Somewhere along the line most of us learned that life is about getting it right. By “it” we mean life. Imbedded deep in our brains is an .mp3 file that plays just loudly enough to insert a subliminal message: You better get this right. Don’t screw it up.
It’s as if we wake up every day to take the next section of a test we have already begun. Facing a test every day is stressful enough. Add to this the realization that you have already completely blown several of the previous sections. Most days you start the new section of the exam with a lower grade than you had yesterday.
If you go back to fix the sections you scarfed on the first go around, you run out of time on the section you’re supposed to complete today and make a hash of it.
To make matters even worse, countless sections of the test are in fact pop quizzes over material you’ve never studied. You find yourself bluffing and stumbling and guessing your way through with wobbly knees and white knuckles sure that everyone else is acing this portion of the test.
So now we’ve got another .mp3 running in our heads, only this one is a little louder. It’s more like an earworm, a melody that keeps playing over and over and that we can’t shut off. It says some variation on this: “You really blew that. You better hope nobody else saw that. You’ve got to do better.”
As it turns out, not everything we learn is true. I learned that Pluto is a planet, that penguins mate for life, and that coffee is made from beans. The truth is that Pluto is too small to be a planet, that penguins love the ones their with, and that coffee comes from seeds.
None of this actually matters to me. But the truth about why I’m on this planet matters a lot. And I am relieved to know that I can ditch the old .mp3 file in my head. I am not on this planet to get it right. I am on this planet to be made right. By Jesus. On the cross.
This is the lesson of the cross.
The cross is God’s creative process. Through the cross God is writing our life as he envisions it. We provide the rough draft for God’s finished product. We are in this world to be revised, amended, and reworked by God. Each day allows us to write another rough draft of who Jesus will make us through his suffering love.
Contrary to what you might think, God does not take the good stuff, discard the dreck, and fill in the remainder with his own supernatural flourishes. Instead, the cross shows us that God works through our weakness, our suffering, our failure to make us a new creation.
Rob Bell uses Navajo rugs to illustrate the point. You’ve probably seen them before. These rugs bear lovely, intricately woven patterns. Some weavers are better than others, but even the most expert weavers intentionally leave a flaw in the fringe of the rug.
Now a flaw in a woven rug or article of clothing is a dangerous thing. The whole rug or garment can unravel starting at this one weak spot. But the Navajo purposely leave this defect because they believe that this is where the spirit can enter to do his work.
And so it is with our lives. We don’t leave room for God to enter where we’re getting it all together on our own. It’s in the blemishes, the flaws, and the torn places of life that God can enter and do his best work.
In God’s hands, the cross is not an instrument of death. Neither is it an instrument of punishment or shame. It’s the place where we’re all unraveling. The place where all our illusions of getting it all together are stripped away. It’s where God enters into our lives and does his best work.
We are not here to get it right. We are here so that Jesus can make us right with God, our neighbor, and ourselves. When we look at the cross, we see the two-fold truth. We are unraveling. And in our weakness God’s strength finds its way into our lives.
The cross is where it all unravels and where it all comes together.
This sermon was preached on Good Friday at St. Mark’s Cathedral, Shreveport.