Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you: because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

I just returned from a Good Friday service at a local Episcopalian church followed by a walk through the stations of the cross. This particular meditation had fourteen stations, and as I made the journey around the stations, my perspective began to shift. No longer was I standing with Christ at the cross; I became more aware of Christ standing with us in the fleshiness of our own lives, in the dark places.

One: Jesus is condemned to death
Though there are surely times when we feel our lives as we know it are coming to an end, there are some who actually receive sentences of death - some in the halls of "justice," others in the sterile rooms of hospitals and doctors' offices. For others, the death sentence is a sentence of death to life as they know it - a sentence that can come in many shapes and forms. There Jesus stands.

Two: Jesus takes up his cross
Jesus willingly accepted his torture and abuse. Some who are tortured and abused today cannot choose otherwise; others who are caught in cycles of abusive systems or relationships feel just as unable to escape. Bearing the abuse and shame, with those who are tortured and abused, there Jesus stands.

Three: Jesus falls for the first time
Jesus fell. If the Son of God himself fell in his earthly walk, how do we expect to get through life without taking a fall every now and then? In our falls and in our failures, there Jesus stands.

Four: Jesus meets his afflicted mother
It was not just his own pain and suffering that Jesus had to bear. As he suffered, others suffered with him, and he looked out on their faces of pain, loss, anguish, and grief. We are created to be in bonds of love and compassion with each other. When we see those whom we love in the throes of pain and suffering, often we would gladly take it upon ourselves, or do whatever we could, to relieve their pain. It is a suffering of a different kind, and there, Jesus stands.

Five: The cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene
Even Jesus had to ask for help. In the giving and receiving of help along the journey, there Jesus stands.

Six: A woman wipes the face of Jesus
There are times when we would like to be invisible, hiding our scars and wounds from the world. In fact, society in general is quite adept at shielding itself from what it doesn't want to see. We consider the "homeless problem" to be solved not when all are housed, fed, and cared for, but when we no longer see the homeless on the streets, with cardboard signs and cries for help. When we no longer smell the stench of urine, body odor, and feces in streets and alleys or at bus stop shelters. Battered, bruised, and bloodied, Jesus is before us, there to be served by a woman with nothing more to offer than a shroud, and the touch of humanity. There Jesus stands.

Seven: Jesus falls a second time
As we fall repeatedly, there Jesus stands.

Eight: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
To the sisterhood of women, a group with no power or status, Jesus speaks. With the powerless and voiceless in our society today, there Jesus stands.

Nine: Jesus falls a third time
With those who fall, and fail, and fall and fail, and can't seem to get back on their feet again, there Jesus stands.

Ten: Jesus is stripped of his garments
Naked. Bared and humbled for all to see. Spat upon. Despised. Ridiculed. Stripped not just of his garments, but of all dignity. With all whose bodies and souls are violated, with all who bear public shame and humiliation, there Jesus stands.

Eleven: Jesus is nailed to the cross
Jesus bore the punishment for guilt that was not his. We still live in a world where injustice often reigns, and with the victims of every injustice, great and small, there Jesus stands.

Twelve: Jesus dies on the cross
With the dying and with the dead, there Jesus stands.

Thirteen: The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother
With the grieving parents of the world, there Jesus stands.

Fourteen: Jesus is laid in the tomb
When it seems as though all hope is lost, the final sentence given, the fate sealed, there Jesus stands.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you: because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Contemplating the cross, we are reminded  of the depth and breadth of the pain, suffering, shame, humiliation, and injustice that Jesus experienced. The cross does not make any of that ok. It does not take away the sting of death, it does not justify abuse, torture, and injustice. It does not relieve the pain and suffering that we continue to experience. But it does redeem it. In the depths of whatever we may experience in the world, we know that Jesus stood there, and that God continues to stand with us today. We know that none of those things have ultimate power over us; they are not the last word. Even as we find ourselves in the darkness and despair of Good Friday, we recognize that Easter morning is just around the corner. Our hope lies in the risen Christ, but here, and now, in the depths of all human suffering and despair, we can find comfort, because there Jesus stands.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you: because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

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