A Good Friday Meditation

Original water color by Cathie Horrell

Original water color by Cathie Horrell

He is led out of the garden, where he has gone with his disciples after they shared a Passover meal, not by angels with fiery swords, but by men armed with swords sharp enough to cut off a person’s ear. He has come to the garden to pray. While his disciples, full of Passover wine, sleep. For Jesus there is one more cup from which to drink.

At the meal he pours the wine into the cups and after he said the blessing everyone drank from their wine cups. Three cups of wine are blessed and the blessing cups drank from. Someone that night reads the story of the Hebrew’s peoples flight from Egypt. The story of how God saves. Then Jesus takes the unleavened bread from the bowl, the matzoh, breaks it in half, and shares with all present a piece of the same bread that sustained the Israelites as they made their long journey to the land of promise. At today’s Seder Supper, a piece of that bread is wrapped in linen and hidden away, for the children to go in search of after the supper ends. In a few days the women who have wrapped Jesus body in linen will go in search of him but find no one where his body had been lain, except once again the angel standing guard in the garden. This only after Jesus has given himself, broken like the Passover bread, shared now with the world, his life-blood spilled out upon the hard ground of Calvary for all to see.

Today we experience the deepest expression of self-giving, where Jesus of Nazareth continues to share with us the greatest and final Passover. The passage of the Son of God from life to death. And we understand what this offering in complete freedom and love means only as it stands in the midst of Jesus’ final meal and in his rising to new life in three days. We can only make sense of this day when we think of it in terms of his whole life, his words of care and concern for others, his healing, his teaching, his message, his work, his whole person. In his life and in his death he is the embodiment of God’s love and good will for us. We see the Father’s com-passion, the God who suffers with us, in Jesus’ Passion−the cross where we encounter God in the depths of his/our humanity.

That this God is no extra-terrestrial is nowhere more evident than today. This is the day called good because God shows us in no uncertain terms his willingness to suffer for all human kind, for every human person, for you and I. Today God in Jesus embraces every lost, lonely, suffering, unloved, betrayed, sick and dying human being. In this day’s death because we know he is risen we know that it is God who protects and sustains Jesus and ourselves, and truly becomes one with all human kind. Not in spite of human suffering, but in the midst of it. Today in Jesus on the cross the human and the sacred become bound irrevocably together. Today there is no longer any barrier or boundary between us and the God who comes to earth, to experience all we experience and joins, in the human and sacred Jesus, with us forever. We live now in the unfailing presence of Yahweh, the God who saves. In Yeshua of Nazareth, which means God saves, we know without a doubt his good will for us. The promise now to us is that in the face of any death, evil or  suffering, any ‘no’ to life, God’s ‘yes’ is greater. This is the only certainty of God’s will we can speak of. Today we glimpse the kingdom of God come in Jesus’ life and in his death because we know that in him the promise of eternal life is kept. Today is a Promise kept. And if we doubt that, we might hear the echo of the final words of scripture forming in the heart of Jesus today as he extends to us the unleaving bread of himself and the final blessing cup is passed on to us for us to partake.  For in Jesus God truly makes his home in us. And his name is God-with-us. He will wipe away all tears from (our) eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. (Rev. 21:4)

 

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Good Friday

The sword that pierced Mary’s heart

was the sword that would pierced her son’s side,

their hearts the saving symbol of the heart of God

intent upon loving the world from the manger to the altar of the cross,

where worship is no longer only a mother’s song but the very body

and being of her son.

Mary’s first prayer will be Jesus’ last.

As he prays to his heavenly Father

in the garden at Gethsemane before his death,

Jesus utters let it be as you would have it. 

As Mary accepted his life,

he too will accept his death,

 from mother to son,

the faithful surrender to God’s design for their lives.

As Jesus took his last breath,

a lone centurion stands beneath him,

see the man, seeing the truth of him,

his first Roman follower,

worshipping him in the place

where a voice has gone silent.

In one, silent still moment

birthed on Calvary

the heart of God and

And the heart of humanity

hung together.

In the womb of the world

and the embrace of his Father,

arms reached out to the world

where God came home

and humanity is no longer homeless.

 

The Gypsy-God

Have you ever spoken to someone who thought it was incomprehensible that someone would die as Jesus did for others? We, who have been born into the Christian faith, take this, I think, as a given, for granted, without question. But there are times when I myself look at this wonder did it have to be that way? Surely, God being God, what God did in Jesus could have been accomplished without Jesus having to die, and die as he did?

