Brad Chilcott and Anthony Castle, Who will we crucify this Easter?
Australia may not be a very religious nation, but we know one truth for sure; if we hear a voice challenging the powerful, we will also hear the cries of “crucify them” soon after. The spectacle of retribution that follows is not mere tabloid entertainment. It has political purpose – distraction and deterrence – and is as old as the Easter story itself. As Christ faced trial, so the scriptures say, his disciple Peter infamously denied knowing him in order to avoid sharing the same torturous end (Mark 14:66-72). The threat of political execution works, silencing dissent and leaving the truth unspoken. If we hear voices challenging the powerful, we’re likely to hear the cries for punishment soon after. On which side will we stand? (click on link for full article)
Introduction to the Good Friday Service
After the last supper, Jesus went out to Gethsemane. It tells us this in the gospels of Matthew and Mark. Gethsemane means “the place of the oil press.” The Gospel of Luke says they went out to the Mount of Olives… which is where you might expect to find an oil press.
The Mount of Olives is significant because people believed the Messiah would come from the Mount of Olives when he rescued Jerusalem. That idea came from a prophecy in Zecariah Chapter 14, and the story of Jesus uses the Mount of Olives as a literary symbol to tell us Jesus is the Messiah.
But John’s Gospel, which we read today, does not give us a name for the place where Jesus went to be handed over. There is no name. John simply calls it a garden, or in Greek, a κῆπος.
There is another word Greek can use for a garden and it’s one we still use in English, although we have forgotten its root-meaning; that is, we have forgotten where the word came from. That word is … paradise…. in Greek, παράδεισος. We sometimes remember one garden in particular when we talk about paradise, and that garden is the Garden of Eden.
And that’s John’s point. His Gospel begins with a retelling of the story of creation
In the beginning was the word… and the word was with God 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life…
So, at the end of his life, John tells us, Jesus was in the garden, in a paradise, with his disciples. In Jesus, John hints, life has begun. And that’s what makes Good Friday terrifying. Because Jesus and his disciples, John is telling us, were already living the life of the Kingdom of God. He had already enabled them to begin living as a Community of Divine Love.
And yet he was still killed. In John Chapters 18 and 19, we will listen to a story, now, of a Show Trial, of a Kangaroo Court, of a brutal scapegoating. It does not matter that he is innocent, that he has done nothing wrong, that he is against violence. The powers that be have decided someone has to die, and Jesus is the one they choose. The old violence of the world kills even Jesus.
It’s tempting to look away. It’s tempting to remember Easter Day, and to comfort ourselves with stories of resurrection. But there is only one way to resurrection, only one way for Jesus, and only one way for us. And that way is by dying.
So let us listen to the story in all its horror and injustice.
To listen to this story and be shaken by it, to feel the horror, is the beginning of holiness. It is the beginning of trust, the beginning of a faith, that by following Jesus we enter a life uncowed by death. A life which can face death and say, “Anyway… do your worst, I will not let you turn me aside.”
To listen to this story and be shaken by it, to feel the horror, protects us from a cheap faith that uses the story of Jesus as a magic trick and a psychological prop to avoid the reality of death— a shallow faith which may not serve us well when life goes wrong.
Listen to this story, because Good Friday is our story, both as people who sometimes join the mob and condemn others, and as people who are finding that death is an empty threat which does not destroy us.
(Source: Rev Andrew Prior, Hare St Uniting Church, Adelaide)
Good Friday service – wrapping the cross by Mardi Glass at Glass Overflowing blog.
Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?
(My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?)
Mark 15.34, Psalm 22.1
In the beginning you created pain.
You split yourself. Light from darkness.
This from not this. Separation.
But you are the light and the darkness.
You made space in yourself for another,
and you are the other, and the space.
You are the unity and you are the abyss,
width and depth, post and arms of the cross.
Yours is belonging, and being alien is yours,
loneliness and its aching distances,
a world of gap and absence.
In our pain you cry out to yourself,
Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?
When we can’t imagine closeness
it is you who cry in us for that return,
even as we push you away into yourself.
My God, my God, that you know my pain,
that you live in terror of losing God,
is my salvation. There is no exile
in which I am not in you.
When I am derelict, abandoned, deserted,
you cry out to me, in me, for me.
Your agony is mine.
I am in your arms.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, www.unfoldinglight.net)
‘Christianity is the only world religion that confesses a God who suffers. It is not that popular an idea, even among Christians. We prefer a God who prevents suffering, only that is not the God we have got. What the cross teaches us is that God’s power is not the power to force human choices and end human pain. It is, instead, the power to pick up the shattered pieces and make something holy out of them – not from a distance, but right close up’.
(Source: Barbara Brown Taylor, God in Pain)
Good Friday prayer: the hosannas have died away
O Holy God,
the hosannas have died away,
the palm branches have turned brittle.
Now, today, there is only this –
each of us,
all of us,
sitting in the darkness,
the hymns of lament in the air,
the mumblings of our own feeble confession,
on this Friday
which we tremble to call Good.
What is good about Good Friday?
What is good about the innocent one nailed to a cross?
What is good about the darkness of war that persists today?
What is good about our devastation of the planet?
… about people living in poverty?
… about the fog of addiction, depression, disease and despair?
What is good about the crushing weight of hunger, racism, scapegoating, apathy?
No, there is nothing good and desirable in these things.
Yet you, O God, are Good.
When suffering reigns, yours is the first heart to break.
When despair lurks about, we remember that you were there first,
peering into the abyss and crying out, incredibly:
“Father, forgive them.”
When we feel forsaken, we remember that in your last moments,
you cared for your mother and your beloved disciple,
binding them to one another as a new family.
When we feel overcome by guilt, we remember that you spoke grace to a thief:
“Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Your love for us is just that boundless,
What else can we say here, in the dimness,
in the darkness,
but thank you. Amen.
(Source: MaryAnn McKibben Dana, LiturgyLinks)
What Abides For Good Friday
You will know
by how it
does not stay still,
by the way it
refuses to rest
in one place.
You will recognize it
by how it takes
first one form,
now running down
the face of the mother
who watches the breaking
of the child
she had borne,
now in the stance
of the woman
who followed him here
and will not leave him
Now it twists in anguish
on the mouth of the friend
whom he loved;
now it bares itself
in the wound,
the finishing and
is not in any one
of these alone.
It is what
It is what dwells
in the space
though it be torn
It is what abides
in the tear
the rending makes.
(Source: Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace)
“So gather up the brokenness
and bring it to me now;
the fragrance of the promises
they never dared to vow;
the splinters that you carried,
the cross you left behind;
come healing of the body,
come healing of the mind.”
(Source: Leonard Cohen)