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Good Friday Reflection

An Offense Too Great To Bear

This is our Savior.   
Born to be our God, clothed in human flesh.   
Lived without sin.  Loved without limit.   
Gathering to himself person after person in need of hope.

This is our Savior.  
Who lived out the covenant practices established by God for the good of God’s people, and who opened the door to our understanding that these things are not just about meeting the letter of a law, but allowing the very heart and soul to be shaped by God.  God’s love.  God’s holiness.  To be shaped by our connection with a loving and holy God.

This is our Savior.  Who healed the sick. 
Who protected the wrongly accused. 
Who forgave sin.   
Who gave humanity a glimpse of the one who formed us and breathed life into our frail and naked skin.

Who sat and ate with his friends and enemies, who reclined at the table, spun stories of God’s grace, and showed that you can go to the home of a sinner and come away blessed and a blessing.  

And this is our Savior.
Wrongly accused.   Unforgiven.  
Injured in the frail and naked skin he wore.   
Called a sinner, a liar, an enemy of God.  
Abandoned by his friends.  Betrayed with a kiss.   
Taken, beaten, and berated.   

The fullness of the Creator of the Universe, tied up in captivity.   
The one big enough to encompass the cosmos, 
bowed down under the weight of some wood formed cross.   

Surely this is a wrong worth righting.   
A misunderstanding of epic proportions and a miscarriage of justice.  
An offense against God.  Against God’s son.  
Against all in us that reflects the image of God in this world.

An offense too great to bear.

And yet.  The one falsely accused.  Made to bear the weight of sin and the indignity of death on a cross.   This is the one.   This is our Savior. Who uttered the words.   Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

 Our offenses are like smooth stones.   We hold them in our hands and examine them for their weight of accusation.  For their feel of comfort – the story of grievance we replay until it helps define us or direct us.   We hold our offenses like stones to be thrown – a sense of protection against future injury, or the power of knowing we have the ability to fight back when the moment arrives.  

Without our offenses, we can feel frail.  Naked.  Unprotected.  

We are left without the option of defining ourself by what we are against.  

But the alternative is scary.   Needing to define ourself by the breath our creator has breathed into our frail and naked skin.   To hear the words ‘you are beautifully and wonderfully made.’  To remember how blessed we are to be called a child of God.  

To understand who we are as we look into the mirror of Jesus’ call …  to love our One and Only God with all that we have, all that we are, all that we will be.  

And to let that love be shown in how we treat the person sitting next to us. And the person living next door to us.  
And the person we are tired of, and the one who frustrates us.  
And the one who caused us to pick up our rock of offense in the first place. That rock?  It is an offense too great to bear. 

Because.   This is our Savior.  

The one who looked at every opportunity to pick up very righteous indignation, who could have fought for his freedom, but instead choose to fight for ours.   

This is our Savior, who refused to be offended, but instead chose to feel compassion.   To gaze down at the ones who were killing him and offer forgiveness instead of vindication.

On this most holy day, we remember that it is true – all sin has a cost.  

Ours and theirs.  Mine and yours.   

Sin brings death into the world (Rom 6:22-23).   
It keeps us from fully knowing the love of our holy God.   
It keeps us from deeper, truer, more honest love.  
It keeps us from ease with one another.  All sin has cost.

And sometimes sin has consequences.  
Relationships that need to be rebuilt.   
New paths that need to be forged.  
Repayment that needs to be made.  

These things are a part of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, trusting that God is at work within us to will and to act in order to fulfill God’s hopeful future for our lives.  (Phil 2)

But the cost of sin?  It has already been paid.  

Ours and theirs.  Mine and yours.

Jesus chose to fight for our freedom and allow himself to be hung on a cross, asking our Holy God to forgive us for we know not what we do.

If Jesus is who he said he is, and did what we know he did, then today, choose to receive not just his forgiveness.  Not just his grace.  But his freedom.  

Any offense is too great to bear.   

It wears down the offended, keeping our hands too full to receive. 
To busy clinging to what was wrong that we lose the option of reaching out for what could be so very right.

And the one who has the most reason to hold something against us has instead opened his arms in love to bear the weight of all that we have done and all that has been done against us.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.   In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God 
something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

This is our Savior.

This is our Lord.  

This is our freedom and our hope.

~Rev. Heather James
drawing by Kevin James

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