39: God is a hanging boy.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
32 As they were going out, they found Simon, a man from Cyrene. They forced him to carry his cross. 33 When they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place, 34 they gave Jesus wine mixed with vinegar to drink. But after tasting it, he didn’t want to drink it. 35 After they crucified him, they divided up his clothes among them by drawing lots. 36 They sat there, guarding him. 37 They placed above his head the charge against him. It read, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” 38 They crucified with him two outlaws, one on his right side and one on his left.
39 Those who were walking by insulted Jesus, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? Save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross.”
41 In the same way, the chief priests, along with the legal experts and the elders, were making fun of him, saying, 42 “He saved others, but he can’t save himself. He’s the king of Israel, so let him come down from the cross now. Then we’ll believe in him. 43 He trusts in God, so let God deliver him now if he wants to. He said, ‘I’m God’s Son.’” 44 The outlaws who were crucified with him insulted him in the same way.
Matthew 27:32-44 CEB
At nineteen years old I walked into the Holocaust museum in Washington, DC. I wasn't mentally in the place I needed to be half a lifetime ago. Perhaps my mind was incapable to process that level of horror. Perhaps, and I think this is more likely, I hadn't my own family as context. I couldn't put a face to the abuse and death.
Then I got married and had kids.
This series happened because of the forward in Elie Wiesel's book, "Night." I read it during Advent, or what most call the Christmas season. Thirty-eight years old, I'm ready now, especially for the boy.
Wiesel, a man who had survived the Holocaust when the rest of his family had not, meekly told the prolific writer, François Mauriac, about this boy. The concentration camps would do hangings of the "guilty." Most of these hangings had been a numb experience. So much death and no time to process. Then there was this boy, too light for the drop to break his neck. He fell, and he was slowly being suffocated. Someone behind Weisel remarked, "Where's God?"
The answer brought me to tears. God is the hanging boy. God is being executed.
Mauriac, left speechless by this story, realized far later that this boy was also the Christian story. We can talk about God being just that. We don't need to sit down and watch a movie to reenact the the Passion of Christ, not when our own history does it all on it's own.
We kill God all the time and force others to watch. This is the only day out of the Christian year where the Good News is terrible. Good Friday is our condemnation laid flat. We have been found guilty, and someone else is paying the price. Do not smile, and don't look away. The person we've condemned is not guilty at all. Something has terribly and completely broken. Where is God? God is a hanging boy.
Let us pray:
Forgive us, for we know not what we do. Amen.