Monday, 25 March 2013

"It's like talking to a brick wall.": a sermon for Good Friday

There was an elderly man who lived in Jerusalem all his life.  He was a devout Orthodox Jew.  Every day, since his Bar Mitzvah many years ago, he went to the Wailing Wall to pray.  He did this for eighty-seven years.

On his 100th birthday, he was interviewed by journalists from many newspapers.  They asked him about his daily prayers at the Wailing Wall.  “For what were you praying all these years?”

The old man replied, “I’ve always prayed for the same two things.  I’ve prayed for peace, both here in the Holy Land, and around the world.  And I’ve also prayed that all the races and religions of the world may treat each other with love and respect.”

After a brief, reverent silence, a reporter asked, “And how did you feel making this same prayer day after day at the Wailing Wall?”

The old man thought a bit and said, “Sometimes I felt like I was talking to a brick wall.”

And sometimes – in the divine-human encounter – sometimes that feeling is mutual.  I am sure that sometimes God will say the same thing: “Sometimes I felt like I was talking to a brick wall.”

Over the centuries, and to our own day, God keeps asking humanity to practise peace, social justice, and mercy, to regard each other with love and respect.  Sometimes, the result from us is disappointing.  Perhaps God may wish to ask us “What part of ‘Love your neighbour’ don’t you understand?”  I’m sure God must frequently say something like this in regard to us: “Sometimes I felt like I was talking to a brick wall.”

And in the midst of it all God somehow determined, “Right, I’m going in there myself to sort it out.” 

And on this day – this day we ironically call Good Friday – we remember the full extent of God’s self-giving on behalf of humanity.  We remember a self-giving that was the result of God wanting to knock down the brick walls that we put up around our hearts and our minds.

And you would have thought the violence that God – in the person of Jesus - received at the hands of humanity was enough for God to decide to cut humanity out of the will, to leave us to our own devices. 

But it wasn’t enough for God.  Good Friday was not the end of the story.  (The most we can ever say at the end of a sermon or a worship service on Good Friday is “to be continued”.)  After Good Friday, Easter Day soon follows. 

After the pain of Good Friday, we hear the good news of the resurrection morning.  Human violence did not have the last word.  God’s love continues to claim the last word.

Some things do not change.  I’m sure God still says in regard to us: “Sometimes I felt like I was talking to a brick wall.”

But the events of Easter Day have enabled God to knock down the brick walls we put up around our hearts, around, our minds, around our lives.

To be continued …

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