On Good Friday, we see ourselves as participants (in all of our good, bad, and ugly) in the darkest section and moment of our faith and belief. We are confronted with humanity in a way that we only face in worship really on Ash Wednesday and at the occasional funeral. It’s a day of bareness in most sanctuaries. It’s a day of sadness, despair and grief. It’s also the day where many theological questions are most easily pondered about what one thinks about atonement.
I am not going to spend this post thinking about an atonement theory that makes sense to me. Rather, I am going to share a little of what is on my mind this Good Friday. My soon to be 90-year old grandmother has spent much of this week in the hospital. The doctors continue to be not so sure what was wrong and caused her to act so strange. Admittedly, Grandma is up there in age and has had a myriad of health challenges over the years, but despite it all she must come from a family of good genes because she has been doing pretty darn well. This week tough she had been disoriented and confused. I was sad to see this as was everyone close to her. We were sad to see her in this state. We are not in despair, and she is now recovering, but perhaps grief is a good word to describe our emotions because at this age, no one can be sure if she is going to fully bounce back or not from this. There is a sense of unknowing, of wonder, of worry, of fear.
I share this not to belittle anythng. Certainly, I am not trying to compare this to Good Friday. But in a way, I wonder what kind of emotions those closest to Jesus felt when seeing him on trial, paraded to the cross, and on the cross. What were they thinking and feeling as they saw him die?
For me, I just hate the word “Good” before Friday. I mean, honestly, if Good Friday is the way to overcome sin, how is it “good” that the presence of sin or the broken relationship that humanity and creation have/had with God led to this? It’s obviously good in the sense of the grace and gift of life- one we don’t deserve nor could ever earn. The hope and promise of new life is a gift from God. I get that makes it “Good.” But do you ever shudder at that word “Good” on Good Friday, like me?
Good Friday and Easter exemplify how God is able to reverse meaning through turning an instrument of heinous death into one of love, life, and hope. Certainly few, if anyone was able to hold onto that hope though in the face of Christ on the cross. Thankfully for us, we know the whole story. Thankfully for my family at this time with Grandma, we know the whole story. No matter what the hours, days, weeks, months, years ahead, etc. may hold, we know the promise and hope of the resurrection.
There is much pain and brokenness in the world. We continue to be: confounded by cancer and other diseases; we continue to have broken communities and relationships because people cannot overcome small differences to love each other as neighbors; we grieve the victims of violence in our communities and throughout the world; we continue to search for what happened to a Malaysian Airlines plane and its passengers and crew; we continue to hope and search for more survivors in spite of a ferry sinking off of South Korea, wildfires, tsunamis and landslides; we worry that more unrest will lead to further conflict in Ukraine and with other nations especially Russia; poverty and hunger persist (if not increase) globally but also locally in our neighborhoods and communities… people are hurting. It would be so easy to give into the death and despair that this cross used to symbolize.
But in that, we are confronted with the very reality of what the cross means. If God can turn this into a symbol of life, love, and hope, we also believe that God continues to break into this world- helping to restore communities, creation, and relationship.
About four years ago, WorkingPreacher created the following video with text by Rev. Dr. David Lose and narration by Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis. I want to leave you with this today. Because in a lot of ways, this is the best response I have ever seen to Good Friday. One of hope, trust and defiance in the face of human brokenness, death, and despair.
As Karoline proclaims, “I refuse to believe that despair is stronger than hope.” The question is, do you?