Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday, First Meditation

Bruce M. Robison

The story unfolding before us—so familiar.  We can almost whisper along word by word.  The images fill our minds, perhaps glimpses from works of great art down through the centuries, or from films or songs, from the patterns and memories of the past. The old Good Friday hymn asks, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” And it is indeed as though we were there, as though our experience of these hours is memory, deeply felt, deeply experienced. The sights and sounds and smells of that corner of the city landfill outside the gates of Old Jerusalem so vivid. We close our eyes, and we are there, on that day.

And of course that memory surrounds and permeates, explores, illuminates, embraces, interprets, haunts, so much of our lives. Day by day.   The horrors of this world. War and rumors of war. Natural disasters. Cruelty and crime.  A disturbed high schooler in Murrysville.  A ferryboat in Korea.  A public square in the eastern corner of the Ukraine.  A physician shakes his head in sadness as he reviews the latest round of test results.  We see him on that Cross and ask what it all means: how to make sense of what is beyond making-sense.   The fragility of our lives seems to go up there with him, the whole burden of our weakness, our vulnerabilities. Our tenderness. We bend. We break. 

Just a lot of Good Friday, all around us, in our midst, in our own lives. And we close our eyes, and we are there, on that day. We remember. It is not far away at all, but all too real. Nearby. And the Cross that is above us, overhead, not an ornament of architectural decoration, but the essential key to the interpretation of our lives.  At the darkest moment, a sign of dawn on the horizon.  Without it, it is night, and we are alone in the forest, without a clue, without a map, without a trail to follow. It is all we have.

Jesus said, I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and bring you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also. And Thomas said, Lord, we know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way? How can we know the way?

And he gives us this sign. Himself. On the cross. And with those words from John 14: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by me. 

We of the church, the Christian family, friends of Jesus—we have been struggling to find the right words for two thousand years.  To share this essential news, this hope, this promise.  Sometimes all we can do is point.  This the way, as the Cross beckons us, the light on the path, the gate, the door, the way forward. He prayed in the Garden that last night: Father, if there is some other way forward, show it to me now. But there was no other way. Not for him, and so also not for us. Before Sunday morning, always Friday.

We carry this hope, we live in it, and for it, the deep foundation under us. The King of Love my shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never. But it doesn’t make this part any easier. Oh. Sometimes it causes me to tremble. Tremble. Tremble. 

And so, here we are. Trembling.  However strong, however, complete, however good we may appear to others.  On our way to the Cross ourselves, as he is before us on his. Listening for his last word for us: Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.

Good Friday, and all of us together here with him. And even at the grave we make our song. It is his victorious Cross, trampling down death by death. 

The Way, the Truth, the Life. The Cross and only the Cross, this day, this hour, light in the darkness, the power of God, giving life to those in the tomb.  May his Cross be for you this day the opening door to life and eternal life in him.

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