The Fourth Last Words of our Savior
First Baptist Church of Jericho
Matthew 27: 45-46 & Mark 15: 33&34 & Psalm 22: 1

ELOI ELOI LAMA SABACHTHANI … darkness had arrived … On that dark dark day it was the ninth hour when Jesus the Christ … the Babe born in the manger … the Human One; the Healer; the Peace teacher; the revolutionary … Ah yes … the revolutionary … Jesus was the change maker who challenged the comfortable countered the rules that had been accepted because His God-delivered lessons of love, peace, caring for the poor, and and more upset the powerful rule setters and hate-screamers … He was nailed in deep pain to the tree … His cries my friends so powerful that two Gospel recorders felt their importance including them in THE WORD …

MY GOD … MY GOD … OH MY GOD Why have you forsaken me?

David had written those words in the 22nd Psalm,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?”

Jesus in quoting the Psalm was not using his usual loving reference to His Father in heaven that day … there was no loving ABBA no FATHER just God exclaimed from breathlessness and pain uttered in frustration … because at that moment He did not feel so close to God; the human reality of Jesus was there in that moment … heaven so close but heaven so far away.  The pain of a Savior reaching his destiny … God separated from God’s self.  The Trinity for a moment not connected … Jesus knew His destiny.  Jesus knew His role.  Jesus looked out at those hate-filled faces of the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were relishing their victory over the One who proclaimed love of neighbor.  He looked down at His mother, exclaiming that her Son was completing the  reason for His birth, and His followers torn apart by an event too grotesque and painful to even imagine how they suffered watching His suffering.  There was sweat pouring down, tears welling up, blood from the nail piercings … and Jesus felt alone … separated from the Creator, His Father, OH MY GOD … WHY …. OH MY GOD

Did it cross Jesus’ mind … why God did you create a humanity that could torture and kill the Son of God?   Was He, the One who had been in the beginning … the WORD … the One dying was it true that He was the One given the light of life?  Jesus knew the rest of the Psalm from which His cries quoted …

They cried to You oh God and were saved!  He who trusts in the Lord … let the Lord rescue him”

…but friends in that moment of anguish on the cross … in that ninth hour as darkness settled all over the land OUR JESUS … OUR SAVIOR … OUR LORD and MASTER … THE LIGHT of LIGHTS … The ONE FROM THE BEGINNING UNTIL THE END. … ALPHA and OMEGA … Jesus was looking out on failed humanity.

In this age of technology with its snaps, insta’s, facebook messages, texts and tweets a common abbreviation used by many are the three letters OMG.  Yes, many of you know what they stand for OH MY GOD but those using them are not calling out in prayer to the Creator … they are not exclaiming the need for Holy intervention in this troubled world … they are just laughing and giggling even when church goers use OMG I seriously doubt that their intent is to be in prayer without ceasing as we have been taught; OH MY GOD WHY …. WHY OH WHY?

Bishop William Willimon, a respected Christian author, pastor, and United Methodist Church leader wrote,

“my church doesn’t do too well in darkness.” 

Does your church work when the times get tough?  Does your faith become enflamed with passion when injustice occurs … leading you to join the marchers on the street who faced the violent batons, the dogs and the hoses?

Church on this Friday; when we are spending 3 hours remembering the truth that the world turned dark that day … that Jesus suffered … that Jesus died. Church … I want to ask you … in the darkness that has overcome our land … darkness that gives legitimacy to hate … loud voices endorsing injustice … entire neighborhoods turning their heads as the innocent bleed out …. How is your church doing in this darkness?  How is your faith doing … what in God’s Almighty world are you doing for the Savior who died on the cross for our sins … for the sins of those outside this church … for the Easter bunny huggers and Jesus ignorers … for the radical and the quiet … Jesus went to the cross for them and you and me but … but … and this is the lesson of the day to me … Jesus taught us that we are to be the world changers … we are to be the revolutionaries … Yes, we can be the Hosanna shouters when … if … I need to wonder how many waving palms found themselves in the square beneath Pontius Pilate shouting CRUCIFY HIM five short days later … how many church attenders neatly folding their palm away … left the Hosanna’s behind to join in the 21st Century world’s chants of hate and division?

When my good friend, the pastor of this beautiful church, called me about today and said the fourth word was available I sensed the Holy Spirit grab hold … this word …

“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour and about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice!”

On that day and today … I wanted to tell you that my heart is aching.  No, I am not about to claim that my God has forsaken me but I will admit that I have shouted that short prayer using 21st century language directed at my God!   I am here to suggest, in this Easter season, that it is God’s voice shouting out to those who have raised our hands … to those of us who have walked to the front of God’s churches after hearing a preacher preach … and to those of us who have discovered the Truth of God at some moment in our lives … to those of us who say we believe … I truly believe GOD could honestly shout out “MY PEOPLE; MY PEOPLE WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”

OMG … Really OMG … send that text out … is the preacher suggesting God is frustrated with God’s people … not God?

But, I have lived out almost 63 years … don’t know how many more I have nor where my journey will be taking me over the next few months … but those of you who are as old as I am … I challenge you to state whether 30 years ago, 20 years ago or even 10 years … whether you ever expected to be living in a nation filled with the levels of hate and divisions such as we are experiencing today … I challenge you to consider whether you thought open racist conduct would be endorsed publicly by the highest levels of elected office in the year 2018 … Don’t you think God is screaming today? … MY PEOPLE you have forsaken me … and our churches remain quiet in their comfort zones with people saying … let someone else pick up the cross because I have done my duty!  Jesus didn’t put the cross down until it was over … and He called us to leave everything by picking up our crosses to follow Him and Scripture, Scripture my friends does not note any vacation time nor retirement dates in that challenge.

