Pollyana Glad or Good Friday Joy

We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the Power of God and the Wisdom of God       I Corinthians 1:23-24

Disney’s Pollyanna is a feel-good movie about a girl, orphaned from missionary parents, who would always see the good side to everything, no matter how bad things seemed to be.  In the end she manages to turn the attitude of the whole town around.  Naturally, I was interested in the preacher of the town, Reverend Paul Ford.  I don’t know if it was this way in the book, but the character started out as the Hollywood stereotypical hellfire-and-damnation “Christian” preacher and ended up as a sweetness-and-light preacher of joy in the opposite extreme, with everyone showing approval and appreciation for this change.

Yes, “Reverend Ford” had resolved to preach about being glad and that is very comforting.  Although the movie didn’t do all that great at the box office, still as a 1960 film it fit very well with what the society in the States was yearning for.  The “love generation” was just planting its seeds as the US was ruled by exhaustion from wars and the fear of a nuclear holocaust.  Yes, something that makes us “feel good” was needed.

Looking at today’s lessons, I can just see the script writers going, “Aha! There’s that hellfire-and-damnation character of Christianity!”  The lessons do indeed seem to be on the harsh side; however, if we step back a bit we find that they are also frank and realistic:  The Old Testament Lesson [Exodus 2-:1-17] is the Ten Commandments, the Epistle [I Corinthians 1:22-25] speaks of the Cross, and the Gospel [John 2:13-22] tells of the time when Jesus threw the merchants out of the temple.

Sure, we recognize that the Ten Commandments are necessary for our life together, because there has to be boundaries if we are to live with both God and neighbor.  And in regard to the Gospel, when we see so much injustice, abuse of power, and corruption all around us, where the powers-that-be seem to ignore the people they serve, and where money worship and moral bankruptcy are often the order of the day, it is comforting to see Jesus take strong action to give people back their Holy Place where they could meet God without distraction.

As happens many times in our fallen world, unless we see the contrast between dark and light, bad and good, sin and salvation, hell and heaven, we fail to grasp the full significance of what is so good about good and what is so crucial about redemption.  However, how do we actually get from bad to good, and from sin to salvation?  The bad does not merely go away because we wish it away or attempt to define it out of existence.  We need something in the middle which adequately acknowledges and deals with the bad and can bring a true deliverance, something which can give us hope, which can be a realistic and powerful answer bringing real comfort and help.

The “Reverend Ford” of the movie missed that middle something, and obviously the script writers also had no real solution for the brokenness in humanity.  It is true that a focus on only the negatives of life can simply make a person very miserable, and yet a pollyanna emphasis on only the positives just does not make people good.

There are some who have tried, for example, to make guilt just go away, because guilt has such negative feelings and can be such a burden.  They try to remove all sources of guilt.  The reality, though, is that you can’t make guilt go away – not unless you make love go away.  If you really care about someone, then when you cause them hurt, you must feel guilt at the breaking of even a small part of the relationship.

Guilt is in deep contrast to the 1970 movie “Love Story”’s ridiculous statement: “Love means never having to say you are sorry.”  The inconvenient truth is that human nature has very real defects which go far beyond some merely disagreeable occasions.  Self-centeredness, arrogance, greed of money (or anything), hatred and ridicule, the list is endless, each being evidence of a spiritual disfigurement, a moral distortion of the heart.  That’s why emphasizing niceties and “glad” themes are not going to make that transition from bad to good.

It is at this point where we need to hear St Paul proclaiming in today’s Epistle that “we preach Christ crucified.”  For some, this may be confusing, because we have grown calloused to the Cross, which we often now use merely as a piece of jewelry.  We treat Good Friday as if it were merely some sort of marathon event, a bit taxing perhaps for Jesus, a bit hard (of course) to endure, but after all, Jesus is God and He knew that He would rise three days later.

However, the Cross in reality is an ugly thing.  It speaks of humiliation, of gut-wrenching agony, and of death.  We really have no awareness of the powerful surges of pain, the inability to find relief, no breather, no rest periods, no times out – one is nailed to the cross.  We do not hear the moans, the whimpers, the screams, the cursing, the begging of those who were crucified around us.  We quickly pass over the Garden of Gethsemane, if we stop at it at all, and fail to see Jesus sweating Blood as He pleaded three times with His Father that there be some other way.  And we do not pause at the excruciating loneliness while He was on the Cross, to find Himself forsaken even by His Father because of the burden of our sin which He carried.

