Minister's Sermon - Good Friday 19th April 2019
Rev Sue Keegan von Allmen
Rev Sue Keegan von AllmenGood Friday 19th April 2019

Luke 23:44-46

“Father, into your hands,

I commend my spirit.”

Jesus’ last words

are words of handing over, letting go,

entrusting, yielding, surrender…

They come from Psalm 31.

It seems a strange choice at first,

because it’s a psalm for deliverance

from enemies and troubles.

And crisis is woven through it.

So, it’s more suited, to Gethsemane.

To Jesus’ last struggle

with his life and vocation.

But the psalm also has words

for when the cries for help have passed.

Words of trust and confidence in God.

Probably taught to him by his mother, Mary,

since they’re the words

the Jewish prayer book gives

to be said before falling asleep.

“…the simplest,

most childlike form of trust.” (1)

“Father, into your hands,

I commit my spirit.”

Throughout his life,

Jesus spoke of letting go,

as the only way to find life.

Letting go, emptying ourselves

of all those things that claim and hold us.

Possessions that possess us.

Positions that boost our ego.

Relationships that don’t change

because we refuse to.

Our “dug-in passive aggression” (2)

that prevents us from seeing beyond

what we believe is right.

Even the power to choose…

We can take nothing with us when we die.

So, Jesus invites us now,

to live from tomorrow.

To let go of those things

we don’t need for our daily lives.

To learn “to enter the kingdom

with open hands like a child receiving gifts.” (3)

“…into your hands,

I entrust my spirit.”

This handing over, this letting go,

this entrusting, yielding, this surrender,

isn’t into nothing.

It’s into hands of God.

The One Jesus calls Abba - Daddy.

And even if that’s a word

you can’t use of God,

because your experience

makes Fathers hard to trust,

God still waits.

And if you resist God’s hands,

because your experience of hands

makes others hard to trust,

God waits until you are ready

to draw close to the heart of all that is.

Into compassion.

Into love.

Into silence where no words,

and no explanation, is necessary.

“…to you…

I commend my spirit.”

But these hands – metaphorical hands

if we’re not to fall into the trap

of making God in our image –

these hands draw me in.

They’re the hands that made

the earth and the heaven.

The hands that created

humankind in God’s image.

That shaped a human being

from the dust of the ground.

That formed our inward parts

and knit us together in our mother’s wombs.

Hands, that like a potter,

shaped, formed, moulded us

like fragile clay jars

to hold surprising treasures.

“…into your hands,

I commit my spirit.”

Yet as we ponder Jesus’ broken body,

broken by hours of torture and abuse,

we can only wonder that he chose

trusting words rather than Job’s!

“Your hands fashioned and made me;
and now you turn and destroy me.
Remember that you fashioned me like clay;
and will you turn me to dust again?”

They’re words that wouldn’t be out of place

in mosques after Christchurch,

in flooded-out towns and villages in Mozambique and Malawi,

in forgotten refugee camps in Syria

and on the border of Myanmar,

in the Independent Enquiry

into Child Sexual Abuse …

…Once we start it’s hard to stop

listing places where people with

broken minds and bodies

cry out in pain…

So, why trust humanity,

to the Creator’s hands?

How can we say:

“…to you…

I entrust my spirit?”

Except that we have seen them.

The hands now torn and bloodied,

are the hands that fed – and healed –

and welcomed.

That shaped the kingdom

from people living on the edge.

Shepherds watching sheep in the fields,

a repentant tax-collector,

a centurion’s servant and a widow’s son.

A woman everyone

except Jesus called sinful,

another who had been bleeding for 12 years

and the daughter of the leader

of the synagogue.

A man with an unclean spirit

and another who was paralyzed.

And five thousand men, as well as many more women and children, who were fed.

People who were strangers, outcasts

broken, excluded, fragile as clay pots.

But now with a treasure that gave them

the confidence to say:

“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;

(or whatever-other-name they called God)

we are the clay, and you are our potter;

we are all the work of your hand.”

For these torn and bloodied hands

showed them what resurrection

looked like before they believed

it could happen.

“… Into your hands,

I commend my spirit.”

And through them,

and through the witness of those

who do not run from their brokenness,

but accept the vulnerability

at the heart of humanity.

We see what is possible

when we entrust ourselves to God.

We see what we can become.

We see what the compassion,

the love, the silence at the heart of all that is, can be. Can do. In us.

We may not choose the words.

We may resist the hands.

We may prefer other words

of handing over, letting go,

entrusting, yielding, of surrender.

Yet, as Jesus dies

and entrusts his spirit to God,

we are given a glimpse

all our lives and all our deaths,

of ourselves, as God longs for us to be.

“Father, into your hands,

I commend my spirit.”

And now, after his final words of

handing over, letting go,

entrusting, yielding, and surrender,

Jesus’ breathed his last.

And he died…

Later, tenderly, quietly,

he was taken down from the cross,

wrapped in a linen cloth,

and laid in a rock-hewn tomb.

And it was over…

Silence

Gracious God,

there is nowhere deeper to fall,

than your hands stretched out

in compassion.

Enable us to entrust to you,

all that prevents us from resting in you …

be they doubts or beliefs,

shame or pride or a lack of trust.

And draw us into the heart of all that is,

into compassion, into silence, into love.

Amen.

Sue Keegan von Allmen

Michael Mayne Dust that dreams of glory Canterbury Press, 2017, 81

Lucy Winkett in ed. Edmund Newell Seven Words for Seven House, DLT 2005, 86

Michael Mayne Dust that dreams of glory Canterbury Press, 2017, 81

References

(1) Michael Mayne Dust that dreams of glory Canterbury Press, 2017, 81

(2) Lucy Winkett in ed. Edmund Newell Seven Words for Seven House, DLT 2005, 86

(3) Michael Mayne Dust that dreams of glory Canterbury Press, 2017, 81