April 19, 2019

Good Friday 2019

Preacher:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight, Oh Lord, our Strength and Our Redeemer. Amen.

In our media saturated world, we are constantly exposed to events, ideas, and images that challenge our emotions, our credulity, our faith in humanity, our belief in our institutions, so much so that we often try to ignore the "noise" and meditate or turn our thoughts to something positive, something normal. The profit - centered news cycle is predicated on bringing us crazier and crazier events, each one's novelty or disaster greater than the last.  These clips are played on repeated loop, and our brains and emotions understand these as multiple events, even if our conscious minds know that they are replays.  A politician unapologetically commits a sin that in years past would have meant the end of a career; kids go to school or parents go to work and are massacred by disgruntled employees or youths, who often have spent so much time looking at a screen that they have become detached from the real people that they share their neighborhoods with.

 

Just like those detached people, we also detach ourselves from the torrent of troubles that flood us if we engage in media. It feels impossible to carry the weight of disappointment, sadness, anger, and shock around on our souls night and day, and so we learn to click off any emotional reaction to protect ourselves from the feelings that we humans naturally feel when confronted by terrible tidings.  The Urban Dictionary uses the phrase "Just another Tuesday" to describe the tendency to become blase about events that are truly horrific.  It was so interesting this week to witness the worldwide open tears of sadness shed over the fire damage to Notre Dame cathedral, while we often just turn the news off when human damage is too hard to hear, or the problem too complex to contemplate.   I cried to see it burn, having been there a week before.  Yet as sad as the loss is, it is hard to hear that one billion dollars has been pledged to repair a building, while flood victims in Mozambique can only get pledges for 23% of their basic immediate funding needs met.

But today is not "just another Friday."  The events of Jesus' Passion are as complex as any dramatic news event.  The death is gruesome and bizarre. The politics are corrupt.  The victim is innocent. The onlookers are crass and disrespectful, mocking an outcast for political expediency or a brief moment to feel powerful. The mourners are defeated, despairing justice, wondering how good, kind, peaceful truthful Jesus has been taken from them.  Is this abnormal compelling event another story that we will flip the channel on?  Can relegate it to a box of metaphors and symbols?  Can we reduce its immediacy by having pundits deconstruct the points of view and the translations that Jesus' story has been filtered through over the years?  Can we ignore its horror by arguing over the correct rituals by which we celebrate its meaning?

Today, as Christians, we must turn towards the cross.  We cannot turn a blind eye to the cruel structure upon which he hangs.  Of course we recognize those in power who used him for their own gain. But let us look more closely still.  Let us look at a man, a person just like us, whose hands built furniture, and whose hands reached out to touch others to help them with their pain, their illness, the demons they carried inside, hands that washed his friends' feet the night before, and shared Shabbat supper.  He can't move them now.  Let us look at his feet that walked mile upon mile to meet people who hoped for a better life, who believed in a loving God, and who were willing to walk with him. His feet are immobile, stuck fast to the post.  Jesus' face that showed kindness to outcasts and "others" wherever he met them, is now bowed in pain, gashed by cruelty, and yet still He shows kindness with his last words to two criminals next to him, and gazes down to remind his mother and dear friend mourning at his feet in shock to strengthen their relationship, to stick together for comfort and community.  We see His pain, and we also see a man of courage, knowing and fearing what is coming, and accepting it anyway. We see the few friends who stayed by his side mourning their teacher and friend, the one who challenged and prodded them, told them stories to help them understand God more clearly, and who has left them with the greatest challenge of all, living without Him.

We all have lost someone in our lives before we fully realized what they meant to us.  We have all experienced the grief of loss. On those days, we all wish we had realized how few days we had to tell our loved ones what they meant to us, to reflect upon their lives and accomplishments so that we could fully appreciate who they were or what they had become, to maybe give them a compliment, tell them a story or give them a piece of advice that might save them some trouble down the road.  We all wish that we had just another Tuesday, just another Friday, just another any day to do what we could have done, to reach out our hands to touch them again, to walk with them and to tell them stories about how we understand God, to help them be in community, or to forgive them.  We have all felt as through our hands were tied, our pathways blocked, and we have sometimes turned our faces away from difficult truthful conversations.

If we learn anything from our gaze toward the cross, let it be to remember to make every day a Good Friday, A good Tuesday, a good Every Day to reach out, to walk towards, to fix our gaze on the difficult, and the complex, and the sorrow-filled world with love, and with the hope and the courage of the cross. We have the joy of knowing that this path leads to LIFE, real life, with real people, in real relationships with us and with the God that gives us all the strength not to turn away.