The Internet is diversifying at a great speed. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced in the practice of regularly prescribing this medication to their patients, as it’s probably the easiest and best method of overcoming http://pamelaannschoolofdance.com/aid-3509 buy generic viagra impotence. So, do not leave untreated oligospermia, because it is treatable and curable. Shame is your barometer that things are falling to pieces for me if I will start thinking that it’s all disgusting. Although seeing the extreme penalty for sin is not popular in some circles, yes, we do need to be confronted with the ugliness of the Cross  It is a powerful physical demonstration of what sin does.  But what is sin?  Ask most people and they will describe it as an error, a mistake or some such thing.  The problem is that I make a lot of errors, for instance, I can type up to 54 mistakes a minute – so is each mistake “sin”?  Well, no… Then what is sin?

The basis of sin, simply, is rebellion.  It is Adam and Eve knowing what is the rule which is laid upon them, and yet, since they think that there are advantages available which God never offered them, they cast aside the command.  However, what they instead discover is that what had seemed to be such an advantage now becomes a curse, and the comfortable fellowship that they once had with Jehovah and with each other now is utterly destroyed.

It is like the deep sea diver with the bell helmet and the air hose to the surface, who decides he wants to be free and unencumbered; in “rebellion” to the restriction from above, he whips out his knife, cuts off his lifeline, and indeed achieves his freedom.  However, he also has simply brought upon himself a helpless, suffocating death.

Spiritually this is what happens in regard to sin.  Oh, yes, God’s law can be a good idea: allowing people to live together in community without too much conflict, everybody being treated fairly and considerately, as well as maintaining a proper relationship with God.  Yet daily we meet various occasions, circumstances, and temptations which call us to choose more “convenient” courses of action, somethings which might make us feel good, ones which suggest benefits, advantages, experiences – all of which God has either “neglected” to offer to us, or worse, supposedly deliberately withheld from us .

Therefore we whip out our spiritual knives, cut off our lifeline with God and spiritually suffocate.  Oh, It may take eighty years before it fully surfaces in physical death, yet just like with that deep sea diver, once the lifeline has been cut, we are walking dead men until the final conclusion takes place.  We suffocate because what gives us life is no longer there: we know the emptiness, the loneliness and the forsakenness; we feel the agony, the pain and brokenness because of things that come back to haunt us; we groan in the humiliation of knowing that what was special and important is lost.  How often we have been nailed to our past, with no relief, no breathers, no time outs?

This is why it is so important to know that Jesus did not merely just take our sins, He took everything that our sins have created.  We really don’t understand that the agony on the Cross was not simply something which just happened on the way to His death.  What Jesus was doing was making outwardly visible the suffering that we all have inside of us because of our sins.  Using suffocation earlier to describe what it is like when we have cut ourselves off from the Source of Life is actually useful, since the type of death on the Cross was indeed a suffocation.  In the way that the body hangs, the person can take a breath in but cannot exhale unless he rises up.  But that kind of stance cannot be maintained, so he drops down again, only begin suffocating all over again.

There on the Cross, displayed visibly is what goes on inside of us, the spiritual suffocation, the pain, the agony, the being nailed to our past.  Jesus took everything, every bit of every one of our sufferings – that there on the Cross was our suffering – yours and mine.  It is a very vivid demonstration of what awaits in Hell, the very Hell that because of Jesus, when we are in Him, we will now never experience.

But the Cross is more than merely punishment.  To the Samaritan woman at the well in a different story, Jesus said that the day would come when we would worship God in spirit and in truth.  In a sense, this is pictured in the Gospel reading, the story where Jesus cleanses the Temple.  Summarizing it, Jesus came upon the temple which had all kinds of sin (greed, corruption and more); a person’s ability to worship was destroyed, intimacy between God and man was shattered.  Jesus entered in and threw out these sins – quite vehemently, in fact.

On the Cross, He did the same spiritually: He cleaned out spiritually those things that prevent us from worshiping God in spirit and in truth.  As He suffered on the Cross, He completed and finished all those agonies and groanings, the lonelinesses and humiliations and all the rest which have so cluttered our lives and our worship.  He compels the uncomfortable work of repentance and forgiveness to truly restore the broken relationships with God and our fellow humans.  The joy is that now these sins and their effects are truly gone – no longer can they prevent that intimacy with God which He is looking for and which we are hoping for.

It is all cleared away.  There is no residue, nothing left to block the way.  That is why we can celebrate Holy Communion, because here is God’s powerful proof that the intimacy that He looks for is right here, right now; here He can freely enter into us with all of His grace, mercy and love.  And we have also the intimacy which we seek, with all the assurance and confidence that comes from knowing that all has been paid for, all has been suffered, all is as Jesus put it, “Finished.”   Now, indeed because of the Cross, we truly can worship God in spirit and in truth.

So come, and here enjoy that uncluttered intimacy that Jesus Himself has set before you as He shares Himself, His Body and Blood, with each one of you.  In this way pollyanna glad is replaced by Good Friday joy.

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