[this is a transcript of the spoken sermon, delivered without notes, I’ve retained the oral character in the transcript]
It seems very obvious to me even though we have this highly edited and redacted version of the facts, that collusion is an absolute certainty.
Collusion. Collusion between the empire and the Chief Priest, of course. I’m not sure what you’re thinking of, but collusion.
These priests who have always claimed to have no king but God now say we have no king but the emperor. Using their influence to get what they need to do and still retain their ritual purity and of course the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace, just to keep the status quo, whatever is needed. If we have to kill an innocent person and so be it.
Collusion. There’s another collusion going on too, and that’s the collusion between God and God’s creation. There is a wound that needs healing and God coming in to heal it, as only God can.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says at the cross, “It is finished.” His work was done. Is it the end of his life? Is that what he’s proclaiming? In the Greek it says something, it uses a word that … you can play with Greek a lot, let’s just say that. But the word that he uses is, “Tellos.” Tellos, which means the end. But not like the end of a story, like the end, but the end like a goal. A completion. This is the end. This is, we have finished the work. “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. So for John, the work, the collusion work between God and the creation, is accomplished through the death of Jesus Christ.
It is the resurrection that certifies the death that says, hey, this is the vindication of that particular kind of death.
The goal of what Jesus was up to is accomplished in this particular death on the cross. And what happens is you’ll notice that God is always the one who is acting first with us. None of us came into creation of our own work. None of you in heaven or wherever we came from a appealed to God and said, “Hey look, I’ve done my work, time to make me an American in the 20th century.” We didn’t do that. We were created out of God’s own grace. God came to us as a human being, out of God’s own grace, not of our doing.
Saint Paul sums it up beautifully when he says, “Even while we were sinners, God came and died for the unrighteous.” So here we see this collusion happening between God and creation, that God coming to die for, to live and die for the ungodly and the godly for those who are out and those who are in. Basically what I think we see in the crucifixion is the end of religion.
Religion being that system of human thought, where one appeals to the God. Propitiates and tries to win and curry favor with the god. What’s happening here is that the God is going and dying and ending all sacrifice. We can do nothing at all to win God over because God has gone before us and won us to himself.
So one of my favorite poets W.H. Auden, he says that “nothing can save us that is possible.” Nothing in the created order can save us. It needs to be something else. Nothing can save us that is possible. So our job is simply to accept this death and to know that in the death of Jesus Christ we see our own death. So we must accept our own death in Jesus.
Now to illustrate this point, I do need to make a cultural reference that is 20 years old. Perhaps you have seen the movie The Sixth Sense. If you have not, I’m about to spoil it. It has been out for 20 years. I think the statute of limitations on spoilage is way elapsed.
In the sixth sense, there is one of the main characters. He does not know it, but he is dead. The fact that he does not know this is the cause of great suffering for him and it is when he realizes that he is dead, that he is relieved of his suffering. And perhaps if you were like me, when you saw The Sixth Sense that twist as it was revealed, the whole movie took on a different cast and you wanted to go and see it all over again immediately.
The cause of this man’s suffering was that he did not know that he was dead. And the cause of your suffering, the problem, our problem, is that we think that we are alive, but we are dead. We are dead with Christ.
It’s considered bad form to hint at Easter on Good Friday. Please turn to page 24 in your bulletin. This is part of the Easter vigil. On page 24 you see the Christ, our Passover Him, the Pascha Nostrum. You’ll see in that first line among the music, Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast… Christ being raised from the dead will never die again. Death no longer has dominion over Him. The death He died, He died to sin, once for all.
But the life He lives, He lives to God. So also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God and Jesus Christ, our Lord. Christ has been raised from the dead. The first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by a man came death by a man has also come the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam, all die. So in Christ shall all be made alive.
Yes, there is going to be a resurrection. But first there must be a death. What I would like to encourage you to do in these next 24 to 48 hours, depending on when you come and celebrate Easter with us, is to understand yourself as a walking dead. You are dead to sin. And because of that, because of God’s activity on the cross, each of us are brought in on a conspiracy. A conspiracy that is defeating death and sin. Collusion. Join in.