Skip to main content

Good Friday Meditation | April 3, 2015

Thirst No More
Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips.
Batter my heart, three-personed God; for You
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and ben
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new . . .

Now that’s a God for you. Those words were written by the English poet John Donne in his 14th Sonnet. John Donne’s God kicks butt and takes names. We know all about this God – the God of unlimited power and might who breaks down prison doors and bends human will like Superman curls an iron bar. We were taught to put our hope in the One who shatters the chains of evil and conquers death. And don’t get in this God’s way. His anger and fury are notorious. Many of us were raised with this image of an eternal, almighty, irate Being who smites enemies for all eternity.

But God on a cross? We’re not so comfortable with that. SuperGod is nowhere to be found on Good Friday. Jesus feels abandoned. And he’s thirsty.  Maybe the words of Psalm 22:15 come to his mind: My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead. Jesus begs his torturers for the smallest sip of relief. At this moment, Jesus is just so fragile. Dehydrated. Powerless.

Scholars think John’s Gospel was written around the close of the first century. Right around that same time, a political exile banished off the shore of modern-day Turkey, also named John, records some visions he’s had. This John is part of a growing group of Christians known as Followers of the Way. The members of his church have a tough decision to make. The Roman Emperor, Domitian, summoned citizens to the dedication of his new temple in the city of Ephesus. You don’t say no to Domitian. The Christians need to decide, do they worship Christ or Caesar? Will they protest the invitation and face punishment and death? In John’s vision, The Book of Revelation, those who stay true to Christ lose their lives, but gain the reward. They enter a new paradise where God wipes away every tear from their eyes. And get this: these martyrs get to drink from streams of living water. As soon as they drink, they thirst no more (Revelation 7:9-17).

Thirst no more . . . You know what that means to me? Those Christians might have felt like Jesus on the cross -- laid in the dust and left for dead. They dare to thirst for an end to violence borne of intolerance. They thirst for a renewed earth where everyone has enough, where children survive, where the oppressed go free, and the strangling grip of evil is finally undone. They thirst for a world where the poor and needy have enough, where those on the margins get treated with dignity and respect, where aliens and immigrants are welcomed.

Sound familiar? Sound familiar you dreamers who can see a word where beauty is restored, tears are wiped away, and thirsty souls drink the waters of life?
Sound familiar you prophets who call us to build societies based on equity and justice?
Sound familiar you servants who work to soothe and heal the pain of injustice?
Sound familiar, you who are tired, weary and worn … You who feel forsaken by God and left for dead … You who feel fragile … weak … thirsty?

We still follow the Ancient Way, and we must decide who we worship and whether we participate in the unjust structures of empire. The church was supposed to create redemptive communities who find strength in weakness. Instead, Christians started using theologies, rituals and political power to shame people instead of healing their thirst.

Rich was diagnosed with cancer when he was a student in college. He was not that religious, but in his physically wasted state, he remembered a teaching from his boyhood church. He had not been baptized, which meant he was not saved and would go to hell. He was terrified by the thought of eternal punishment. One morning, after a fit of coughing and with death’s face staring back at him in the mirror, he called his mother’s pastor to come and baptize him by immersion, the only method acceptable to their tradition. Rich had no idea what baptism meant, but he feared the consequences of not going through with it. The logistics were complicated. The hospital staff secured a large tank, loaned from the physical therapy department. Lowering Rich into the tank would be painful, as would be his trip from his room to the basement where the tank was located and filled with warm water. Lifting him off the bed caused excruciating pain. Even the most experienced therapists winced at Rich’s screaming. Some had to leave the room as Rich prepared to receive his sign of God’s acceptance. When they lowered Rich into the water, he was too weak to keep the fluid out of his mouth. He came up out of the water strangled and close to drowning. Then the tortured trip back to his room began. Rich died three days later.

Just to be clear, I’m not criticizing Baptists or immersion baptism. I’m talking about the ingredients in our theological recipes that feed Empires and create outsiders. I’m talking about what happens when Christians offer an overflowing chalice of guilt when someone asks us for a drink. I guess I’m feeling kind of thirsty, too.
  • I’m thirsty for an honest church where fear is not used as a technique to manipulate others into obedience.
  • I’m thirsty for a church that gives preference to the other; the-called “weak people” who are the victims of the world's power.
  •  I’m thirsty for a church where we have one and only one immutable claim on each other – the claim of love.
  • I’m thirsty for us, people of God. I’m thirsty for us to sit by the bedsides of people like Rich and say, no matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you come from or where you’re going – no matter what, you belong to God who formed you in the divine image and will never leave you or forsake you.
At the foot of the cross, we stand together, looking at thirsty, broken Jesus. It’s right where we need to be. It’s where we get in touch with the power of protest that rises up from innocent suffering and calls out against it. You dreamers and prophets, you servants and wounded healers, it’s here at the foot of the cross where we can dry the tears and nourish the bodies of those who live in this beautiful, terrible, wonderful world. It’s here at the foot of the cross where we offer thirsty victims the waters of life.


Popular posts from this blog

Sermon for March 12, 2017

The World Needs our Feet

Here are some of my favorite bumper stickers . . . · I’m not gaining weight, I’m retaining food!. · I brake for no apparent reason. · Forget about World Peace. Visualize using your turn signal. · He who laughs last, thinks slowest. · Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math. · Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine. · I may be slow, but I’m ahead of you. · Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let him sleep. · Hard work pays off in the future. But laziness pays off right now. · It’s lonely at the top, but you eat better. · Always remember you’re unique, just like everyone else. · There are 3 kinds of people: those who can count & those who can’t. · Do you follow Jesus this close?
Some bumper stickers are funny, some are informative, some make you think, others make you mad. In any case, they’re usually a reflection of direction the person in life is traveling. When it comes to bumper stickers, the words on the outside of a car are often an indicator …

Sermon for February 5, 2017

Orienteering 100: Finding the Morningstar

I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star. Rev. 22:16

I can’t find my car anymore. It’s a new thing for me lately. I park somewhere in a large lot, like a mall, I go inside to shop, and when it’s time to go home, I can’t remember where I parked. I know the general vicinity where I parked, but it takes me a while to locate my car. The other night I was at the mall, and I could not find my way out of a department store. I knew about where my car was parked, but I could not find the door I entered the mall through. I ended up just going outside and walking the perimeter of the mall until I found where I parked. If it happened just once, I’d say it was a fluke. But, since it’s happened four or five times over the past two months, I think something is going on. I don’t think its dementia. I think it’s a crisis of awareness. Lately, m…

Sermon for January 15, 2017

Then Jesus Turned
The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God."

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following,…