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Good Friday, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
March 25, 2016

Psalm 22; John 18:1 – 19:42

‘Overcoming evil’

I can be tempted to greed – orienting my life to strong desires for food and drink, affection, physical comforts and pleasures. I can eat out often – even become a connoisseur of fine dining, fashion, culture, style. I can be tempted to materialism as a belief or way of life.

I can be tempted to dominance – the temptation to become a person of influence and importance. I can pursue that. I can cultivate relationships with VIPs and I can attend important functions; seeking to be photographed with people in power; seeking to be sighted/cited. I can work my way to the top (whatever that means).

I can be tempted by the thrill of risk and daring performance, applause and adulation. I can court attention. I can feed desires (within and without) for notoriety. I can be tempted to fame and popularity. I can lend my support to extreme movements, to extravaganzas.

Jesus was tempted in the same ways. For 40 days, we read, he prayed in the wilderness – overcoming temptations to greed, dominance and popularity in the name of something holy – in the Spirit of something more human, more humanising, more loving and so divine.

Not mere materialism, but sacramental wisdom – both bread and word, flesh and spirit.

Not power over others, but love that empowers – relationship/friendship, mutual respect, solidarity, sharing.

Not the thrill of risk in and of itself, not popularity, but faith as true adventure in radical hospitality. Love as miracle.

We might imagine that Jesus, the Truly/Fully Human One, continues to overcome temptations even as he is arrested, tried, tortured and killed – even as he faces the worst of human hatred, fear and foolishness – even as he endures the evil of violence. We might imagine the temptations in terms of Jesus stumbling, falling, standing, bearing the cross.

How difficult to affirm sacramental wisdom – physically, spiritually – in face of brutality, in pain. What opportunities remain for relationship, for sharing? What chance of new life, miracle or love?

“Fear and pain make me feel that I am nothing … Yet I know that you too have mothered me …” (Psalm 22).

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, ‘Here is your son’. Then he said to his disciple, ‘Here is your mother’. From that moment, the disciple took her into his household” … (John 19:26-27).

I’m empowered by these verses today – by their raw and humane simplicity. I’m called by love to respond in love – to experience family and to affirm families – wherever brave hospitality is offered and received – in all manner of holy households (oikos, ecos). The words bear more than a family resemblance: economics, ecology, ecumenism. All manner of holy households, economies, ecological and ecumenical networks.

I discern Resurrection here – a promise, a gospel perspective.

How do we overcome temptations to greed, dominance/influence, popularity (essentially self-centred desires inflamed by evil – that is, by forces of division and destruction)? How do we overcome preoccupation with our own comforts, consumerism … our addictions to colonialism, to perfectionism … our obsessions with popularity/fame – gossip, tabloid sensation, the fascination with magic (putting God to the test) we confuse with religion?

By loving like Jesus. By giving ourselves to one another and to God in the Spirit of Christ-like love as we best understand it.

Margaret Vazey inspired the three artworks we have before us, which were selected by Catherine Skipper from student work produced in a class taught by Margaret during Lent. The three works represent the three temptations. I’ve called them temptations to greed, to dominance, and to popularity.

You can probably think of other names.

Catherine sees them as reductive temptations to mere feeling (I’m hungry!); mere willing (I’m important!); and mere thinking (I’m adorable, I’m adored!). And sees Christ overcoming temptations in a Spirit of wholeness or integration – feeling, willing and thinking in harmony – a picture of wisdom, divine compassion.

What do you see – in regard to temptations and resistance to evil? And how might that help us to endure/face/face down the horror of crucifixion – wherever people are ridiculed, scapegoated, excluded, tortured or killed? Wherever truth or life is mocked, degraded, destroyed?

You’re invited to move closer to the artworks as icons of love. In silence, we receive what the Spirit shows and says to us. What do you see – in regard to temptations and overcoming evil? And how might that help us to love? …

We place our hands upon the cross as an icon of love. We make our solemn prayers for the world and for one another … Amen.