We are witness to the image of Christianity that the media lifts up … so-called Christian leaders firmly stating that chronic adulterers are amongst the greatest Christians … that people of faith should be filling our pockets because Christianity is all about wealth and comfort … my children … my children … my beautiful daughters … continue to be pushed away from Jesus because they watch how people who claim faith who espouse Christianity who wave their arms saying that they are Jesus believers … but my children see how these people choose to live in ways that run counter to the Jesus they claim.

And, to think that Jesus lived and died for us AMEN … HE DIED a HORRIBLE SUFFERING DEATH for my sins and I am so unworthy; so so unworthy of such incredible love from God.

God doesn’t want God’s people arming themselves with every killing tool that manufacturers can build that can effectively eliminate breath from multitudes of people per minute; Jesus said Peter put down the sword … God wants God’s people to arm ourselves with love and forgiveness, to care for the poor, to embrace the stranger in the land, to visit the prisoner, to care for the widow and the orphan … oh wait … the Christian power structure in this nation appears to proclaim cut the taxes of the wealthy and cut the benefits to the poor because that is how we should live; prosperity or death.

Church … don’t you think God is in despair today … MY PEOPLE MY PEOPLE … but then again I don’t want to box God in but I did read church …. I did happen to read Matthew 25 … any of you pick up God’s Word lately?  Any of you turn to that first Gospel … shortly before we hear Jesus cry out … maybe He was crying out that day too as he taught the lesson because he knew that all too many who were regular attenders … well unless youth sports leagues or sleep or vacation got in the way or attending worship … yes, there were in Jesus time, regular hands up types of alleged believers who chose to not care for the poor, not feed the homeless, not welcome the stranger in the land, and not care for the prisoner … this nation’s leadership is considering longer sentences in our prisons by the way … this nation’s leaders want to steal the property of the accused not yet convicted … and do you think that God is not saying MY PEOPLE MY PEOPLE WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?

In Matthew 25 Jesus clearly states that some of those lined up smiling because they were wearing the badge … claiming the name … thinking they were best in faith because they did what their leaders said to do … but they didn’t care for the poor, they stood up for injustice, they wanted to arrest and punish the strangers in the land and the prisoners forget about them … those smiling happy badge wearing folks who didn’t care about the least of those in their neighborhoods and nation … were destined for eternal punishment.

And, yet our churches are comfortable … pastors, deacons and elders and ministry leaders saying “we have done our job” while watching God mocked … OMG …. While watching the message of Jesus buried in a tomb that is not being opened up … and we read of the darkness of the world in those last hours of our Savior hanging on that rough tree trunk pierced by the Romans and condemned by religious leaders fearing the truth of God they rejected the message of love that Jesus taught.  Love for all … love for God.

How many gods are being worshiped in our dark world?  I can attest just from the reactions across this nation to children marching … “You must be like children” Jesus taught … men and women bowing to their weapons and spouting hate towards teens just for speaking out and marching … they polish up their gun and leave their Bible all dust covered … dark times …. Here in South Jersey … here in the Delaware Valley … we invested hour after hour watching our EAGLES win playoff game after playoff game … we knew their names … WENTZ, FOLES, LONG … we could tell our friends about that touchdown catch of Nick Foles, a man of faith called to be a pastor, and then the parades and our Eagles wardrobe but during that remarkable run to the Super Bowl did we open God’s Word, pray, and march for Jesus by standing up against injustice with the same energy?

God, my friends has not forsaken us … even as we God’s people … even as God’s churches shut their doors and shrink in membership as families choose youth leagues ahead of Sunday School … God has not forsaken us but as we spend our time today remembering the death of Jesus … my Savior and I sure hope and pray your Savior too … are you challenged … on Easter will it be the Lord or the bunny … doesn’t matter because either way God has not forsaken us … God is there standing with us.

It was in darkness that Nicodemus came to Jesus … and his life was changed “For God so loved the world … that God gave us God’s only begotten Son and whoever BELIEVES in Him …”. You see church, God didn’t send Jesus to condemn the world but that the world might be saved … God gave us an easy path to follow … in this Bible the Good News message of Jesus is only 304 pages long fewer pages than the latest best seller over at Barnes and Noble.   Here … count them … the Good News is an easy read.

At this moment as we remember Jesus anguished cries on the cross my friends it is a moment in time to remember how that pain-filled sacrifice was an act of love.  A moment of transition that we can take into our lives and truly believe becoming transformed people.  As James taught,

faith without works is dead

… people of faith are called to live like we are people of faith … our works don’t save us but our inactions … when we allow hate to thrive; injustice to win victories; and to have the living God buried away as a forgotten element because other gods seem so more appealing  … our inactions do nothing to change the world not even to bring new generations to discover the revolutionary call and love of Jesus to put all laws and commands onto love of God and love of neighbor.

Peter declared to the people at Pentecost,

Therefore be assured that this God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ. Repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children for all whom the Lord God will call.”

And, the people who heard the message devoted themselves to praising God and their numbers increased daily.

Jesus hung crying out … the world turned dark … today’s world is dark but there is a song from my youth that you can sing because we know God is standing there with us.

When the night has come and the land is dark and the moon is the only light we see.  No, I won’t be afraid, no I won’t be afraid just as long as you stand by me.”

Friends … God has not abandoned us.  On that day on the ugly hill God had not abandoned God’s Son … God’s Son was fulfilling the ultimate gift of love that God has for us.  It is our challenge now to stand up in this world for the world Jesus called us to … reject the darkness and know that God is always with you.  Trust in the Lord and let the Lord rescue you.  AMEN

© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