Friday, April 18, 2014

For Reflecting on Good Friday

Good Friday

The day of the Cross.
What if it was not about Jesus then? What if it is about us now?
Jesus is not a magician... no wand is waved and everything is better and new and right. The question of the day is, what will we do? How will we react to the Cross that we must carry to follow Jesus? Will we be better and new and right there with him?


And it certainly is good to remember the story: 
Betrayal to killers for money
Denying him before the rooster crows
running away
being fearful
giving up

But after remembering that story, 
we have to give meaning to the story. Meaning to us and for us.

A Cross Story

A few weeks before November 16, 1989, in a special service of reconciliation, the congregation of Resurrection Lutheran Church in San Salvador was asked to lay the sins of their country upon a symbolic cross. A simple wooden cross, painted white, was placed at the front of the church. In ones and twos, congregation members came up to the cross, took a black marker, and wrote the sins on the cross, such as persecution of the church, hunger, discrimination against women, ambition for power, murder and violence. As they identified the sins of their country and their people, they also committed themselves to work toward forgiveness, and to be strengthened for liberation. The cross also carries messages of hope and love, as a testimony to the transforming power of God. After the reconciliation service, the cross remained as a symbol within the church. (from Tim's El Salvador Blog)

Then Bishop Gomez was to be arrested and went to his church. He was gone. So, the soldiers captured 12 foreigners and 3 Salvadorans, and they captured and carried off this cross. The cross for them was subversive, just as the emperors of ancient Rome considered the universal symbol of Christianity subversive. 
The cross which they took captive is a special symbol for the people of Resurrection. It is a tribute to God, since one good day, as a special offering to the Lord, the congregation wrote the sins committed against the people upon a plain, white cross. As they identified the sins of their country and their people, they committed themselves to work toward forgiveness, and to be strengthened for liberation. The cross carries messages of hope and love, as a testimony to the transforming power of God. 
It is now called the Subversive Cross. 

Bishop Gomez with replica 


Nails were used to keep Jesus were they wanted him. They would have added to the suffering. They would have positioned him for dying. And maybe we do not have a cross any more that we can nail Jesus to, but we still have nails that we use to keep him in his place, away from discussions and decisions and days when we do not want the man or his words to confuse something. You know...

The family gathering were someone brings up the idea that the poor are not the concern of others. The conversation at work when someone again tells a joke that is mean to some to be funny for others. The relative that insists that bad things have happened because God wanted them to happen to 'those' people. The meeting that is deciding on a faith statement or an action that chastises the government or someone who has some power. Times when life is easier if Jesus is can be nailed up and out of the way.

We have a selection of nails to use to keep Jesus away.

  • "You have to pick your battles"
  • "It wouldn't do any good in the long run and be a pain for you in the short term."
  • "Practically speaking it will not change any one's minds. Just let it be."
  • "Let's find a way to say it so no one is unhappy."
  • "Financially, that will not help the church."
  • "They can think what ever they want and have free speech."

 Which ones do you most often use? On this day it is good to remember that those who first nailed Jesus were doing it for reasons that they thought were good and compelling. Like you when you pick up a nail.


 "King of the  Jews"

 "INRI" That is what the sign over him said. It was a way for the authorities to 'name' the crime of the crucified. It enhanced the deterrent value of the death.

The letters stood for the words "Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm." Latin uses “I” instead of the English “J”, and “V” instead of “U” (i.e., Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum). The English translation is "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."

"King of the Jews" was also a way to mock him. Along with a crown of thorns, a purple cloak, and 'bowing down' to him. It was all meant to be cruel. Because he wasn't King.  
People thought (yea, hoped!) that the Anointed One of God meant that he would be a King to challenge (and try to replace) Caesar, Herod, and the Chief Priests. But such challenge is rebellion, treason, and likely to lead to violence. This deluded "King of the Jews" is now dying in pain. Like a rebel.

This is where Arch Bishop Oscar
Romero was assassinated while
saying Mass. Killed because he
spoke about injustices of
the Government.

Killed because those in power thought he was like them and would take power from them. Killed because he did challenge them, not for their power; but for how they used their power. He talked about God's justice and their injustice. He talked about the power of meekness and violence of power. He showed just how violent they are and how far they would go to maintain their power and injustice. It would be hard to go father than they did.

But so what? That was them and that was then. 

So, what sign would you give to Jesus? It might not be over his head. It could be on a happy name tag that says, "Hello! I am ..."

  • King of the Jews
  • Such a friend
  • a sounding board
  • Savior of my soul
  • a Prophet
  • teacher of justice
  • preacher of peace
  • One of the great spiritual teachers of all time

How ever you tag him, no matter what the title or sign we ascribe, we tend to do so to limit Jesus in our life and the influence he might have. If we say he is this then he isn't that.
In Mark's Gospel he tells everyone not to say who he is. In John's gospel he he says "I am" so often he covers about 10 different metaphors. 

Again and again he asks us to follow him. to pick up our cross and follow him into Jerusalem with God's challenge to the status quo, the societal values, the greed of the rich and the silencing of the poor. But Jesus also challenges us when we want to box him into a small tomb and say that is where he belongs, the only place he belongs. Not in our politics, not in our checkbook, not limiting our freedom, not work, not in education, not in our decisions, not in our personal choices.

He seems to want to be alive in our life, leading us as we follow him as the Lord of our life. We travel the way he goes, work as he works, trusts as he trusts. No limits. All of us. All parts of our life. He is Lord. 

On this day, let us consider what tag we have for Jesus and what that leaves out. What sign for him would indicate where we want him and when we want him entombed to stay away.