Cross of Life
Homily, Good Friday, March 29, 2013.
St Petri, Nuriootpa.
A proclamation based on the hymn, “When I survey the wondrous cross” (Isaac Watts)
and Galatians 6:14
“14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”.
1. When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.
2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
3. See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down:
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748), alt.
That hymn was released in 1707 by the English composer, Isaac Watts and is a paraphrase of St Paul’s words in his letter to the Christians in the area of Galatia where he says,
“14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)
Friends, in a world where trust in all institutions, including the church, and now even the great Australian love, sport, is diminished where will we find real hope for ourselves and all people?
In what we=ill we place our trust for our wellbeing as individuals, families and societies? If the church is not trustworthy, the government is less so, and even sport is tainted with cheating and big dollars brought on in part by big gambling, then where will we turn for peace, for hope, for lasting love?
Of what shall we boast: our scientific achievement, our sporting prowess, our new status as a wealthy nation with a very high value on its dollar, our possessions, our freedoms, our wonderful geography, our “fair go” attitude? Are these the things we will turn to for hope and lasting peace and love?
Not one of them last. All of them are temporary in their very nature because we are all temporary in our very nature.
Friends, Jesus Christ and his suffering and dying for a world in need and pain is hope. He is life itself. That is the claim he makes on you. This is claim of a billion Christians around the world today. That is the invitation he delivers to your door today.
It is a noble thing for a person to die for a friend. It is even more impressive for a person to die for a stranger. But it is completely overwhelming for a person to die for an enemy.
This is Jesus; dying for the enemy – dying for that which breaks us human beings and turns us against each other and against our creator. Dying for people who have no idea what they doing and who cannot see that they are in fact “wretched, naked, and blind” in terms being holy and perfect before the Creator.
But friends, he is wretched – no longer recognisable as a man.
He is naked – shamed and mocked.
He is blind – blood in the eyes will do that to you.
Ah this is love. This is self-giving, self-sacrificing love every human being needs to be whole, and loved and hope-filled.
Has anyone seen such a love? Better than an ANZAC dying for his country, greater than an imperfect parent’s love for their child.
Anything I could give to him as pay back would not be enough. If all creation was in my hands and I gave it to him as a gift to pay him back for the life he has given me – it would not be enough.
So all I can do is boast – not in me but in him. All I can do is give him my life, my all.
Survey this wondrous cross, friend.
It pours contempt on all your pride.
It kills all my vane things that charm me most.
But it is life, because he is life.
There is sorrow and love flowing down mingled together on you now.
Love and sorrow meet you.
Boast! Boast in his sorrow and his love for you.
Tell the world that lasting hope and love comes by belief, not sight. Believing is seeing.
Wait for the full vision of him to re-appear on Sunday.
Wait for Sunday.
Wait for Sunday because today it is Friday, and Sunday is comin’…