Wicker Park Lutheran Church
Vicar Vicky Carthanassis
Apr. 7, 2023
A couple weeks before Lent started, I was leading Sunday school and I told the kids that God loves you no matter what. “even if you do something bad?” Even if you do something bad, God still loves you. “What if you do something really bad?” Yep! Still loves you “Like what if you *kill* someone?” And I explained how God wouldn’t be very happy about that, and would be really disappointed in their life choices and sad, but ultimately –even then, God would still love you. And then—“What if you killed God?” “Oh well….that wouldn’t really work—“ But they were on a roll and moved right to speculation on the best kind of God slaying weapon and what do you think, Vicar? Could a bow and arrow work if it was big enough, or would you need a sword or maybe—I told them how these were all such good questions and how great it was that we were all in such a philosophical mood today and that I loved that they were sharing these great big questions with me! But I didn’t really prepare for this conversation so could I think about it a bit and get back to them later?
And I wasn’t lying. Those are all really good questions! Ones that I think a lot of adults are wondering too, we’re just less likely to actually say them out loud. So instead we worry privately, keeping them contained within our own hearts and minds. Does God still love me? Or did I stray too far? Am a just a few feet off from it or do I have miles to go to get back to Love’s boundary lines? I messed up and maybe I regret it and maybe I don’t, but how could someone like God love someone like me?
“Would God still love you, if you did something bad?”
Tonight we heard a story about the 12. They all did something bad. For all of their swearing up down that he was their rabbi and they would follow Jesus always…when times got rough they all abandoned him, went into hiding and left him to face the authorities on his own. But God still loves his disciples.
Peter lashed out at innocents, he was frustrated and terrified that he would have kept going, even after maiming someone, though that person too was powerless. And then he pretended he didn’t even know Jesus, that the man he’d been following for years was a perfect stranger because he was so scared of what the mob would do to him if they knew. And then when that rooster called him out he too left and joined the others in hiding. But even still, God loves Peter.
Judas arranged to have his friend ambushed in a familiar place where Jesus truly should have been safe. He sold him out for a pittance, and brought an angry mob to drag him off. And with a kiss he betrayed the son of man. He took a sign of affection and perverted it into something gruesome and ugly. But God still loves Judas.
“Would God still love me if I did something bad?” Yes God still loves you.
“What if you did something really bad?”
Tonight we read a story about…a lot of people who did something really bad. The chief priests and temple police who did not dare come for Jesus in public but were perfectly content to ambush him at night. Caiaphas who oversaw this sham of a trial. The soldiers who flogged God, who stripped him and mocked him and violated him and cast lots for his clothes. The crowds who gathered to gawk and jeer as he was forced to drag his own cross to the hill outside the gates and gave him no mercy.
And God still loves Caiaphas. And those priests and police and soldiers and people in the crowd? God knows each of them by name, and he loves them all too.
“what if you did something really bad?” God would still love you.
What if you killed someone?
Tonight we heard a story about Barabbas and Pilate, both men who were leaders, one of an insurrection and the other in government. Killers, both of them. Barabbas was sentenced to die for these crimes, and Pilate the one who sentenced him to that death. Barabbas was spared to ensure that Jesus died, and though he owes his life to him, Barabbas never thanked or even acknowledged Jesus in any way. But God still loves Barabbas.
Pilate knew people were misrepresenting Jesus. He had the power to stop all of the proceedings, with a snap of his fingers, Jesus could have walked free. But he did nothing because going along with the mob would help him achieve his own political agendas. He got so turned around that he didn’t even know what truth was anymore. And he put Jesus to death…for a crime Pilate didn’t even think Jesus had committed. And yet, even so, God still loves Pilate.
What if you killed someone? God would still love you.
What if you killed God?
We tried that already. We weren’t as merciful as the kids were, no swords or arrows to do the deed quickly. No. God became flesh and lived among us and we slowly and brutally tortured that flesh until he died. Humanity attacked God in a series of profound ways, it would be reasonable for him to want vengeance after pain like that. But our God is not reasonable.
It is so easy to look at this story and go “that was stupid of you Peter, or Caiaphas or Pilate or the entire crowd.” And yet when we find ourselves in their position…how often do we abandon our friends or use whatever power we do have to destroy, or lash out at those we think can’t fight back? When the opportunity presents itself, do we crucify God all over again?
Tonight we remember the time we lashed out at God as viciously as we could, and dared God to stop loving us. And on the very cross we killed him on, God replied “I will never stop loving you.” Beloveds rejoice, because there is nothing you can do to God that has not already been done. You are loved. Fully and completely. Would God still love me if I killed him? Yes.