Preaching to the Choir

These are some sermons, but mostly lectionary discussions. It also has prayers for some Sundays.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Thief on the Cross

his is the message I delivered at the N.W. District's minister's prayer fellowship as part of our Lenton study. We are looking at the Seven Last Words of Jesus, using the book , Thank God its Friday, by Bishop Willimon. We were asked to take one of the words and write about it without referring to the book. And then after we spoke we invited others to express their thoughts and feelings. W. G Henry is our Spiritual Guide and he lead us in discussion, interspersing it with things the Bishop wrote. I was disappointed that I could not show my powerpoint or video for the presentation. I did lead them in singing the Taize song "Jesus, Remember Me". Wonder what your thoughts, your perspective is on the Thief on the cross, and Jesus second word?

Here is the video I was going to show:

Or here is the The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ from the Thief on the Cross Perspective.

A Message of Hope

Luke 23 : 42 and 43 –Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise

My son Zachary is into Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Power Rangers, all the Super heroes that save us from the bad guys, the robbers, those who would take over the world with their evil plans. People like the two criminals who hung on the cross with Jesus. I can remember playing cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, good guys and bad guys as a Kid too. Because I was a girl I either got to be the girl in distress or one of the bad guys. I usually was one of the bad guys because the girl in distress just stood around and did nothing, and I wanted at least to do something. We have divided our world up that way, good guys and bad guys, wrong versus right, or us versus them. We hope the bad guys get caught and get the justice they deserve. We want them to pay for what they did.

It was no different in Jesus’ day, there were the bad guys and good guys, depending on which side you were on. People wanted bad guys caught and made to pay for what they did too. And so on the day that Jesus was crucified there were two criminals, put to death as well for their crimes. Justice was served. They got their due. Who knows if their lives were lives of crimes or if they were part of one of the gangs, or zealots, or it was a one time act. Luke 23 does tell us this in 39-41: 39One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” So Jesus was hung there like a common criminal himself treated just like one himself, and as one of the criminals says but he had one nothing wrong.
Why didn’t Jesus save them when the one criminal demands it? What was the difference that when the other criminal asks in 42 “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Why did Jesus then answer and tell him in 43: Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise? We don’t know the answer, we can only conjecture, and perhaps we have already. But let us not judge too quickly the other thief, for we don’t know what all brought him to that point.

One time when my parents came to visit me in Birmingham, their house was robbed while they were gone. They came back to a broken into house, and much missing, and a mess. They felt violated, angry, scared, and wanted justice. The ones who committed the crimes never were caught and nor were their things recovered. The insurance company gave them a check to replace the items that were stolen. But dad then set about making sure it never happened again, locking things tighter, getting an alarm system. When they would come visit they would put stuff that might be stolen in storage. I am not sure they ever felt safe again though.

But I have stolen too, when I was a kid I stole things from my brother and parents. Usually I got caught and had to replace them. I even stole from a store twice. Of course I got caught by my parents was made to replace the items and go back to say I was sorry.
I have had my car broken into, my apartment, I have had items stolen by roommates. Both my class rings, and a ring that Bob had made for me were stolen. I was almost date raped. Yes I have a sense of justice, make em pay, hang em high, cut off their hands, I have that. But I also have the side of me that says Do those ways of justice really solve the problem, make it right, where is forgiveness, Jesus words in Matthew 25 haunt me. 31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And because of those words and our heritage of John Wesley visiting the prisons; I have become in Kairos.

You see that thief on the cross could very well be me, and you. We hang there on the cross for our crimes, not just those like actually stealing, but we are like the criminals by how we have treated God, his kingdom, the church, our families, our parishioners, the lost, the least and the unloved. Have we not stolen from them? I have. And so there I hang on the cross asking Jesus, "Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus, remember me." And I hope to hear those words….. "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. "

I don’t deserve to hear them anymore than the criminal on the cross. On my own I can’t make it happen. It is through the grace and mercy of Jesus that I am saved that I am in paradise with Jesus.

The old songwriter wrote these words,
'The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away!'
'There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel's veins,
and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains!'

These are words of hope to those who need the forgiveness, the grace, the mercy and that’s all of us. These are words of hope to the criminals. But we the church seem to forget that we hang on the cross too. We don’t want to be around those people or them in our church. But how we answer Jesus I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Well, Jesus, I just don’t do that sort of thing, and I didn’t. Or "Jesus, I met you the other day at Tutwiller or any of our other prisons, Limestone Correctional." Or I met you the other day in that young man or woman who was released from Juvenile looking for a place to feel accepted, start afresh, try to be different." How will our churches minister to our brothers and sisters, God’s children?

Here is the powerpoint if you want to see it, has no music.

Here is the link to the powerpoint also.


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