Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday


“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light (was the hope) of all people”

This week my 8 year old daughter Clara has been asking tough questions:  “Did Jesus have a funeral?”  “Did Jesus have a will?”  “If Jesus was God and he wanted to help all of the people, then why was he killed?”

Why indeed. 

Why was he killed?  Simply put, because he threatened the empire.  Jesus was a rabbi and healer, but he was also a social prophet who challenged the domination system in the name of God.  If Jesus had been only a preacher and teacher and healer, it seems unlikely that he would be executed.  After all, the empire needed its oppressed people to have some optimism.  But Jesus was more than those things.  He was also a “God-intoxicated voice of religious social protest who had attracted a following.”[1] 

Jesus was killed because he stood against the kingdoms of this world.  Because he cried out and rallied the people for a different kind of vision of what the world could and should look like.  Because he called for deep abiding love for our neighbors and for strangers and for the helpless and for the unlovable.  He announced the coming of a kingdom where no one person would conquer and dominate anyone else.  A new world grounded in the love of God for all people.  He was killed because he had convinced a whole bunch of other folks that that kind of life was preferable and, more threateningly, possible.  And those folks were ready to work and to fight for that kind of life.

Jesus was killed because he was hope.  Hope that we could do better by one another.  Hope that prostitutes and tax collectors and fishermen and Jews and Greeks could live together in a community that promised safe housing, food enough, and equal voice at the table. 

Hope that people of color would have the same access to care and to rights and to life as whites.  Hope that gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender people would be served pizza at their weddings if that is their unusual wish…but also that they, too, may walk freely in places like Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Syria, Iraq, and many others with the right to life and to safe housing and to job security.  Hope that girls would be allowed to grow into strong women with access to education and health care and the right to decide what happens to their bodies.  Hope that all of us who have and who continue to violate the rights and wellbeing of one another would recognize those violations and stop it.  

His life was hope. 

Jesus was a radical, divisive, political figure.  But that is not all that he is.  His story does not end on the cross.  But on this day, the day of his crucifixion, it is hard to know that.

“It is finished.”

On this Good Friday, there is silence.

Jesus has died and is buried, and we wait.  We wait for something to happen.  But there is nothing.  Only silence. 

Too often we live here in the tomb, in this place between promise and hope.  And it appears that Jesus is dead.  Life is hard.  People suffer in large and small ways.  Finances are tight.  Parents die.  Children murder other children.  Friends move on.  Wars break out.  Terrifying diseases ravage countries and threaten continents.  Marriages crumble.  Hundreds of girls are kidnapped and never returned.  Health fades.  Despair abounds.  Life is hard.  And God is gone.
So we stay here in this lonely place, immobilized by fear or insecurity, acutely aware of promises broken by ourselves and by others and of our own bruised hearts.  Pilate, his guard, and the rest of the oppressive forces in the world seek to keep us there in the darkness, death, stagnation, and suffering of the tomb, but even here in this tomb, even in the darkness, in places we can’t see, God is working. 
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)  But it is a hard thing to stand in the darkness, to witness the silence, and to trust that the struggle is not over.  It is hard to watch and to participate in the devastation in our innermost lives and yet to still believe that God is there.  It is hard.
But we have been given a promise that God will never leave us.  That God will never forsake us.  That even in the stillness and devastation, God is there.
As the silence threatens to consume us and the guard is relentless in our captivity, let us remember who this God is for whom we wait.   This is the one God, this is Jesus the Christ who says, “And remember! I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

“It is finished.”  But it is not the end.

 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
Let us stand in the silence, holding on to the promise and leaning toward hope.

[1] Borg and Wright, The Meaning of Jesus.  p 91