|Calvary Episcopal Church, Rockdale
April 6, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
In 1986, Bill Buckner had a very good year playing baseball for the Boston Red Sox, and a particularly
good late season – with 8 home runs in September, when he batted .340, had 22 RBIs, and started the
rally that saved the team from elimination in the championship series, and put them in the World
On October 25, the Sox were leading the Mets in the Series, 3 games to 2, and had taken a two-run
lead going into the bottom of the tenth inning. The Mets tied the game on three straight singles off
one pitcher and a wild pitch by another, when Mookie Wilson came to bat. He had fouled off several
pitches when, finally, he hit a grounder to first, that took a bad bounce off the dirt, went under
Buckner’s glove, and ran out into right field, which allowed the winning run to score from second,
tying the Series. When the Mets won the Series two nights later, Buckner took the heat.
In 1985, the Hanshin Tigers pulled off a surprise victory over the Seibu Lions for their first victory in
the Japan Championship Series – thanks in large measure to their star slugger, Randy Bass – an
American. The fans back home went wild and a crowd gathered on the Dotonburi Bridge, and as the
fans shouted the name of each of the team members, in turn, someone in the crowd deemed to look
like that player jumped off the bridge into the river (one suspects a bit of sake was flowing that night!)
but when Randy Bass’s name was called, there was no one who looked like the bearded American –
so an enterprising group of fans grabbed the plastic statue of Colonel Sanders from in front of the
Kentucky Fried Chicken shop and threw it in the river. It sank and was never recovered.
In the 21 years, since, the Hanshin Tigers have never again won in the Japan Championship Series –
a losing streak blamed on Colonel Sanders, who, the story goes, cursed the team for what was done
to his statue.
Scott Norwood is blamed for losing Super Bowl XXV by missing a field goal.
Andres Escobar’s Colombian Soccer team was knocked out of the World Cup in 1994 when he
accidentally scored a goal for the other team. Escobar was not only blamed for the loss – he was
murdered for it!
Bill Buckner, Colonel Sanders, Scott Norwood, Andres Escobar. Four men who were blamed for their
teams’ losses. Four men among so many, in sports, who have been scapegoated.
But, with the exception of poor Senor Escobar, sports scapegoats are probably the least serious
examples of a universal phenomenon – the tendency we all have to place blame; to identify
convenient targets for the ills that we see around us. Today, in America, it seems as if illegal, Hispanic
immigrants are the cause of all our domestic troubles, from falling wages to a shaky Social Security
System, while internationally it’s the Muslims that occupy that place of honor.
But of course, the best and most endurable example of scapegoating in world history through the
ages has been the Jewish people – most memorably in the Third Reich, where every problem in that
country and in the WORLD was blamed on the Jews, and where the solution – the final solution – was
their wholesale extermination.
Horrible as it is to think it, there is a bit of tragic irony involved in that – because the term
“scapegoat” actually comes from the Hebrew tradition, a part of which we just heard in Isaiah’s
words: “Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken.”
In the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, as a part of the purification rites on the Day of Atonement, or
Yom Kippur, two spotless goats were selected for the rites. One was chosen, by casting lots, to
become a burnt offering to God, while the other was set aside for a very special roll. In the Temple,
the High Priest, the Kohen Gadol, laid his hands on this second goat, and confessed to God the sins
of all the Jewish people. While he was making this general confession, the people outside the inner
courts of the Temple were making their own, personal confessions in their prayers to God. Afterward,
the goat, bearing all the sins of the people over the past year – since the last Yom Kippur, was ,
according to the Book of Leviticus, to be led out into the wilderness – though in reality, in order to be
certain he would never return to any inhabited area with the sins he bore, he was taken to a cliff
outside Jerusalem, and pushed off!
He was the scapegoat – the bearer of sins not his own!
But odd as it may seem to say so, the Jews actually had the right idea.
They just had the wrong sin-bearer.
No goat could carry the sins of the people; no animal.
No person could carry the sins of the people – or, at least, not just any person! The burden would be
too great – the load, unbearable!
For the scapegoat to be real, for the scapegoat to be true, for the scapegoat to be truly effective –
carrying the sins of the people to relieve them of their burden and their consequences – took
It took, in the end, someone who was more than just any man – more than just a man.
It took the God-made-Man. It took the one who was the Son of Man and the Son of God.
It took Jesus, the Christ!
And that, of course, is what brings us here, today.
We come to be reminded and to remember.
To be reminded that we can’t make it on our own – none of us – but need someone to bear the load of
sin that’s too great for any of us, alone!
We come to remember that what happened on that day was a matter of choice – with Jesus of
Nazareth willingly giving himself to be a scapegoat for all humanity; with Jesus the Christ refusing to
walk away from his mission, refusing to turn his back on his Call, but choosing, instead, to go to his
death on the cross bearing the weight of the sins of all humankind; and with that death, ascending,
finally, to the Father – returning to His Father – bearing the weight of the sins of the whole world to
HIM, and freeing the world – freeing each of us, freeing all of us – from that burden.
We come to remember that because our Lord, Christ, did that, performed that ultimate sacrifice, we
are free – free to live our lives fully, in loving service to one another and to our God, without fear;
without being weighed down by the burden of our sins; without falling into despair in our lives, even
as Jesus fell under the weight of the cross he carried.
We come to remember that, despite the horrible events we recall, today, this is truly an occasion for
celebration and rejoicing in our hearts – coming to remember that, because of Jesus, our Scapegoat,
this is indeed a Good, Good Friday!
In the Name of the One who died for us. Amen.