Third Year Reflections and a Sermon in Roxbury

Published: April 3, 2012

I’ve never had the opportunity to preach in a Good Friday, Seven Last Words of Jesus service before. This Good Friday—that changes. At Twelfth Street Baptist Church, Roxbury, MA, I will join preachers from Morehouse College in preaching the Seven Last Words of Jesus. I am tasked with delivering the final word: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

We may know this story well. He breathed his first in the dirtiest of birthing rooms, an animal filled-stable. He breathes his last on the vilest symbols of torture and hatred. Quoting Psalm 31, he offers his final words. Before Jesus breathes his last darkness envelops the land, the Sun’s light cannot be seen, and the veil is torn in two. The world quivers and nature moans. The Centurion simply says, “Certainly, this man was innocent.”

We have walked our way from Galilee to Jerusalem, and during this season of Lent we have heard about the life, the goodness, and the compassion of Jesus. We, like Jesus, have walked this journey coming to the point that we know this moment, the breathing of the last, comes. When Good Friday ends we will be begging, aching for Sunday to come, for the good news of resurrection to be lauded and praised over, but we aren’t there yet. We aren’t they’re yet in our calendar, and we aren’t there yet in our society.

I preach this sermon as the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination occurs this week, and questions circle around Trayvon Martin’s death. Good Friday is here and we hear the last words of Christ. When will we, our common humanity, remember the wake up calls bellowed by King and Troy Davis? When will we as a common humanity recognize that every person deserves the right to live a life and die a death with last words? When will we see that we are not living on Easter Sunday, but on Good Friday? When will finally shrug off the powers that declare we are supposed to hate, despise, and kill the soul of the holy within others?

With these questions in mind, I preach.

Our humanity expects other things from us other than this grotesque and perpetual killing. If we want to transform this kingdom into a more profitable kingdom, a more invested kingdom, a more dividend-making country, let us entrust the destinies of this kingdom to self-interested pundits and politicians.

But, if we want humanity to take one step forward, if we want this kingdom and all the earth to become the kingdom of God, then we must innovate and we must pioneer. We must remember that there was man who had compassion on the multitudes because they were like sheep without a shepherd. We must remember that there was a man who had compassion on those that religious and political elites said didn’t matter. We must remember that there was a man who flipped tables in the Temple because religion had become about controlling, not liberating.

We must make a new start, develop a new way of thinking, and endeavor to take back our God- given bodies and souls from the mentality that nails a man to the cross.

Good Friday—wherever we celebrate it—offers a chance to reimagine our lives and our world. May it be so.

Zac Bailes
Third Year