Thursday, March 15, 2018

Good Friday Thoughts

Last night, instead of writing a meditation on Good Friday for my church, I went out to dinner with a friend.  We had planned to go see A Wrinkle in Time, then it looked like she had to cancel completely because of home inspectors coming, then she suggested dinner.  We hadn't seen each other since summer, so we had lots to catch up on, and much of it was tinged with sadness:  hurricane repairs, the school shooting a month ago, the state of the larger world.

In times like these, the Good Friday part of Holy Week shimmers with additional meaning.  There are some Christians out there who would tell us that if we just pray hard enough, we can avoid the sadness that's out there:  our illnesses will go away, wealth will fall into our laps, prosperity of all kinds await us if we just trust in God enough.

The Good Friday story tells a different tale.  Even God must suffer in the most horrible ways.  God comes to earth to show us a better way of living our human lives, and in return, the most powerful earthly empire crucifies him.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Jesus suffers several betrayals by his closest friends.  Good Friday gives us a way to think about betrayal and how we can respond.  The Good Friday message is that we will all betray God.  But some of us will try again, while others will give up in abject despair.

I also find myself thinking about the tree that must wish for a great destiny, but is transformed into an instrument of torture.  Likewise, Jesus, who has been in some amount of control of his own actions, but finds himself handed over to others.  In this past several years when I've watched so many friends and colleagues battle cancer--handed over to the medical-industrial complex--the idea of the Passion takes on an excruciating hue.

Easter promises us that our efforts will not be in vain. In Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, N. T. Wright says forcefully, " . . . what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that's about to roll over a cliff" (208).

We may not understand how God will transform the world. We may not be able to believe that bleakness will be defeated. But Easter shows us God's promise that death is not the final answer.

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