A homily preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer
First and Spring Creek Lutheran Churches
Good Friday—April 18, 2003
Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Why are you here tonight? There are probably an awful lot of reasons you might give if I had everyone stand up and say, but I’m going to hazard a guess: At the heart of it, we’re all here because we want to see God. We want to know him, know him the way he really is. And we have a hunch that at church tonight God might show himself to us.
Last night I talked about how God brushes up against our lives in the simplest of things, whether it’s washing or eating, or even on a bread wrapper. Ordinary things become extraordinary because they’ve got God’s fingerprints on them; he uses them to give us glimpses and peeks into his true nature.
But we want more than glimpses and peeks, and that is why we’re here tonight. We want to know what God is really like. We want to know where we can see him as he truly is.
All through history people have sought God this way. Many different times, they thought they had found him, too.
Some people think they can see the face of God in the heavens. They look up into the night sky and are awestruck by what they see: The light of untold millions of stars shining down into their eyes, each one part of a grand universe that has been growing since the beginning of time. Looking into the vastness, beauty and precision of the universe takes these people’s breath away, and they murmur to themselves, “This is what God is really like.” They conclude that God is the true artist, the great creator who crafts the universe for his pleasure.
There are others who believe that God’s true nature can be seen in the great teachings and collective wisdom of the world’s teachers. Gandhi, Socrates, Newton, Mother Theresa, Steven Hawkings, Einstein, Buddha, and even Jesus…their teachings inspire us and cause us to reach for the divine. Their words challenge us intellectually and spiritually. Their ideas sparked revolutions in science, religion and culture that have shaped the very world we live in. Gather together all of the wisdom of all of the ages—surely this wisdom comes from God and reveals him to us. In all of this knowledge, surely we can finally see God as he really is? And so these people decide that God is the great teacher, the author of all wisdom.
The ancient Hebrews and modern-day Jews have made a strong case for seeing God in a single book of words—the Bible. If you want to know what God is like, why not let him tell you himself? they argue. He’s told us! It’s all there if you’ll just take the time to study and learn. God gave us his law, and we can come to know him by knowing and keeping that law. God is the lawgiver, faithful and just, whose commandments are good and true, they argue.
We’re here to look for God. We want to see his face. We want to know him as he truly is. We want God to show himself to us tonight, fully and completely.
If you want to see God tonight, don’t look to the sky; he can’t be found there. And don’t turn to a wise teacher; even the wisest of us is foolish compared to God. And don’t seek him in pages and pages of law; not even the very highest laws he gave us can show us his face.
There’s only one place to look if you want to see the very heart, the very essence of God. If you want to know what God is truly like tonight, look to the cross. There, if you can bear to fix your eyes on it, you’ll see the face of God—not an artist, not a teacher, not a judge, but a bleeding, broken savior who chose pain and death rather than to lose you. Hanging on the cross, Jesus Christ showed us once and for all what God is like.
Look at that cross. Open your eyes wide, and take it in. Commit it to your heart. In that cross you will see the salvation of the world. Dear friends, God is love and the cross is the only place you ever need look to see God, the real God, your God who loved you and saved you. Blessed be the cross of Christ, where God finally shows himself to us. Amen.