us for our lack of courage.  Forgive us for our lack of love for you.

 As we worship you today, hear our prayer:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.   Amen.   

Assurance of Pardon  1 Peter 2: 24

Jesus used his servant body

to carry our sins to the Cross

so we could be rid of sin,

free to live the right way.

His wounds became your healing.

 

Prayer for Illumination

Lord Jesus, as I hear again the account of your crucifixion, fill me with humility, knowing you died for me.  Amen.

 

Scripture Lessons

Isaiah 53: 1 – 9

Psalm 22: 1 – 8 (responsive)

Ephesians 2: 1 – 5

Luke 23: 32 – 46

 

Solo: Ten thousand angels cried – Rosemarie Delahey

 

Message:  Unchallenged Sin: Arrogance

This is the last day in our Lenten sermon series “Unchallenged Sin”.  We’ve been exploring some of the sins that the Church tends to let slide.  We’ve looked at fear, apathy, lying, entitlement, excess and vanity, in many of their nuances.  Now we come to the transgression of arrogance.

 

Today is Good Friday.  Of the many striking and moving things about the last hours of Jesus’ earthly life is the humility with which he allowed himself to be arrested, falsely accused, tried, beaten, and crucified.   Not once did he jerk his arm away and challenge those arresting him with, take your hands off me, do you know who I am?   Not once did he call on the fierce wrath of God to send down an angel army to cut down the Pharisees.  Not once did he look at the crowd, point a finger and say mark my words, you’ll regret this.  Not once did he spit on Pilate and call him a coward and a puppet.  Not once did he draw on his divine power to strike a Roman soldier dead.  Not once did he manipulate the people on the street to feel sorry for him or rise up on his behalf.  Not once did he swing the cross beam at the head of a soldier, drop it and run.  Not once did he do a thing to save himself.  In fact, he did just the opposite.  Having agreed to submit to God’s will, he healed the ear of a servant in the Garden when they’d come to arrest him.  He looked the Pharisees in the eyes and spoke his truth.  He asked for forgiveness for the crowds.  He became silent before Pilate.  He endured the brutality and mocking of the soldiers.  He asked the women of Jerusalem to stop weeping for him.  He carried the cross beam until he could drag it no more.  And he endured the cross.   He remained centred, focused, and committed.  He stood his ground and although his body was in agony due to the suffering that was inflicted on him, his spirit could not be touched.  He did not waver.  Jesus is our example of perfect humility.  He didn’t make more of himself or less of himself.  Not puffing himself up or indulging in self-doubt.  Not showing off and not diminishing himself.  Apart from the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus thought about himself very little.  He focused his attention on God and on others.  Without games, deception, or arrogance, but in humility, Jesus died as he lived.

 

The word “arrogance evokes images of people who are boastful and brag about themselves: snitty mean girls, rich boys in fraternities, white supremacists, people drinking tea from china cups with their pinkies sticking out, youth who dismiss the experience of their elders, seniors who think themselves wise when they’re not, haughty priests, know-it-all evangelicals, those who believe they’re enlightened and everyone else is asleep.  Even cultures and countries can be arrogant – their history is richer, their food is better, they are more powerful, they are a master race, they are fashion icons, they make the best technology.  Arrogance is not limited to Americans by any means, every nation and people have their share.   Except Canadians, of course.  We are the humble and apologetic ones.  If we’re honest, Canadians are arrogant about our humility.  Arrogant people are found everywhere.

 

They are even found hanging on a cross beside Jesus.   Luke tells us of two men, known criminals, who were crucified at the same time as Jesus, “one on his right and one on his left”.  As Jesus prayed for the crowds to be forgiven, soldiers divided his clothes, leaders mocked him, and signs meant to parody his offense were placed over his head.  As it often happens with mob mentality, everyone felt the need to get in on the act.   One of the criminals joined in the derision, “Are you not the Messiah?  Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23: 39).   Arrogance is found in the least likely places; even in the heart of someone on death row.   Jesus didn’t answer him.  What could he have said to such a haughty, hard-hearted man?  A man who wasn’t looking for answers, just an outlet for his hostility.   Arrogant people are unteachable.  In their minds they have nothing left to learn.  They are closed off and shut tight.   They operate from a position of superiority and loftiness.  Like this criminal, they stand in judgement of others.

 

The other criminal is the first man’s peer.  He is appalled and speaks up,  “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” (vs. 40 & 41).   As the second man points out, arrogant people have no fear of God.  Perhaps they think themselves more clever than God or more powerful.  They don’t believe God will hold them accountable.  Many people believe it’s the other way around – they should be the one to judge God.  How often I’ve heard someone declare that when they get to heaven (like that’s a given), they’ll have a thing or two to tell God.  The Church, in the last 50 years, has downplayed the scriptures which suggest it’s wise to “fear God”.  We have chosen to speak of God’s love over God’s wrath.   That’s not a bad place to but our emphasis.  I agree it’s better for people to have a relationship with God because they love him, rather than because they fear punishment.  Yet, we reduce God when we only speak of one aspect of his character or when we fail to acknowledge his authority.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us,  “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). 

