The Word of Confidence ~ Luke 23:44-46a
Framingham Ecumenical Good Friday Service (April 18, 2014)
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
This word of Jesus from the cross is one of extreme trust and intimacy…which makes sense, since really you cannot truly have one without the other.
Jesus quotes from Psalm 31, and commends, commits, trustingly surrenders to God. He knows what is happening, what still must happen, but he trusts that it will all work out in the end, for the best.
Just like the Psalms, the words we hear from Jesus on the cross are a mix of lament, praise, and trust. It is this latter we hear from Jesus–trust at his weakest moment, faith in the face of doom. His dying moment was a moment of trust.
But not trust of just anyone, but of his Father–God the creator–to which the word suggests there is some personal connection, some sense of intimacy of relationship.
The temple curtain is torn in two; there is no longer any physical separation between God and God’s worshipping people. God is the father and mother of us all, and so we harken back to this pronouncement of intimacy and relationship and love and connection from Jesus, each and every time we pray the prayer our Lord taught us. Our Father…
We share in the intimacy with God just as Jesus did…it is in fact through his surrender on the cross that we gain the ultimate access. It is when we realize that it is not up to us to earn salvation, or heaven, or even one iota of God’s love; it is when we realize that it is simply God who loves us first, that we are able to surrender our spirits to God.
This is what we pray (and hopefully mean) when we pray “now I lay me down to sleep, I pray my soul the Lord to keep” as we head to bed, or in the Lutheran tradition, we chant this line of the Psalm, these words of Jesus, as Compline (night prayer) right before bed. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. Neither of these usually take place on a cross, but they might be in the midst of our own dark hours and valleys of death. It is from those places of suffering that we most need to remember that God conquers all, that it is through death that Jesus delivers life to all.
And this is why Pope Francis tweeted this morning “It is not easy to follow Jesus closely, because the path he chooses is the way of the Cross.” We can practice every day, along the way of the cross–when it is in view and when it seems far off–to trust in God, to surrender our lives, so that in weakness, God might show God’s love by bringing about strength and new life. Amen.