The self-giving love of God we see at the cross, the same kind of love that is asked of us, is the only thing that can heal this world.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Sunday of the Passion, year C
Texts Luke 22:14 – 23:56 (The Passion), but focusing especially on 23:33-34; Philippians 2:5-11
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
“They don’t know what they’re doing.”
Jesus spoke truth. The soldiers with hammer and nails, the religious leaders with righteous anger, the cowardly disciples fleeing the scene, the crowds seeking spectacle: none knew what they were doing that Friday.
Neither do we. Unlike most everyone there that day, we’ve come to believe Jesus is exactly who he claimed, the Son of God. But we still struggle to grasp what this cross tells us about the true nature and depth of the Triune God’s love and what it means for how we live.
Just look at this one moment. As God’s Son is nailed to a cross, brutally executed by a humanity whose love has gone dry, whose taste for violence and control and power cannot be sated, he prays for mercy. “Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
We simply could not have expected a love like this. Not from us. Not from God.
We live lives with limits. We try to love others. But our selfishness, our carelessness, our fear of vulnerability, our limited willingness to forgive, all keep us from living in love. At our best, we strive for unconditional love at least for our family. We fail. We don’t even come close with those outside that circle.
So we can’t grasp how God could love in unlimited ways. Like humans always do, we want powerful gods whom we can blame if things go wrong, try to appease when we want something, and sic on those we don’t like. Even though the Scriptures repeatedly speak of God’s eternal love for the creation and for humanity, we put limits on whom we believe God can love.
So when we see the truth of God’s love today, it strains our poor ability to imagine.
The Son moves out of the grace of the divine dance of the Trinity, and joins humanity.
Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be exploited, Paul says. God’s power simply won’t work to love the creation back into God’s life. So the Christ of God emptied all divine right and power and took on our humanity. How could we have anticipated that?
God’s Son came in our flesh to teach us, face to face, to love as we were made to love. Set aside power and dominance, gave up control out of love for us. To ask us to turn around and live this same love. “Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be.”1
And we don’t get it. We don’t know what we’re doing.
But today, looking at the cross, we begin to see the universe can only be healed by self-giving love, starting with God.
Power and might can’t stop human evil, oppression, violence, war, pollution, abuse, destruction, because they can’t force love. The only thing that can heal this world is God offering vulnerable love to the creation. A love that forgives the one trying to kill it. True unconditional love, and nothing can stop that, not fear, not doubt, not even death. There are God-sized cracks in this creation that need God-sized stitches. God offering God’s own life out of love will bring that healing.
But there are billions of human-sized cracks that need human-sized stitches, too – your self-giving, vulnerable love. Mine. That’s what Jesus is doing at the cross: not just revealing God’s love, but showing you and me what is needed of us. So all things might be healed and brought back to God.
Now that we know this, now that we’ve seen such unimaginable love, we know our path.
We can’t just stay here and sing about this love, as our hymn hopes2. We are sent out, knowing God’s true love, to bear this love in our own bodies, hearts, voices, lives, no matter the cost.
So, let’s go from here, filled with this vulnerable, unconditional love we never could have dreamed was possible, but now we know is ours, and in our every breath, pour this love into God’s world until all creation is healed.
In the name of Jesus. Amen
1 “My Song Is Love Unknown,” Samuel Crossman, 1624-1683, ELW 343, sung between the reading of the Passion and this sermon.
2 Again, from “My Song Is Love Unknown.”