by Gilbert Meilaender
Our Lord’s words from the cross have inspired Christian devotion from the beginning. Three-hour services on Good Friday based on these words have been the basis of ecumenical worship in many communities.
Gilbert Meilaender serves a spiritual feast of not one but two sets of sermons growing out of his preaching on these occasions. As Frank Senn notes in his Foreword, “[these words from the cross] connect with our everyday lives; indeed, our everyday lives are absorbed into the redeeming work of Christ and thereby transformed.”
Meilaender weaves many of the great Good Friday hymns into his reflections, but also connects the child’s prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep” with the Lord’s commending his spirit to his Father. An encounter between a Jewish scholar and a drunk on the subway coexists in these sermons with Dorothy Sayers and her conjectures of what may have motivated Dysmas, the “repentant thief.”
This little book of sermons is one that can be read and re-read every year or even more often to one’s profit. Meilaender’s sermons help all disciples of Jesus learn how to live and die as we participate in our Lord’s suffering and death.
Preachers may want to share these with their congregations (giving credit of course). They can be the basis of a Lenten study, perhaps using one set of the sermons on each of two years. The possibilities are endless. The tree of the cross is the great victory of God, the source of our life and hope.
Praise for Meditations on Christ’s Words from the Cross from a long-time pastor:
“Not all theologians are preachers. Doing theology and preaching are different skills, even different levels of discourse. But in Gilbert Meilaender, we have an esteemed theologian who is also a graceful, moving preacher. That theology can be the handmaiden of proclamation is beautifully illustrated in Meilaender’s fourteen sermons on the Seven Last Words of Christ on the cross. I mean to preach ’em straight, as is! I will acknowledge them as his sermons, and then I will preach them straight for this Lent’s midweek liturgies and next year’s. I cannot imagine how I could improve on them, not by a word. But perhaps we should not be surprised by the excellence of these sermons. If you have spent a career reading the ethics of Gilbert Meilaender, as many of us have, you know of his profundity of thought, compassion of spirit, and eloquence of expression. It is a delight and a major advance in this world’s supply of sermons to see these virtues put into the form of preaching.”
—Pastor Gregory P. Fryer, Immanuel Lutheran Church, New York City
Paper, 83 pp., $8.00 + postage