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.
Good Friday: There is Light
-Rev Melissa Fain-
From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At three, Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”
After hearing him, some standing there said, “Look! He’s calling Elijah!” Someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, and put it on a pole. He offered it to Jesus to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down.” But Jesus let out a loud cry and died.
Mark 15:33-37 CEB
“Follow me, and I will make your fishers of people.”
By itself, what a ludicrous statement! This was a time when any sort of stable employment was looked on as incredibly lucky. Jesus wanted people to just walk away from it! Now, to be fair, it is very likely any of these fishers also continued to fish for fish in their journey to people fish. But, then they began to see something more. They began to understand; this was the savior written about in scripture. Their eyes were opened and they became willing to do almost anything for Jesus. This, in a world where Rome willingly and easily crucified anyone who appeared even slightly confrontational. Not many were willing to rock that boat. (See what I did there, with fishermen and boats… never mind. Moving on.)
I think we need to understand the fear that would have emanated from the Disciples at the moment Jesus died. In their mind, this guy was not supposed to die! This guy was supposed to raze the Romans, and give power back to the “good guys.” That’s not at all what happened. They didn’t understand what Jesus was trying to do, so when he died they did two things: They ran, and they hid.
When Jesus died everything pointed to them being next. That’s a very scary place to be. The darkness was doubly dark. When things are that dark perspective is lost. One can forget that light will ever exist again, but it will. Today is good because what needed to be done, was done. It is also good because as scary and dark as it is, it is not the end of the story. When you lose perspective remember this moment. There is light.
- - -
To The Light,
Please shine in our darkness, so the darkness can no longer hide.
Good Friday: Many Mourning Moods
30 They replied, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”
Rev. Ashley Sherard
I am experiencing some mixed emotions today; it is my little one’s Birthday. We will take time to day to celebrate the wonderful day when she came into this world, a day we celebrated with Mary just a few short months ago on December 25. I will also mourn today, for it is Good Friday. I can’t help but allow myself to be sad on this day, to experience grief for the suffering of my Lord and Savior.
There are still so many out there who think Christianity should be a glass half full kind of existence. That because we are Christians and have Christian hope we should jump forward to the knowledge of Easter morning saying things like, “well, He had to go through this” and, “it was His duty as the Messiah” and make Good Friday, well, good. How can we experience the true joy of Easter if we skip over the sheer misery of today? What if we didn’t know how the story ended? How would you feel today if you weren’t sure He was coming back? He suffered, greatly, for all of us and we fluff over it like having a fish funeral in the bathroom. Experience the grief of today, allow yourself to stop short of the Good News of Easter….even if it’s just for a moment.
I will take time today to mourn, and celebrate, and experience.
- - -
God who gives us permission to feel, be with us today as we attempt to experience the darkness of this day. Mourn with us, allow us to mourn with you. Hold us close. In Jesus’ Name. Amen
Ashley is a Minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Senior Minister of Jerusalem Christian Church, a new church plant in Lafayette, LA. She is the mom of three beautiful, exceptional, daughters who couldn’t be more different from each other if they all had different parents. She has been with her husband for over ten years and multiple deployments and mobilizations with the U.S. Navy which is how they ended up in southern Louisiana. Above all else, Ashley values her very personal relationship with Christ knowing that in all of her strangeness, radical ideas, and sometimes hostile faith, she is loved. You can find Rev. Ashley at, facebook.com/jerusalemchristianchurch, and @jerusalemccdoc
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Following Easter come back every Thursday for Meditations.
Sometimes when I am watching a Muppet Christmas Carol I think of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. I know, crazy, right? It's because of a couple of scenes staring the Great Gonzo, aka Charles Dickens. It happens when the Ghost of Christmas Future appears, and ends when the ghost has left.
I debated whether to post this Good Friday or Easter. No one wants to talk about the darkness of Holy Week when the we get to the celebration of Sunday. But wait! So many do not want to talk about the darkness of Holy Week in the middle of Holy Week. So many want to talk about Easter on Good Friday, the same day we remember Jesus died on a cross."It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!"
Here it is, we cannot appreciate the glory of Easter without the darkness of Good Friday. There is no celebration without the cross. (If you cannot understand a cross imagine a noose, or an electrocution chair. It was execution. Today we understand Jesus was executed and died from it.)
Gonzo chooses to leave, but we need to stay. We need to stay because, like Scrooge, we have something to learn. We gloss over the hard parts too often, and it leaves us shallow and incomplete. It's Friday. It's OK to mourn. It's OK to cry. It's Friday.