Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Good Friday 03/25/2016

“Stay thirsty my friends, stay thirsty.” You’ve seen the ads featuring the most interesting man in the world. I like the most interesting man in the world although while I was working on this sermon I found out he’s all done. He’s being sent on a one way trip to Mars and will be replaced. I’ll miss him, but still, I think they’re good ads, always ending with that tag line, “Stay thirsty my friends, stay thirsty.” The trouble is, nobody wants to stay thirsty.

I remember when Pastor Maki had this word some years ago. He went out for his run that morning as usual, but after the run he didn’t drink anything. He didn’t quench his thirst until he got into the pulpit to preach some seven or eight hours later and drank a cup of water. Being a morning runner myself, I know how thirsty he must have been at that point and how refreshing that little bit of water must have been because nobody wants to stay thirsty.

I remember my high school basketball coach during breaks in practice saying, “Go rinse your mouths out boys.” This was back in the days when they thought it was bad to drink water while you were playing and practicing, some of you remember that. Anyway, while there were four water fountains in the gym there was one that had really good, cold water and we’d go over there and suck down as much as we could in a few seconds, quenching our thirst; “We’ll be right there coach; just rinsing our mouths out.” Nobody wants to stay thirsty.

Many of us have been around someone as they are close to death and you see that nothing is more satisfying for that person than to have their mouth swabbed out with a water soaked sponge, just a little bit of water to quench that dying thirst. Even at that point, maybe especially at that point, nobody wants to stay thirsty.

As we take time to consider Jesus’ crucifixion today, it’s hard to identify with a lot of it, at least it is for me. I’ve experienced pain but I can’t imagine the pain of being flogged and having nails driven through my hands and feet then being hoisted up on a cross making it difficult to even breathe. I can’t imagine it; I don’t want to imagine it. I also can’t imagine being like Jesus and, despite the pain, continuing to minister to others through it all, offering words of forgiveness and hope to those crucified with him as well as taking care to make sure his mother will be provided for. I can’t imagine having the strength or the composure to do that.

What I can identify with though, is thirst. We all know what it is to be thirsty. On the cross, with blood and life draining out of him, Jesus expresses this most basic of human needs and what it does, is it gives us a Jesus that might make us a little uncomfortable. This isn’t Jesus the Good Shepherd, blond haired, blue eyed Jesus with sheep at his feet while he holds a cuddly lamb, the image that I had on a wooden plaque by my bed when I was a kid.

This isn’t all knowing and all powerful Jesus who, if he wanted to, could jump down from the cross at any moment and turn the tables on his executioners. It’s not a Jesus who knows how it’s all going to turn out, who knows that if he can just suck it up and bear the pain for awhile, everything will be OK because it is just part of God’s plan. It’s not a Jesus who knows for sure that he’s going to be rescued which would have the effect of making the pain and the suffering just sort of pretend. If that’s how we picture Jesus on Good Friday, confident and all knowing, we miss the point; this isn’t play acting; there is nothing pretend about any of it.

What you get here is beaten, vulnerable, fully human Jesus, Jesus who has emptied himself of his divine nature. He has emptied himself and humbled himself so that his thirst is as real as it would be for any of us. You get a Jesus who can’t be sure of anything at this point, except for the fact that he’s going to die, soon, with gut wrenching thirst being symptomatic of that fact.

Maybe then it’s Jesus’ thirst more than anything that brings home the reality of this day and the reality of our need to stay here for awhile and take it in. It is a time to stay thirsty my friends and not rush too quickly to a thirst quenching Easter parade. We need to stay, not to excessively and morbidly dwell on the pain and thirst, but not to ignore it either. There is a fine line to draw.

John’s account of Jesus’ thirst makes it about fulfilling prophecy, connecting it to Psalm 69 which is a prayer for deliverance from persecution in which the psalmist says “My throat is parched,” and that’s followed a few verses later by “For my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink,” vinegar that wouldn’t quench the thirst, but would only make it worse. The connection between Psalm 69 and Jesus’ thirst on the cross was a valid one for John to make in telling his story of Jesus. It was important to locate Jesus within the prophetic tradition he was part of. Psalm 69 highlights the reality of Jesus’ physical thirst, but there are also other connections that can be made. One worth thinking about is with another psalm, Psalm 42 which is about spiritual thirst.

We can identify with physical thirst, but we can identify with spiritual thirst too and that’s a thirst that does persist; we do stay thirsty. So in Psalm 42 we get “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” It’s a psalm and a verse that is appropriate for the paradox of Good Friday. Thirsting for a living God we behold a dying God, a dying Jesus on the cross. It’s appropriate for us as we consider the absence implied by this death. The psalm then goes on to say, “My tears have been my food day and night; while people say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’”

Today, in the face of death, in the face of apparent absence, the answer to “Where is your God?” is there, there on the cross. It runs counter to what seems logical, but it is on the cross, in the dying form of Jesus, that that we encounter the living God who can save us, the God who, although fully divine, has entered fully into what it is to be human. This is the God who can quench our spiritual thirst, the God who provides salvation.

It’s not pleasant to look at but it’s what we need to see in order to know the depth of the love that God has for sinful humanity. The God revealed on the cross has assumed even what is worst about humanity in order to redeem it. This dying God is the living God for whom we thirst because this is the God who saves us, the God who makes new life possible, new life which is human life joined to the divine life of God.

That is the life for which we were created, new life made possible by what we witness on the cross, including the suffering thirst of Jesus. It is the God revealed there for whom we thirst. It is the new life made possible there for which we thirst.

So…Stay thirsty my friends, stay thirsty.

Gracious God, we do thirst for you and for the salvation that you offer. On this Good Friday, help us to know and to see that we find the answer to our thirst as we behold you on the cross. Lead us back to you that our thirst may be quenched today and in all the days to come. In your name we pray. Amen

Pastor Warren Geier

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
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one who
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