Good Friday 14 April 2017
When trusting God in the face of suffering is lifted up as the ultimate embodiment of faith, we risk making the suffering itself seem holy. So states commentator Layton Williams in Sojourners. Good Friday should be a day when we contemplate sacrifice, making holy by giving up everything up to and including one’s life. Sacrifice, when done FOR someone, those we love, those we do not know, or even those who hate us or we claim to hate, is true virtue and, I believe, what the cross is all about. What it is not, despite the use of the work, is submission in the worst sense of the word. We cannot and should not equate submission with tolerating injustice, violence (personal or societal), or evil. Do we look at the last words of Christ as, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” or as “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If you are a woman caught in the nightmare of domestic abuse, or a child sexually molested by someone you should be able to trust, or an underpaid laborer, should you sigh and say it is God’s will and this is what I deserve or, if not deserve, just stop after you say it must be God’s will. If that is what the crucifixion was all about, it is time for us to get up out of our seats and leave the church right now. Everything from slavery to domestic abuse has been justified by the mistaken idea that Jesus’s death was all about the ultimate submission to a vindictive God. Good Friday is, indeed, about the sacrifice that was made by Jesus. But was it a sacrifice to appease an angry god? If so it is no better than any pagan religion where sacrifice is practiced. Jesus died because those who held the power could not handle someone who preached that the least of those was, in God’s eyes, as precious as the so called greatest. It was too much then and it is too much now. So, yes he was obedient to the end but he did not submit to the authorities of this earth. That is the message that needs to be told to the countless millions who are oppressed: submit to God, but not to those who do violence and who live by greed. That was never the message of the cross. That Jesus said “why have you forsaken me?” should be a source of amazement to all of us. After all was not this God incarnate, the Word made flesh? How could he have been abandoned? But what if we see the humanity of Jesus, his very real flesh and bones that are subject to all of the same things that affect you and I? And, of course, we know the end of the story: God did not abandon Jesus, ever. That is the other message that comes from Good Friday!!! And for us this means that we do not endure suffering at the hands of those who practice injustice or violence or degradation; we do not sacrifice our lives TO someone, but only FOR someone, and we know that we can feel forsaken by God. Yet in the end, Good Friday should show us we are no more forsaken by God than was Jesus. Today is not a day telling us what miserable human beings we are, but a day to contemplate the evil that is in the world and yet know that, in the end, evil and death will not be triumphant.
By Kaitlin Curtice 4-14-2017 Jesus, There was something about you there on that cross, that Good Friday. There was something about your body there, about your manner. Irony of all ironies, you were the “Son of God,” sent back to God by crucifixion. You were the “King of Kings” hanging between two thieves. We do not understand it, just as those onlookers probably didn’t understand it then. You lived a life of irony. You spent time with people like those thieves, called them good and wanted. You stood at wells with women who had never had their voices heard before. You told people to stop their cooking and cleaning to listen to the Spirit. You turned the world upside down. And perhaps the most ironic thing was that day on the cross, that dark day when you cried out of your human parts, “Why have you forsaken me?” And you cried out with your Savior parts, “Forgive them, they don’t understand this.” Irony of all ironies is that the darkest Friday is called good, because though it put you in the tomb, it brought you back again. So while we may or may not fast, while we may or may not understand every aching moment of that day, we understand the irony of your life, the irony of your death, the irony of your grace, that simply undid everything we’d done. And you still undo us today. So we fast and pray, and in our attempts to understand, we stop and say that we will never quite grasp the greatest irony of all: that you take us in our tired skin and bones and tell us we’re worth all the ironies of the cross. You tell us we’re worth the holes in your wrists and feet, we’re worth the hours of agony, the feverish skin and the tired soul. You tell us we’re worth the afternoon spent in darkness, the last labored breath, and the watching eyes of the people who came to see you crucified. Irony of all ironies, you call us worth it— the lifetime of listening and healing and teaching the world that everything is different than we thought it was. There was something about you there on that cross, that Good Friday. Jesus, may we spend the rest of our days trying to find out what exactly it was. Amen.