Good Friday

April 22, 2011

Today has been an interesting Good Friday. The alignment with Earth Day this year was an interesting combination worthy of thoughtful consideration. Then, there was the news of Syrian forces killing protesters who were demanding freedom, which also sparked some serious thoughts about this day. This evening, I participated in the Good Friday service at church. The congregation moved from various stations to hear thoughts about the seven last sayings of Jesus. Those of us sharing were supposed to place ourselves as being in the crowd and hearing that statement from Jesus. For some reason, I was assigned "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Here is what I offered:

As I stand off in the shadows watching with horror and anguish, this statement knocks me back. On a chilling day when time seems to have paused as each horrific second slowly beats by, this statement stops me cold. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Is this it? Has it come to an end? Has he--have we all--been forsaken by God? It sure seems that way. It's hard to imagine a more God-forsaken state than hanging on a cross, or a more God-forsaken movement than one whose leader suffers such a fate. What happened to the return of David's kingdom, what happened to the royal ascension we expected? Has God so forsaken his people that God has forgotten or dismissed promises made to David? Perhaps God will send a legion of angels any moment to save Jesus--I heard a rumor among the crowd that that might occur. So perhaps our moment of salvation is near, perhaps the kingdom is near. But at this moment, I feel forsaken. A thought suddenly hits me, and I pause … straining to hear … hoping to hear. But Jesus says no more at this time. All I hear are the bitter wailings of women and the mocking insults of the crowd. But Jesus does not offer another line. I recall that that line—"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"—is the start to a psalm of David. But Jesus doesn't say more. Did he mean simply that he was forsaken, or did he mean the whole psalm but lacked the strength to recite it all? My mind aches as I struggle to recall the psalm I learned as a boy. It slowly emerges in the midst of a swirling mix of adrenaline, despair, anger, and fear:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
You are the praise of Israel.
But how can I trust in God at this moment? How can I praise God now? I recall more:
I am scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
"He trusts in the LORD," they say,
"let the LORD rescue me."
Something is going on here. The scene around me seems to fit eerily with this psalm. And then again:
All my bones are on display;
People stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
I look up and see the soldiers rolling dice and claiming Jesus's garments. My hands begin to tremble and a chill flies up my spine. I've never experienced this psalm--any psalm--quite like this before. And then I recall:
Revere him,
all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
Can there be hope today? Is Jesus God-forsaken or have his cries been heard? Somehow, David ended his psalm declaring hopefully:
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn;
He has done it!
Has he done it? What is it? I want to have hope, but it is so dark right now. Has God forsaken him and us, or is the hope of David still alive?