It goes back to the image of tent that was yesterday’s topic. It’s about the God who pitches his tent among us. The God who signifies himself as a tent-dweller, journeying with his people as they made their trek through the wilderness. The Son too, who St. John says is the Word become flesh, the still living God, pitches his tent among us. In Jesus God continues to dwell in a tent, to journey, to suffer and die AND bring us back to life.

God is saying to us in Jesus, in the Word that become flesh, Jesus shows us the way. The way in this too; because it is the way of all flesh. Jesus’ way of dying precedes his rising, his coming back to us. The living God’s Yes in the face of humanities worst, in the face of death’s no.

He is the God of All Things, good and bad. And the badest is death. In Jesus’ death God is saying “I got this.”

Death changes everything. Jesus’ death was very human, very public and got a lot of people’s attention. But his reappearance in three days got even more. In fact his reappearance, changed the way people thought of his death. It changed the way they thought of life and living. It changes us. It changed the Western world.

Jesus’s death then was the beginning. Not the beginning of the end. But the beginning of a new way of life. Life reinstated. Life rethought. Life relived. A new way of being. A new way of becoming.

God is saying Stay tuned. This is only the beginning, the beginning of the next stage of a journey that began long ago, when I too was a wandering, tent-dweller. I made my home with you then, saved and kept you for myself. In Yeshua I continue to love, to care, to save, to go with you. He too saved you from death, saved you for life. I have saved you for myself. He changed water into wine. I change death into life. Because I not only got this, I got you.

In the Twinkling of an Eye

As Paul concludes his lst letter to the Corinthians he takes up the subject of the resurrection. Certainly there were people then as there are now who doubted or flat out did not believe that Jesus could have come back from the dead. How was this possible?

It might be easy to doubt the resurrection accounts from the gospels. I read someone who said that who the people saw was really Jesus’ brother, James. But when you listen to Paul you can have no doubt that Jesus was raised to life. (However, in the gospels he appears first to Mary in the garden. Then it says he went to Galilee, meaning to his mother.) If you do the math, Paul was alive at the same time Jesus was alive. It is likely that he may have even encountered Jesus when he was alive or at the very least heard of him. But without a doubt Paul, after he recounts all the people Jesus appeared to after he rose from dead, Paul attests to his own experience of the risen Christ. And at least for me, it is Paul’s witness that dispels any doubt.

So, what would he have looked like? What will we look like? These are the questions put to Paul that he addresses at the conclusion of this letter. He uses the metaphor of the seed again. We are seeded with human bodies, he says. This is what we come with, this is what we ‘sow’. But what is resurrected, what comes back to life is like what he and the others saw in the resurrected Jesus. It is a spiritual body, the human body transformed into a life-giving spirit that can be seen and experienced. This is how Paul images the resurrected body, the embodied spirit.

what is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but the thing that is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it (our human bodies) is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.

After my parents died, being the eldest, it occurred to me I could be next. There was now nothing standing between me and heaven. It gave me pause. Sometimes I tried to imagine what it would be like, this thing called death. But the ending of Paul’s letter has taken way any trepidation or fear, for the most part. What Paul says is a reassurance and comfort because Christ has conquered Death, even our deaths. Just as death had no victory over Jesus, so too it will not have victory over us. It will not have the last word. God will. Paul faces it square in the face and asks Death where is your sting? Jesus’ death was humankinds ‘no’ to his life, to life itself, but his resurrection is God’s ‘yes’ to the life of Jesus and to ours as well.

The first followers of Jesus, like Paul, took some of the things Jesus said to mean that they would see him return in their lifetime. Paul describes the second coming as coming in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet sounds. As Paul talks about sowing the seed that is raised as Jesus was raised, I thought of a passage in Rilke’s Letter to a Young Poet. For both Rilke and St. Paul are speaking of the same reality, the coming of Jesus and the coming of Christ. In the letter he writes just before Christmas to the young poet, who is having doubts about the reality of Christ, Rilke asks the young poet:

Why do you not think of him as the coming one, imminent from all eternity, the future one, the final fruit of a tree whose leaves we are? What keeps you from projecting his birth into times that are in the process of becoming, and living your life like a painful and beautiful day in the history of a great gestation? …these days of your transition are perhaps the time when everything in you is working at him…and think that the least we can do is to make his becoming not more difficult for him than the earth makes it for the spring when it wants to come.