Good Friday March 30, 2018
Church of the Good Shepherd, Silver City, NM Rev. Dr. Paul Moore
Broken Down or Broken Open?
The last time our grandson was with us he and I were making breakfast. We decided to have scrambled eggs and “tortyas,” as he calls them. I got the bowl ready to crack eggs and he proudly said he knew how to do it. With not a few misgivings, I gave him an egg and stood back to watch. He mashed against the bowl’s edge, almost cutting it in half. Then he gingerly pried the two halves apart, dropping most of the egg actually in the bowl, along with a few pieces of shell. The dogs quickly cleaned up the floor after him. He said he’d done enough and Grandpa could do the others. I smiled and we finished getting breakfast ready.
Cracking eggs is a skill that is learned through a lot of messes, and this was but one of them. And of course, that’s how it is with eggs, is it not? We don’t eat the shell. To get to the good part the shell must be broken.
You can say that the Passion Gospel is like eggs. In this afternoon’s Passion reading from the Gospel of John we see Jesus standing before the Jewish Council and before Pilate. For three years he has wandered the countryside, mostly in the border area of Galilee, and periodically in Jerusalem. He preaches, he teaches, he heals the sick, the blind and the lame, and he frees people from the oppression of evil spirits. He even raises the dead. His message is one of hope. Believe and have eternal life. Rivers of living water will flow from within you. You will have life abundantly. Water will become wine. You will become beloved sheep. You will eat bread in the wilderness. He says it in a hundred ways. Life is here. Just believe. Let go of your self-centered ways, surrender to love. Your ego will survive, and you will be glad of its new role. Crack the eggshell and get to the food within.
And now he is on trial for all of that. He is on trial for exactly who he has shown himself to be. He is rightly pronounced guilty, but then, instead of being worshipped, he is crucified. He is broken in our place. What we weren’t he was, what we were, he wasn’t. And yet he took our ire as if it were just when it wasn’t. Like some cosmic egg, the Jesus we saw for three years is broken, the preacher and teacher is lost, the healer and miracle worker is cracked and broken. All that exterior part of who Jesus was for three years is done away with. Jesus is broken open, and salvation for the world is what we find inside.
We are all like eggs. Our egos make for a tough shell sometimes. We get terrifically self-protective, and we make up a zillion good reason why it’s prudent to be self-protective. Most of those reasons hold water under certain circumstances. Some situations are dangerous, and too much vulnerability will only cause undue pain and no good. It’s easy to manage those situations.
What is much harder to manage are the times when letting the shell be broken open is the only way to get to the good part. Then our reasons become excuses, ultimately deceptive tools of the ego to try to divert us from the Cross. The Cross is the great edge of the bowl. The Cross that Jesus hung on is ultimately the cross of the rule of our egos. If we try to avoid the cross the work of it will eventually get the best of us, but if we embrace the Cross, we will be broken open. The Cross confronts us with that awful choice between being broken down or being broken open. There are no other choices.
There are human situations where a protective layer is needed, but with God such protectiveness will always become an obstacle to grace. Maintaining an obstacle of grace between God and you will always be your undoing in the end. The only way forward is to let yourself be broken open rather than broken down.
Now is the time. Now is the time to let go of the excuses and the reasons. Now is the time to open your heart. Today is the great day of surrender, for without death there is no rising from the dead.