• Steven Marsh

Peace–We Are Justified and Saved as Individuals in a Community: a Reflection on Psalm 118:1-2,

In his book Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning writes, “Without deliberate awareness of the present risenness of Jesus, life is nonsense, all activity useless, all relationships in vain.”[1]

Looking for more than eggs this Easter? Whether it is love, peace, wealth, self-confidence, health, encouragement, or meaning, I do not know. Whether it’s a response to the looming threat of North Korea, the crisis of immigration in our country, increased nationalism, or climate change, I do not know. What I do know is that many people are uneasy, restless, cynical, and searching. What I do know is that this is God’s world and God loves humanity…loves us. What I do know is that our hope cannot be placed in human wisdom. Our hope must be placed in the One whom Christians claim is raised from the dead.

Psalm 118:1 reads, “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!” This psalm is recited at Passover every year. Kimberly Bracken Long, Assistant Professor of Worship at Columbia Theological Seminary writes, “[The recitation of Psalm 118] celebrates God’s past triumph of delivering the Hebrew slaves, acknowledges some present threat, and expresses hope for future deliverance.” [2] Our brothers and sisters in Judaism recounted God’s triumphs and expressed hope for future deliverances again this past week. Beginning last Sunday, Palm Sunday, and continuing through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and yes, today, Christians seize the truth that God is for humanity and not against us as we look for God’s presence and deliverance in the challenges we face as individuals and communities.

This is the third day following the first day, Good Friday. Jesus himself told the world that if he was killed, he would be raised from the dead. Love would win. Death in all its forms would lose. Tony Campolo tells the story of a Good Friday service some years back at his home church in West Philadelphia. Good Friday is the day in the church year that followers of Jesus around the world remember his death on the cross.

Tony was one of seven ministers, each preaching on one of the seven last words of Jesus. After Tony sat down at the end of his message, the pastor of the congregation squeezed Tony’s knee and said, “You did all right, boy!” Tony turned to him and said, “Pastor, are you going to be able to top that?” Tony states that the old man smiled at him and said, “Son, you just sit back, ‘cause this old man is going to do you in!” And then it began.

In black congregations, the people really get into the message. If you are doing poorly people might yell, “Help him Jesus! Help him, Jesus.” On the other hand, when the preacher is really on, deacons start yelling, “Preach, brother! Preach, brother! Preach, man, preach!” Other words that are heard during a good sermon are “doing good,” “Well, well,” and “Keep going! Keep going!”

And so, the old man began to preach. The pastor only had one line in his sermon. “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!” He started the sermon very softly by saying, “It was Friday; it was Friday and my Jesus was dead on the tree. But that was Friday, and Sunday’s comin!” “It was Friday and Mary was cryin’ her eyes out. The disciples were runnin’ in every direction, like sheep without a shepherd, but that was Friday, and Sunday’s comin’!” “It was Friday. The cynics were lookin’ at the world and sayin’, ‘As things have been so they shall be. You can’t change anything in this world; you can’t change anything.’ But those cynics didn’t know that it was only Friday. Sunday’s comin’!” “It was Friday! And on Friday, those forces that oppress the poor and make the poor to suffer were in control. But that was Friday! Sunday’s comin’!” “It was Friday, and on Friday Pilate thought he had washed his hands of a lot of trouble. The Pharisees were struttin’ around, laughin’ and pokin’ each other in the ribs. They thought they were back in charge of things, but they didn’t know that it was only Friday! Sunday’s comin’!” “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’! It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!” It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!”

At the end of his message he just yelled at the top of his lungs, “IT’S FRIDAY!” And all the congregants yelled back with one accord, “SUNDAY’S COMIN’!”[3]

Psalm 118 is the promise that love wins. James Luther Mays, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Old Testament Interpretation at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, writes, “Psalm 118 concerns the coming of the One who comes in the name of the Lord. The One who comes makes the most marvelous statement: ‘I shall not die but live.’ The celebration that the Lord did not give him over to death is hailed as the day the Lord made.”[4] Banking our hope on the prophecy in Psalm 118 that the messiah would not die but would live, is what each one of us is looking for today. Love wins.

The gospel reading in John 20 tells us how death loses. Who was Mary looking for when she went to the tomb that early morning? The stone had been rolled away. The tomb was empty. The linen cloths were all that remained. Jesus’ body was gone. Had the Roman guards stolen the body to mock Jesus publicly in the streets? Did some of the disciples take Jesus’ body to make it look like he had risen from the dead? Had she gone to the wrong tomb? Had Jesus only fainted on the cross, later waking and walking out of the tomb? Death loses.

It was resurrection! Love wins and death loses. Death was defeated that third day following the first day, Good Friday. I am encouraged that many of you are reading Just Mercy. Copies are still available at the Welcome Booth and in the church office. It is a book about “appeals” and the cause of justice on behalf of the marginalized and the wrongly accused. Jesus was marginalized and wrongly accused just like Walter. Jesus represented Walter, you, me, and all humanity on the cross and through the resurrection. According to Bryan Stevenson the author of Just Mercy, “The lawyers made their arguments, the jury retired, and less than three hours later they filed back into the courtroom. Stone-faced, one by one, they pronounced Walter McMillian guilty.” [5] Pilate, the religious leaders in Judaism, and the crowd did the same to Jesus.

“It was Friday, and on Friday Pilate thought he had washed his hands of a lot of trouble. The Pharisees were struttin’ around, laughin’ and pokin’ each other in the ribs. They thought they were back in charge of things, but they didn’t know that it was only Friday! Sunday’s comin’!” “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’! It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!” It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!”[6]

Sunday’s here. For whom or what are you looking? Come to terms with Jesus Christ. Renew your faith in him as Savior and Lord. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord by placing your faith in him. Love wins. Death loses. Receiving peace as an individual and community is a by-product of faith. By faith we are justified and saved as individuals and communities. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead sealed the win for love and the loss for death in all its forms such as suffering, hate, fear, and injustice. Salvation now from all that is deadly and for eternity can be yours today.

[1]Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child, 110.

[2]Kimberly Bracken Long in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 359.

[3]Anthony Campolo, It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’ (Waco, Texas: WORD Books, 1984), 118-119.

[4]James Luther Mays, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Psalms (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox press, 2011), 373.

[5]Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy (New York City, New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2014), 62.

[6]Anthony Campolo, It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’, 119.

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