Good Friday Reflection
Friday 19th April 2019 @ 11:52 am
I never prepare words long in advance for a talk given on Good Friday … it always just seems better to me, that they come from the heart.
So from my heart. Within the last couple of hours.
It’s Good Friday – it is the day when Christians around the world look to the suffering God, and ask questions of meaning, of sense–making, and of hope – because it all seems wrong. Upside down, inside out, not the way things should be.
The creator and sustainer of all that is,
at the mercy of petty religious jealousy,
and mob violence.
I want the Christian faith to have something to say into those places – to religious pettiness, political ineptitude, military occupation and unnecessary violence …
I want the prince of peace to offer me a way through,
a way out,
I want a road of justice
Not this … not this suffering. This is not what I want from my master.
I want my Lord, to be God, ruler of all.
I hope in my discomfort,
I enter the narrative
and glimpse ever so minutely in miniscule ways,
how those who lived with and loved Jesus on earth felt
as they watched the betrayal, the beating, the brutality of slaughter.
I sat in Yad Vashem this last January – on the Space to Breathe project – a program designed to bring together Christians, Muslims, Jews, Irish, British, Palestinians and Israelis, in an attempt to engage each other in a walk toward practices for peace. Such a place can be overwhelming and dull the senses – it’s almost impossible to take in humanity’s ability to destroy – the holocaust was a systematic attempt to annihilate an entire race – successfully executing 6 million of them. The whole of the Nazi Holocaust is now believed to be in the region of 17 million victims .. 17 million murdered. Almost the entire population of this island being slaughtered, 3 times over. The numbers are too big to comprehend – the evil too much to consider.
I sat on this visit, and just looked at shoes which had been taken from a concentration camp and left in a pile for us to remember. Shoes that had at one time been the cause of comfort and safety, now in a pile speaking of devastating loss and pain. It was seeing the tiny shoes of children, that brought the moisture to the corners of my eyes.
Jurgen Moltmann, German theologian, offers me some thoughts … you have heard them before:
Ten years ago, I went through the remains of the concentration camp at Maidanek in Poland. With each step it became physically more difficult to go further and look at the thousands of children’s shoes, clothing remnants, collected hair, and gold teeth. At that moment I would have preferred from shame to be swallowed up by the earth, if I had not believed: “God is with them. They will rise again.” Later, I found in the visitors’ book the inscriptions of others: “Never again can this be allowed to happen. We will fight to see that this never again comes to pass.” I respect this answer, but it does not help the murdered ones. I also respect my own answer, which I gave at that time. But it is not sufficient.
How is faith in God, how is being human, possible after Auschwitz? I don’t know. But it helps me to remember the story that Elie Wiesel reports in his book on Auschwitz called Night. Two Jewish men and a child were hanged. The prisoners were forced to watch. The men died quickly. The boy lived on in torture for a long while. “Then someone behind me said: “Where is God?’ and I was silent. After half an hour he cried out again: ‘Where is God? Where is he? And a voice in me answered: ‘Where is God?. . . he hangs there from the gallows….
Sisters and brothers,
God, stricken, weak, abandoned, suffering and in pain … this, I gently remind myself on this day, is only the start of the weekend.
The story is not over.
We know there is a glorious reality coming – and you might even be skipping over the darkness of today in your mind and heart because it’s easier to remember, Sunday’s coming!
Pain and suffering are to be avoided,
exclusion, violence, political failure, religious viciousness
– these things can be skipped over because we know how this story works out
… love wins.
But sisters and brothers – today – for a short time … can I invite you to sit with the suffering God? Don’t skip to Sunday too quickly.
I invite you to do so, for two reasons,
Primarily this one
because you might just be able to sense
as you abide with Christ, in his suffering,
Christ abides with you in yours
The suffering God, invites us to know,
we are not alone.
There is no place too dark,
no reality too stark,
no failure too final,
and no loss too fatal
that the Holy Spirit of the suffering God cannot meet you in that place.
You are not as alone, as you sometimes think you are.
What a message needed today, for the family of Lyra McKee, the young journalist senselessly murdered in Derry last night. Out doing her job, gunned down by a militant terrorist intent only on destruction and death.
God, be in the pain of Lyra’s family and friends and partner today – meet them in the darkness
may they get the faintest glimpse
that all that they see,
is not all there is
As I was walking in Yad Vashem with the group in January, our guide – well, our teacher for the day, a Jewish social historian, finished our time together with a story told to him by a colleague from her own research.
Jewish schools will often arrange tours and visits to places where the holocaust happened – and during one visit to Auschwitz two teenage boys were overheard coming out of that place of death.
One turns to the other, and putting words together about his feelings and his sense of responsibility to his people and to the world, he said,
“we have to make sure, no–one ever does this to us again.”
His friend turns to him and replies
“We have to make sure no does this to anyone again”
Maybe, just maybe, one other possible response of today, is the same.
As we sit and contemplate the suffering God who on a cross was “killed as a blasphemer, [and] as a threat to national security” – thus bringing religious violence, state collusion, military occupation and political weakness to fore – may one possible response of ours be,
we have to make sure no–one does this to anyone again.
May the Christians, be known as the ones who not only seek to find God in the midst of darkness, they also live to banish all darkness.
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