Philippians 2: 5-11
At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, every tongue confess him King of glory now; ‘tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord, who from the beginning was the mighty word.
A friend of mine commented the other day that our worship this morning is an experience of :"liturgical whiplash." It certainly is a moment when our usual conceptual categories fail. Palm Sunday. Holy Week. Contradictory currents crash together and then somehow are transformed and united in unsettling new ways. Boundaries blurred, edges crossed. A marriage of matter and anti-matter. An emotional, psychological, spiritual place of dissonance. Breathtaking, jolting, mind-bending.
The curtain rises, the actors take their places, the Passion Play begins. Humiliation that is exaltation, loss that is gain, betrayal that is faith, emptiness that is full to the brim, defeat that is victory, pain that is glory, death that is life. On this Friday, night falls at high noon—and we are ourselves as spectators twenty centuries later lifted from our seats on the sideline and plunged into the midst of the storm. Holy Week. No matter how many we’ve walked this road, no matter how well we know the story, or think we know the story, it never fails to catch us again. Fasten your seatbelts.
We come together this morning, as every Sunday here at St. Andrew’s, under this statement and proclamation of God’s mission, his own words and promise from before time and forever, as Jesus speaks in the twelfth chapter of St. John: “and I if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me.” Defeat that is victory, pain that is glory, death that is life. Perhaps to think of this as an invitation this year. If you don’t feel like you’ve found your place in the story yet, this is a good time to do so. Step in. Be a part of it.
The hammers clanging in the distance, and we can hear them driving the nails through his flesh and into the wood of the tree, that by him and in him and through him the tree of death will become the tree of life, the landfill garbage dump of Golgotha a new Eden, the fresh garden at the beginning of the world. This is a promise that will come true. We have seen it with our own eyes. “Lord Jesus Christ, who didst stretch out thine arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, that everyone might come within the reach of thy saving embrace.”
O Love, how deep, how broad, how high: For us to wicked hands betrayed, scourged, mocked, in purple robe arrayed, he bore the shameful cross and death, for us gave up his dying breath.
All for us. And the message this week is that it’s not an abstract gesture. He wants us to take it personally. Each one of us. That God so loved the world. His plan from the beginning. From before time and forever, for us. The word that would lead us to the Holy Table this morning and then send us out Sunday afternoon and into Holy Week and for every day and every week. All for us. His plan, his invitation, his perfect love. We can play a lot of games in this life. Fool others and even fool ourselves. But he isn’t fooling with us this week. We have it on the authority of his Word, spoken at the beginning of all things, the one Word that in the end we can truly count on. In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Our prayer—not just words spoken with our eyes closed, but the intention and meaning of our breath, the yearning desire of our heart. Good Friday, the King of Kings reigning over all. High and lifted up. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.