It causes me to tremble

April 18, 2003
Pastor Wesley White
Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church
323 Fifth Avenue, West Bend, WI
262.334.2059 -


[Good Friday 2003. A cross is brought down the center aisle a bit at a time. Scripture is read. Comments made. A verse of the zipper-song "Were You There" sung. Cross brought in silence to next station. Repeat.]

Genesis 1:26-31-Were you there when God saw it was good?
Regardless if you are a creationist or an evolutionist or somewhere between, we can see life as a gift. There is a goodness in this gift of life, no matter what the mechanisms GOD used to bring it about. When we simply feel the goodness of life and our responsibility to join with GOD in caring for creation-it causes us to tremble, to shiver, to get goosebumps.

Genesis 4:3-13 - Where you there when one brother slew another?
Yes, GOD saw goodness in creation. GOD also had to deal with the reality that when people have the knowledge of Good and Evil that the temptation to do evil and when it springs forth, to excuse it by claiming innocence, no matter what. Violence is set loose and every violence, whether between individuals or nations, is a civil war between members of the same family. When we acknowledge our own tendency to violence and use of power to get what we want, to not heed GOD's warning - it surely ought to make us tremble, to fear, to mourn.

Luke 2:1-7 - Were you there when Emmanuel was born?
And so between the goodness and the violence we find ourselves torn. There is an old story told in many different traditions: "Grandfather, I feel torn by two wolves fighting within me. One wolf wants to heal and the other wolf wants to hate. Grandfather, which wolf will win? And Grandfather responds: 'The one you feed.'"

The Babe of Bethlehem comes to us as the Prince of Peace to show us how to live a manger life, a feeding trough life, to nourish the healing wolf. But the hating wolf tried to kill him as a baby and finally succeeded to bring him to the cross.

When we consider the choice set before us to responsibly care for creation - it causes us to tremble as we do our part to feed the healing wolf.

Matthew 5:1-13; Mark 1:29-39 - Were you there when Christ Jesus preached and healed?
Such powerful words and images. Blessed are we. Holy are we. Throwing out demons. Throwing out hating wolves. Oh, that we could have these words and actions be our words and actions. This is our job description at followers of Jesus, as Christians - this causes me to tremble, to know how far short of this task I have fallen. Preaching is not just for preachers and healing is not just for doctors. As we read the Bible we are there again and again, when Jesus preached and healed, and how his preaching and healing upset the status quo and the powers that be and led to false accusations regarding his words and his deeds and how if we follow in his way we to will be led to a cross.

Mark 11:1-11 - Were you there when he rode into the town?
Just this past Sunday we remembered Palm Sunday and heard Pastor Sam challenge us to "do something beautiful for Jesus." The crowds chanted, "Hosanna! Alelluia! Blessed are you!" The chill of all that expectation that the world will be different, that we will finally live in peace and justice, - sends a trembling through us for we know those cheers turn to jeers and riding on a donkey turns to bearing a cross.

Mark 14:22-24 - Were you there when they shared the bread and wine?
Just last night we celebrated again the institution of Jesus' Last Supper and the gifts of loving one another that are found in the symbols of bread and cup and towel and basin. Wow! to love one another, to allow the goodness of creation to displace the violence of person to person in our lives is a source of great trembling. Can it be? Can it really be that we would live that way together all the time and not just in church for one hour? And how often has the church split apart, crucifying now these members and now those. Oh, it causes me to tremble.

Matthew 26:47-56 - Were you there when they took my Lord away?
If Jesus could call down 10,000 angel hosts, why didn't he? Oh, it causes me to tremble at how we fail to live goodness, even when it hurts. We find so many excuses to still live in violence. This is a challenge to us as we face a world with terrorists and dictators. Why didn't Jesus just do them in and encourage us to use the sword instead of telling us to put it away - those who live by the sword will die that way. This runs so counter to what we have been taught. And I am caught between following Jesus' way and following the way of the sword. It causes me to tremble.

Luke 22:54-62 - were you there when I turned my back on him?
It is one thing for Jesus, with his connections to GOD from before his birth, to go to the cross. It is another thing for me to remember my connections with GOD from before my birth and for me to risk identifying with the radical GOD-orientation that Jesus had. I like physical life more than eternal life. I like it so much that from time to time I will turn my back on Jesus' way and go my way. This, too, causes me to tremble. I tremble with shame and guilt. And still there is a light that shines in the darkness, even for Judas, even for betraying Peter, even for me, even for you.

Luke 23:32-37 - Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
The cross has been standing before Jesus since creation. It is still standing before you and before me. Through thick and thin, in good times and in bad, when we are faithful and when we betray. The cross stands before us and we are called to live in its wisdom.

The cross causes us to tremble with gladness and with shame. The cross brings us to the choice again and again. Will we feed the healing wolf, no matter what the cost to ourselves? Will we feed the hating wolf?

Let us consider these things.

Great GOD of wonders, grant us your peace. Help us to stop trembling and start living the way of Jesus. Amen.