 

The second thing the other criminal points out is that arrogant people can admit to no wrongdoing.  They are not only above reproach, they are without fault.  They do not sin or hurt others.  Or if they do, they’re entitled to do so.   So, not only do they not fear God, they see themselves as equal to God.  Only Jesus was without sin.  The rest of us mess up on a regular basis.  To pretend we don’t fail is to believe we don’t need saving.  The  death of Christ means nothing to an arrogant person.  Arrogant people have no means by which to be forgiven because they are not capable of confession.   John writes,  “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”  (1 John 1:9).  Confession is more than saying a hollow “mea culpa” or as we’d say today, “my bad”.  False guilt is an arrogance in itself;  it suggests we can fool God with a display of spiritual smoke and mirrors.  Confession takes an honest heart that has the courage to examine not only our actions, but our motivations and thoughts.   It takes humility to ask Jesus for forgiveness, not for oneself as part of the human race in general, but as an individual for whom Christ hangs on the cross.  If we have the integrity to confess the things we’ve done, the games we play and the lies we tell ourselves, Christ will forgive us.  If we don’t take ownership of our sin, there is nothing Jesus can do for us.  As Jesus himself said, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners” (Matthew 9: 13).   Arrogance is the hallmark of self-righteousness.

 

Arrogant people can’t ask for help.  While the one man mocked Jesus, the other confessed his sin, “we are getting what we deserve for our deeds” and pleaded for clemency,  “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”    He knew he needed mercy.  All he hopes is that Jesus will not forget him.  He is looking for compassion and forgiveness.   He is not so presumptuous to even ask to be included.   He knows he is not entitled to eternity in heaven, a white robe, or a golden crown.  He asks only to be remembered.

 

Arrogant people are incapable of submission.  They acknowledge no authority but their own.  They’re not interested in doing the will of anyone but themselves.  The second man recognizes Jesus’ dominion.  He believes Jesus is the Messiah – the one sent to save, a king with a kingdom.  While the Romans have the power to put him to death, he sees that Jesus has the power to give him forgiveness and, if Jesus chooses, to welcome him as a subject in his kingdom and give him new life.  He is willing to allow Jesus to be his Lord.

 

Today, we stand at the foot of the cross.  We look up at Jesus, suffering for our sin, dying for our forgiveness.  What we don’t see is that, while Jesus dies in our place, we hang on the crosses beside him.  We take the place of those who are guilty.   Whose cross are you on?  The cross of the man who is arrogant, or the cross of the one who is humble?  The cross of the man who is mocking, or the man who fears God?  The cross of the man who is dismissive or the man who is imploring?  The cross of the man who is hard-hearted or  of the man who knows what he deserves?  The cross of the man who has condemned himself or the cross of the man who will be in paradise with Jesus?   There is still time to repent of your arrogance and plead for mercy.  “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

 

Silent Prayer and Reflection

 

Today’s offering will be used for benevolent purposes.

Offertory Prayer:  Lord Jesus, you gave your all, your very life to save us from our sins.  Our gifts are nothing by comparison.  Help us to lay down our lives for you.  Use all we offer so that others may come to trust in your saving grace.  Amen. 

 

Hymn: Beneath the Cross of Jesus

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

God of Hope,

Today, as we mark Jesus’ death, we give you thanks for your love, so true and powerful, which moved you to lay down your life.  You died for us and for the world you love. 

We thank you for a sacrifice too painful for us to understand. 

We thank you that in unity with you, we too have died to our old self and sinful ways.  Your death gives us hope. 

 

Jesus, you died to reconcile the world to God. 

Yet the world is still far from you; your kingdom is slow in coming; people remain in conflict. 

We pray for people and families, churches, and countries where there is disunity.  Wherever we are involved in discord, help us to own our part, confess our sin and turn from our self-centred ways. 

Where people continue in ignorance and arrogance to be separated from you, soften their hearts, convict their spirits, show them their need, and draw them back to you.  We know you are the “hound of heaven” chasing us through the tangled thoughts and actions of our lives.  Find us, forgive us, and renew us, so that we may know your peace. 

 

In this year of pandemic, people are weary, lonely, frightened, and anxious. 

We put more stock in vaccinations than we do in your saving grace. 

Humble us and help us to turn to you for life.  Help us to know that nothing in all creation can separate us from your love for us.  Give us faith in your healing ability and in your saving power.  May we who claim the name of Christ, be courageous witnesses to the surety of your faithfulness.  In life and in death, we belong to you. 

 

You know we are people who avoid suffering and sacrifice.  These do not come naturally to us.  Help us to see the needs of others and respond.  Let us be your hands and feet in our world.  May we bring your comfort and encouragement.  Open our hearts to love more deeply.

 

As we remember the death of Jesus, who binds us together, we also thanks for those who have died and abide with you;  keep us united with them and bring us together with you at the last.

 

O Love from heaven to earth come down,

On this day remind us that love is not cheap. 

Help us to humble ourselves and throw ourselves on your mercy.

Be with all who are lost and long to be found,

Who are imprisoned and want to be free,

Who are bereft and long to be whole,

Who are oppressed and seek abundant life.

May we preach the good new of salvation so that your death will give them life.

 

Hear us now as we pray together the words Jesus taught us:

 

The Lord’s Prayer

 

Hymn: Near to the Heart of God

 

God sends us out:

God sends us from this place

to reflect on Christ’s death,

to confess our sins,

and to throw ourselves on his mercy. 

 

Diming of the lights and time for prayer

We ask that you leave in silence.