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From Pain to Hope

Submitted by umccopenhagen on Tue, 04/14/2020 - 14:48
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Today as on every day, Jesus is one with us. You are not alone in your pain. When you lose your balance, when your life gets of track, and when anxiety, fear and even anger fills and captures your mind. He is right there with you, you are not alone. 

In our place, He carries the consequences of all our mess and all our sin to prevent us from being crushed under its weight. And we would be crushed, if he didn’t step in.

Watch the video here or read the full text below: 

In my little home office, I have several crosses. One of them is a Celtic cross from Ireland.  There is a traditional farm cross from Gotland in Sweden, a Coptic cross from Ethiopia, a small copy of the cross on one of the peace sculptures on North Cape the most Northern Point of Norway, a cross from South Chorea, and there is a small cross made of a cartridge case. 

The cross has a special meaning in all countries where Christianity historically has been present. We use the cross in obituaries, as sign of hope and peace; some even wear it as jewelry around their neck. First and foremost, the cross makes us remember the death of Jesus Christ, the son of God; it is a symbol of the faith of the Christians.  

Listen to part of Luke’s account of what took place on Good Friday….Luke 23: 33-43

When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing.

35 The people were standing around watching, but the leaders sneered at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one.”

36 The soldiers also mocked him. They came up to him, offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” 38 Above his head was a notice of the formal charge against him. It read “This is the king of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40 Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? 41 We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus was by far not the only one who was crucified; he shared that fate with thousands of criminals and people considered enemies of the Roman Empire. The cross was a barbaric instrument of execution. The victims would die a public and extremely painful death as a warning to others. 
Jesus is crucified between two criminals. 

One of them uses the opportunity for one last mean insult: Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!

The other faces up to himself saying: Don’t you even fear God. We get, what we deserve, we have put ourselves in this situation, but he has done nothing wrong. 

It served them right, they were punished for their crimes –  this is how life works, an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth.

But not today, not on Good Friday, on this day Jesus is punished for what you and I have done. And when they nail him to the cross, he doesn’t cry out in frustration over the injustice – instead he prays: Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.

If you and I commit a crime and are caught, we will be punished – that is the way our legal system works and it serves us right! But Jesus has a different story to tell….
 
He tells the story, of how God without any reservation temper justice with mercy. 

In June 2015, there was a racist shooting in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Caroline, a pastor and eight parishioners were shot and killed by a young white man. 

This is how a newspaper described what went on in at the trial of the shooter. 

Relatives of the Emanuel church victims stood up one by one in the courtroom, offering forgiveness to the man accused of murdering their sons, mothers and grandfathers in cold blood, as a nation continued to call for justice.

 “You took something very precious from me, but I forgive you,” one of the victim’s  daughter said through tears. “It hurts me. You hurt a lot of people, but may God forgive you.”

Most of us call for justice, but God is different. He is merciful, where we want to pierce others for their wrongdoings. Jesus shows us, there is a different way, and the people at the Emanuel Church did their utmost to walk that very hard road….

Jesus is innocent, and still he is punished, to make it possible for the guilty to walk. He tempers justice with mercy. 

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. One of the convicted criminals say. 

This is the final call, one minute before closing time, when a convicted criminal asks for another way, not a way out, but another opportunity. 

The message it, there is always hope. There is a second chance. God has this amazing ability to give new life. The ones everybody else has cast aside, he gives yet another chance….

There are always open arms with him; there is always this amazing and disturbing grace that goes far beyond our comfort zone….

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

And Jesus replied:  I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”
 
Today as on every day, Jesus is one with us. You are not alone in your pain. When you lose your balance, when your life gets of track, and when anxiety, fear and even anger fills and captures your mind. He is right there with you, you are not alone. 

In our place, He carries the consequences of all our mess and all our sin to prevent us from being crushed under its weight. And we would be crushed, if he didn’t step in.

Today on the cross, he shows his unrestricted, unconditional and liberating mercy and love for us. 

This is why the empty cross became a symbol of hope and of Christ’s victory over death and evil.  

In northern Lithuania just outside the city of Siauliai there is a hill filled with wooden and metal crosses, the hill of crosses dates back to the mid-19th century. The story says the crosses were left by mourning relatives of the victims of revolts against the Russian regime.

In April 1961 during the Soviet occupation, the entire site was bulldozed and burned down by the authorities. Even though the Hill of Crosses was destroyed four more times, each time the people risked grave danger by defiantly rebuilding the site. Every day people add new crosses to the hill as symbol of their faith and often accompanied by prayers and hope for relatives, friends or concerns in the world. These days many crosses are accompanied by prayers for the end of the Corona virus pandemic. 

You can bulldoze and burn it down, but faith and hope prevails. I am not talking about positive attitudes and optimism. Faith and hope goes much deeper – it is rooted in Christ’s suffering and death, and it is fulfilled in his victory over death and his resurrection on Easter morning. 

There were those who believed they could nail certain truths to the cross of Jesus, they thought they could put an end to all this talk about goodness, love, mercy and forgiveness. They believed they could finally make clear that the strong always win, that violence is the necessary means to establish law and order and brute force is necessary to protect power.  

You can bulldoze and burn it down, but faith and hope prevails. The cross is a symbol of death, but even more, it is a symbol of faith, hope and peace. – Christ will rise again. – Just wait for Sunday…. 
 
Let us Pray….
We give thanks to you, Lord,
for your suffering and death on the cross. 

When we were walking in darkness
you were there,
when we were kneeling in weakness
you were there, 
when we were confused and filled with despair
you were there, 
when we were needing forgiveness
you were there, 
when we were searching for hope and peace
you were there, 

We give thanks to you, Lord,
for you have done marvellous things!
Amen


 

 

 

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mapThe Nordic and Baltic episcopal area covers 7 countries Denmark,Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. We speak 9 official languages and use English as a common language.

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