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Good Friday Homily - Forsakenness

February 13, 2017

 

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"). Matthew 27:46

 

My god my god, why have you forsaken me…

 

Hebrews 4:15 says that we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin.

 

Many of us cling to this verse in times of trial. “No matter what is going on in my life, my Jesus understands!”

 

Hebrews 4 brings us to a type of mythic certainty that gives order and security to our lives… It will be alright, I can get through this, my God is with me. Perhaps other similar verses come to your mind…

 

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Deuteronomy 31:6, Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; "He will never leave you nor forsake you."

 

Deuteronomy 31:8, The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

 

Joshua 1:5, No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you."

 

1Kings 8:57, "May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may He never leave us nor forsake us."

 

1Chronicles 28:20, David also said to Solomon his son, "Be strong and courageous, and do the work. "Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished."

 

Psalms 37:28, For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. "They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;"

 

Psalms 94:14 "For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance."

 

Isaiah 41:17 "The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them."

 

Isaiah 42:16 "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them."

 

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

 

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Pieces of scripture like these have been foundational to our Christian lives, the basis of the story which has given us hope, has given our lives order, and has drawn us into faith.

 

They have raised us on certainty and comfort.

 

But what about when we experience forsakenness?

 

What about terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, and Bamako? 
What about Christians gunned down in San Bernardino, California and the Ivory Coast?  What about the genocide of our brothers and sisters in the middle east?

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 

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Maybe you see the world as described by Numbers 14 - filled with the glory of God,

Or perhaps you don't have that kind of faith anymore… maybe you never did…

 

Perhaps you relate better to book of Ecclesiastes…

meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.

 

Maybe the faith that once ordered your life is weak, maybe it’s crumbling, maybe it seems dead.

 

Maybe it died in Brussels, or San Bernardino. 
Maybe it died on a desert battlefield fighting a war it did not understand. 
Maybe it died in a job interview that didn't go how you planned it, 
Or in a hospital bed, 
Or during a lecture,
Or during a sermon when the words of God just didn't line up with the world you live in…

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 

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Perhaps you sit in this service today, and you feel everything, 

The words, the music, the presence of God over all of it!

Maybe it connects with you soul and you just feel it.

The beauty, 
The divinity, 
The passion,
The love…

 

Or maybe you sit in this service and you don't feel anything. 
Maybe you're not even sure why you're here today, wasting your lunch break.

With all of the pain and suffering in the world, in our lives… what are we even doing here?

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 

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Into the madness of our world comes a voice from the 20th century, the bloodiest century in recorded history… the century that gave us global conflicts, perfected chemical weapons, industrialized genocide, and deployed the first nuclear bombs…

 

The voice is that of Christian Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 


He is calling out from a nazi prison cell. 
He is soon to be executed.

 

“Only a suffering God can help us!”

 

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My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 

We must desanitize these words from the cross.

 

They have become too clean, too neat, too easy to pass by.

We must see the terror of this moment…

 

Jesus is experiencing forsakenness, Jesus is experiencing NO GOD.

 

Now please don't misunderstand me,
This is not a safe armchair atheism... 
This is not an intellectual decision, based on facts, science, books, or evidence... 
This is not the angry aggressive philosophy of the “new atheist” movement…

 

What we see on the cross is Jesus experiencing deep existential crisis. 
Christ, completely broken, having lost everything, experiences the very loss of God. 

MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?!

 

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Jesus has the experience of NO GOD.

 

On the cross all of the cords that hold our certainty together are broken, 
The myths that order our lives fall to pieces, and are laid in the tomb with the broken body of Jesus.

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 

Perhaps you sit in this service today, and you feel everything, 
The words, the music, the presence of God over all of it!

Maybe it connects with you soul and you feel all of it.

The beauty, 
The divinity, 
The passion,
The love…


For those of you to whom god is closer than your skin!

You have a great high priest.

 

Or maybe you sit in this service and you don’t feel anything. 
Maybe you're not even sure why you're here today.

 

You are not alone.

 

I promise you this, you have a great high priest in the person of Jesus Christ. Who has taken unto himself every aspect of being human… even this one.

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 

-Jeremy Hall 

March 25, 2016

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