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When All is Said and Done

Reverend Philip Stringer

The Passion According to St John

LET US PRAY: Almighty God, you are truth. All that you have made and all that you do testify to the truth of who you are and the power of your love. May the truth of your love, revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, be the foundation of all that we do, that we, too, may live as testimony to the power of your love. AMEN

Many of you have heard me speak before about power — and how what is perceived as “power” differs depending upon what one believes. I have spoken about it in terms of “paradigm.” Power is understood as either love or control — depending upon the paradigm. The paradigm of control — in which the ability to force one’s will upon people and events — is the paradigm that rules this world. “Might makes right,” or so they say. But the power paradigm of God is that of love. Love overcomes hate. Love never ends.

You and I live within the human struggle of trying to hold these two diametrically opposed paradigms together. We long for peace within ourselves. We long to live without being afraid.

The power paradigm of control depends upon fear — and there are many things we fear: physical harm, emotional embarrassment, feelings of inadequacy — and these fears lead us to seek control over the things we fear.

Yet — at the same time, we long for something more — experience has shown us that “control” is really fleeting. It is an illusion of peace, because control is never permanent — and so experience has shown us that the peace we seek cannot come through control. Experience has shown us that fear outlasts control.

What we truly seek is for fear to be defeated. For fear to be removed.

What Jesus taught us is that perfect love casts out fear.

We are about to enter into the events of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. And throughout the telling of these events, you will see these two paradigms of control and love contest with each other. Fear is what drives every participant in the story we will hear — except for Jesus.

Fear compels Judas to seek a way to force Jesus to reveal his power. Fear compels Peter to strike with the sword. It compels him to lie about knowing Jesus. It compels the religious authorities to seek to destroy Jesus. It compels the soldiers and police to strike him and mock him. Fear compels the crowds to cry out for his death, and it compels Pilate…

In Pilate we see the ultimate futility of control. When all is said and done, there cannot be two opposing truths. In the end there is only one truth.

Only Jesus acts in love. Jesus is fearless. The priests do not value the power of love. They have no regard for the truth.

Pilate, though … Pilate catches a glimpse of true power in Jesus. But that truth is so diametrically opposed to everything that Pilate has built his life upon that he cannot make sense of it. It confuses him — and he is afraid.

Pilate represents the height of earthly power. And yet he is shaken. His power is being manipulated by the priests — and he is powerless to stop it. He must choose between a belief in control or a belief in love. He sees that with all of his power he is not really in control. But if he acknowledges the power of Jesus, he must let him go. And if he does this, he will undoubtedly be destroyed by the earthly power paradigm of control — because to release Jesus is to subvert the authority of the emperor.

In the end, Pilate is a coward who acts in fear. He knows that to crucify Jesus is an injustice, but he cannot resist the power of fear and he caves. In the end, Pilate chooses the illusion of control over the truth of love. “What is truth,” he asks.

Quite literally — Pilate wouldn’t know the truth if it was staring him in the face.

We are about to enter into the events of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, and throughout the telling of these events, listen and see how the power of this world has risen up against the truth of God’s love.

Tonight, we will see the power of this world try to prove its “truth” once and for all — that might makes right. We will see it prove its point in the death of Jesus.

Because Jesus does die. John will testify to us that he has seen it with his own eyes. And Joseph and Nicodemus will acknowledge that truth by performing the rituals of respecting the body that used to be Jesus.

Tonight, we will see the truth of this world put the final nails into the coffin of debate, by proving that power is the ability to destroy. Tonight, the death of Jesus proves that in this world, love is weak and the ability to control is the only power that matters.

But tonight is not the end of the story. When all is said and done, everything that happens tonight cannot stop Sunday from coming. Because while control is fleeting, love never ends. AMEN


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