Monday, April 25, 2011

Sermon - I thirst

It's way past Good Friday, but i forgot to post this. HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE! and now, if you want, you can plunge back into the depths of sorrow:

The fifth word – “I thirst.”
Calvary Presbyterian San Francisco, Good Friday 2011.

John 19:28-29: After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said to fulfill the scripture, “I thirst.” A bowl full of vinegar stood there. So they put a sponge full of vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth.
The word of the Lord

The living water is thirsty.
The light of the world has gone dark.
The true vine is withering.
The bread of life is hungry.
The resurrection is bleeding.
The true life is dying.

The king is enthroned - on an electric chair. The priest, dressed in his sanctified, seamless tunic – is stripped of that holy garment and sacrificed alongside the passover lambs. The sky has gone dark in the middle of the day. The world is upside-down.

The living water is thirsty.
And this is hard because I need some living water, and I don’t think I have any water of my own to bring him. Unlike the Samaritan woman at the well, I have no bucket. Or, well, I had one, but it’s at the bottom of the well because I was at the end of my rope and the rope just broke. I’m hot; I’m tired; my mouth is dried up like a leaf. I won’t last much longer. I need that living water. But now the living water is thirsty, and asking me for help.

The bread of life is hungry.
And this is hard because we are hungry. We were born hungry. We have been hungry our whole lives. We have done everything we can to stop the hunger. Sometimes we have found healthy, and life-giving bread to satisfy our desires. Sometimes we have found doritos and beer, and we crammed them in because we were longing for sustenance, but we wound up hungrier than ever before. We’re so hungry we can’t even sort out which is the true hunger, and which is a shallow craving. We hunger, we long, and we need that bread of life. But now the bread of life is hungry, and asking us for help.

Not so many days ago, Lazarus was in the tomb, and we all wept and wailed, and thought there was no answer to our grief. Jesus arrived and showed his glory. The light of the world shone into the tomb, darkness was transformed into amazing light, and our doubts fell away in an instant. Our deepest desire was satisfied, and we celebrated as if it were a wedding feast. But now we are grieving, inconsolable, wanting our loved one back, yearning with all our hearts for this not to be goodbye. We are longing for comfort, longing for a word of assurance. (reach out ) Longing for an answer – if he would only come and speak to us –
But now the living water is thirsty, the bread of life is hungry, and the answer to our problems is asking us for help.

Jesus was always the one who answered a question with another question. Sometimes it was cryptic but lighthearted. Like a riddle. He’d say “I am going away, and you cannot follow.” We’d say “what are you talking about?” and he’d say, “You are from below, I am from above.” We’d ask a question… about the blind man, “whose fault is it that he was born blind?” and Jesus would say, “we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day.” What a great puzzle. When asked where to find food for five thousand people, Jesus would say “why don’t you just give them something to eat?” Jesus gave us very few answers. He gave us a lot of questions. And this is the hardest question of all – as he hangs on the cross, he says “I am thirsty.” He wants – he needs - He asks for help. Nothing big. Just some spare change. A little water to moisten his mouth. The Lord of heaven and earth is asking us for the scraps falling off our table. Our Lord is asking us to have mercy on him.

At the cross we see the face of our vulnerable God. And that’s hard, because we want God to be strong for us. We come to God with our thirst and hunger, longing for justice and for bread, and we want God to answer our questions, to satisfy our needs, and to put a stop to the endless wanting, aching, yearning pain of life as we know it. We would really like God to be the one who fixes it all.

We come to the cross with our needs, longing to be satisfied. We don’t get an answer. And we will not be satisfied here. But we get a new question, and we get transformed. We thought we were to be the recipients, but suddenly we see we could be the givers. I thought I was the enemy, but I heard Jesus asking for help – and look, it’s right within my reach – some of this common wine, and a little stick to put the sponge on – we find that we CAN relieve his thirst.

We have always found God in the blessing. We know God is there when we are healed, or satisfied, or answered somehow. Today we find God in the question, God in the wanting, God in the thirst. Today may we open up to an even deeper thirst. May we welcome in the pain of longing for justice, for wholeness, for light and life. May we also be thirsty. Amen.

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