I suppose it is only natural, since we have been looking at the spiritual disciplines, that I have viewed this season of Lent in light of those which we have been studying. I know last night’s reminder that the towel is the symbol of the second Great Commandment touched, but it really came out of our discussions of Service and Submission. My thoughts on this day, this Good Friday, probably arise from our discussions of Meditation, Prayer, and Solitude. I say that as I have been considering how important the liturgy is in the life of the Church. More often than not, we pay attention to the pretty colors. Is today a red today? Is today a green day? Wait, why is everything white today? We certainly pay attention to Lent because we lose our alleluias for a time. Today, however, is unique in the life of the Church. Today is a day in which the Church is called to remember the shocked silence of almost two thousand years ago.
Seemingly near instantaneously, and certainly overnight, our Lord’s disciples went from a happy time, the celebration of the Feast of Passover, to utter dismay and sorrow. In one moment they were eating with Jesus and reminding themselves of God’s promises; in the next, He was mocked, crucified, dead, and buried. Perhaps even more sobering, their Lord had been betrayed by their own. Judas, one of them, had arranged to hand Jesus over to the authorities. The Sanhedrin and priests, the very representatives of Yahweh on earth, manipulated the system and rules to have Jesus killed--whose miracles testified to all that He was beloved by God! Lastly, Pilate had sentenced Jesus to death, even though he understood that Jesus had done nothing wrong. The disciples had been betrayed by a friend, by the religious authorities, and by the political authority. No doubt they each felt betrayed by God. After all, could not the God who empowered Jesus to bring Lazarus back to life or the blind man to see have put an end to all this? But He had chosen not to act, and Jesus paid for all this duplicity, all this failure, with His life.
It is a challenging effort to contemplate the deeds of this day. How could God have loved me that much? How could God sit and watch His beloved Son go through all this? Was their really no other way? Like many of those who came before us, you and I have far too many idols in our lives. Whether we serve them or not, there are simply too many that they could ever be avoided. The message of the culture has always been, “We got this.” I think in the Midwest, it is even more prevalent. Stop and listen to the narratives around you.
How many of us know people panicking over the economy? The old message used to be, “work hard, earn a secure retirement, and enjoy the golden years.” Know anybody fretting about their inability to retire? Know anybody who has given up on their ability to enjoy their golden years? Know anybody who can’t get a job in order to start worrying about retirement?
How many of us are worried about medical care? Disease rightly frightened us, as it often reminded us of our frailty and even death. Nowadays, though, most are concerned with cost. There are people in this neighborhood, heck, even in this congregation, who sometimes have to choose between medicine and food or medicine. Years ago, people worried whether they could survive an exotic illness. Nowadays, people worry if they can afford the cure.
Discussions of disease and death naturally lead to a consideration of pain. There is so much in the world that can cause pain. Illnesses can certainly hurt us, but many of us know other pains. Many of us have relationships which hurt us. Some of us have esteem issues which cause us to see ourselves as insufficient to the task, whatever the task may be. Naturally, we seek something for the pain. How many of us know people who turn to alcohol or drugs to dampen the pain? How many of us turn to them for our own? Perhaps we know people who seek their value in the arms of temporary lovers?
At least we don’t have to worry about wars, right? Seriously, though, think how war weighs on those in our lives. We have several of our parish “kids,” now all grown up, who have had to experience war first hand. They have been asked to serve in conflict. And, although we have been fortunate that none of our own have been wounded our killed, what damage has been done? A quick peek at the world’s stage ought to cause us some concern. Whether one is worried about the Middle East or the designs of Russia or China or bemused by North Korea, we cannot but help feel anxious about the outlook for peace.
This list could go on and on and on. Each of us has a number of fears and worries. Unfortunately, many of us have short memories. Like the psalmist today, we need to be reminded that God wins. He always wins. Though we remember our Lord’s crucifixion and death this day, we do so cognizant that the Easter dawn is not that far off. Unlike those who lived this day, and the darkness that accompanied it, you and know the ray of hope that will be bursting forth.
But today, this day we call Good Friday, you and I are called to ponder the significance of the silence. Like our brothers and sisters a couple thousand years ago, we may be convinced that God has failed. When we are faced with financial insecurity, disease, broken relationships, and any number of hardships combined together, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, easy to feel insignificant. We can understand all to well the feelings and deep pain of those disciples who fled from our Lord at the time of His trial, who denied Him when the world’s examination hit too close to home, and who could only stand and watch as He was mocked, scourged, and killed. That is why Good Friday is so important in our liturgical life together. This day, you and I are called to ponder the amazing love of God. We are called to deafen our ears to the noise and subterfuge and temptations of the world. We are called to consider anew the wondrous love of God which would cause Him to suffer this indignity, this injustice on our behalf. We are called, each and every time we remember this day, to pause, to remind ourselves that this day is unlike any day that ever came before. Even at the darkest time in history, God was not powerless. Even at the time it appeared His enemies had finally won, God was still able to work His redemptive plan. The same old, same old no longer holds true. Even in the face of such a tragic death, our Lord is in the process of bringing all things to their perfect end, just as He is about bringing us to His perfection as well!