06 April 2012

Homily for Good Friday Tenebrae

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.

Tonight we practice.  Tonight we rehearse going into the darkness.  No, this is not some funeral for Jesus.  His funeral was long ago and far away; but yours isn’t so far away, is it?  And so we practice.  For the darkness will surely come to you, to me, to each of us here if our Lord does not first return.  The darkness comes - the darkness of death - and it stretches forth its icy shadows long before it envelopes us wholly.

This is the darkness, the night that human beings let loose in this world.  Let us not forget it.  Death is our problem.  We invited it in.  And once we did, we were powerless to put it back out.  And the darkness gorged itself on our flesh.  It grew bigger and bigger, meaner and uglier, and our fear and hatred of it grew too.

And when the darkness of death begins chowing down on you, then another darkness answers from within.  The bitter  memories of sin.  Never forget that all sin is, is death in hiding and all death is, is sin made visible. (Reardon)  So when death begins laying its hands upon you, you realize that it is strangling the life out of you not merely from the outside, but from within.

Satan, who rules the darkness of this world, whispers then to you:  “Remember when you did this?  Remember when you failed to do that?  Remember when you wanted and ached for the other?  Remember?"  Satan whispers.  "Well, here is the fruit you get from the seeds you’ve sown.  Enjoy.    The death of the body?  Oh, it’s bad and it’s ugly but t’s not the worst.  There’s far worse to come.  You know you deserve it and with the last clear vision that is given to the dying, you know that worse that death is where you are headed.  You belong to me.”

Oh, yes.  The struggle of death.  Tonight we practice because there is only way to make it through that darkness and not succumb to its despair.  And that is when you walk through it with the Lord.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow death I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”  No evil.  Not even the evil that you have done, embrace, welcomed, rejoiced in.  No evil.  Not when it is the Lord who is walking beside you through the darkness.

For one time and only one time in the whole history of our race, there was a death of one on and in whom sin had no hold - no hold whatsoever.  Death had no right to Him, yet as we celebrate this holy evening, He gave Himself up into death.  And He did it so that He could bring you out of it!

Do you see the brilliance, the unthinkable wisdom of God?  Into the darkness on this night, death swallowed down yet one more and thought that He was like all the others it had been eating.  Not so.  True human flesh indeed, yet hidden under the flesh of that One was a light that no darkness would ever be able to overcome.  Into the impenetrable darkness of that stinking pit He let loose a light, the light that was with the Father before time began, the light of an unbroken “yes” to the Father’s will, the light that had finished upon the cross this world's salvation.

Your Jesus goes into the darkness that you will have to go into.  And because you will go into the darkness with Him, you have nothing to fear from the devil and his lies.  As the darkness could not hold your Jesus, so it will not hold you.  As the darkness had no claim on Him, so by the innocent shedding of His blood, it has lost all claim on you.  His blood has covered all your sin forever.  You are HIS.

Tonight we practice going into the darkness; tonight we rehearse for our death.  And we do it as the people who tomorrow will practice coming out of the darkness and into the splendor of the Lord’s uncreated light.  Don’t be practicing the one without practicing the other, now! The Lord who walks with you into the valley of the shadow of death so that you need fear no evil, will walk out of it with you and show you the table He set before you in the presence of your enemies, He will anoint your head with oil, and He will give you a cup of joy that overflows.  More joys than you can even begin to imagine.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  Tonight it’s just the first part we’re practicing, the falling asleep in faith in Him who is Forgiveness for all sin and so the Destruction of all death.  People loved by God, the darkness comes, but you do not need to be afraid.  Not anymore.  Let us arise and go into it, for we know who will meet us there and where He will lead us.  Amen.

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