Sermon Seeds: In the Dust of Death

Friday, April 7, 2023
Good Friday | Year A
(Liturgical Color: Purple)

Lectionary Citations
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 • Psalm 22 • Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 • John 18:1-19:42

Sermon Seeds Brief Reflection

Focus Theme:
In the Dust of Death
Rend Our Hearts (Click here for the series overview.)

Focus Scripture:
Psalm 22
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
8 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”
9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.

By Cheryl A. Lindsay

On Good Friday, many Christian communities will gather to reflect on the seven last sayings of Jesus on the cross.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
“You will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
“Woman, behold your son!” (John 19:26-27).
“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).
“I thirst!” (John 19:28).
“It is finished!” (John 19:30).
“Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’” (Luke 23:46).

No gospel account records all seven statements; some are found in multiple accounts. They have been put together through a reading of each account to determine an agreed upon order. The words reflect the abundant love and grace of Jesus as well as his purpose and resolve in the most trying hours of his life. At the same time, they reflect the fullness of his humanity at the most painful and vulnerable time in his life.

The utterance of the fourth word, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is not only a heart wrenching plea and expression of abandonment and despair; it is a direct quote from the first line of Psalm 22, a psalm of lament. Lament, as a biblical form, moves from complaint and despair to hope and assurance. Typically, the conditions that led to the lament do not change within the content of the passage. This is not a case of remembering how God has redeemed and delivered. Laments are situated within the experience that caused the despair while the feelings of abandonment and hopelessness are most prevalent. By the end of the passage, the situation may not have altered at all, yet the one lamenting has been transformed internally by processing their feelings with sometimes brutal honesty with God. Thus, most laments end with thanksgiving and praise for God.

The sweep of this psalm as a characteristic drama of faith in the life of Israel is astonishing. It begins in abandonment (vv. 1–2) and ends in resounding doxology (v. 25), a transposition made possible by an answer of rescue from the God who is no longer absent. Everything turns, so it seems, on the candor of the psalmist and on the relentless insistence of the psalmist that the present circumstance is unacceptable and that YHWH is capable of transformation if and when YHWH is mobilized. The entire community of humanity–even the dead and the yet-to-be-born–gather around the speaker to attest that neither the speaker nor the world is ever left to its own resources. Finally, it is YHWH and not circumstance that constitutes the substance of reality to which Israel gladly attests. It is not difficult to trace the movement of the psalm or to identify its several rhetorical elements. Finally, however, our interpretive energy should be on the parts, as they constitute a dramatic whole, for the entire drama poses the deepest interpretive questions and offers the richest affirmations of faith.
Brueggemann and Bellinger

There is a power that arises from being heard. Jesus does not whisper from the cross; he cries out. The words seemingly escape from the depths of his battered, bruised, and dying body. The unimaginable horror of crucifixion includes the reality that this execution relies upon suffocation to bring death. It is an especially long and cruel way to die, and public humiliation is part of the plan.

There are some who argue that the entire human life of Jesus was humiliating or profoundly humbling. The Creator submits to the form, needs, and limitations of the created. The Sovereign and Everlasting One will submit to life and to death. The womb is as jarring and traumatic holding space as the tomb. Consider that in light of the repeated assertion of Jesus that he was sent by the Father/Mother/Parent God. We know that throughout his human life, Jesus sought isolation from humanity in order to commune with divinity. As he approaches death, his words accuse and assign responsibility for his plight on the One who sent him into the world.

The accusation reflects intimacy and betrayal of their relationship. His pain is heightened by the intensity of the connection between Them. The feelings of abandonment are real. When confronted with the most difficult moment of his life, Jesus turns to pray. He does not have enough breath to speak many words. Perhaps, in the most human moment of his life, Jesus does not even have the words to pray.

He turns to words tested, tried, and true. Jesus prays the Psalms, specifically this psalm of lament. He knows the sentiment and the progression. He knows, as never before, the pain of the complaint, and he seeks the assurance of Holy Presence and Unfailing Love. He finds them in the words and movement of Psalm 22 and in the dust of death.

Work Cited
Brueggemann, Walter and Bellinger, Jr, William H. Psalms (New Cambridge Bible Commentary). New York City: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology (, also serves a local church pastor and worship scholar-practitioner with a particular interest in the proclamation of the word in gathered communities. You’re invited to share your reflections on this text in the comments on our Facebook page:

Lectionary Texts
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 • Psalm 22 • Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 • John 18:1-19:42

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