Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday, 2019-C: Keeping it real

Lectionary:Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42

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While I was working on my doctorate from Sewanee, I took one course at Notre Dame and it was on rap and hip hop culture. In it we studied a book entitled: “Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop.”

I took it because listening to rap assaulted me and I hated it. The popularity of rap eluded me: it seemed so violent, misogynistic, immature, and focused on all the wrong goals – money, sex, fame…

I took this class because, while rap wasn’t my cup of tea, it was reaching young people in a big way and I wanted to know why. It felt like an important thing to know. And I was right.

This class taught me that rap worked for this generation like the Psalms worked for our Jewish forbears…like they work for us now. The poetry of rap, like the psalms, is a means of honestly expressing the human experience. No wonder it connected so well!

I remember living through my twenties, or as I call them, my “hell years” when I was being stalked (before there were stalking laws), threatened, followed by hired hit men, slandered on TV, in newspapers and magazines. I was innocent and in shock as my abusive first husband (may he rest in peace) the perpetrator of some of the worst crimes I could think of, was coming off looking like a golden boy as I remained silent, keeping steady on a path that would bring justice to my baby daughter. We got there finally, after nine years.

During that very dark time in my life, I found hope in the poetry of the Psalms. They spoke of a miserable reality I could connect with and they always led me to a place of hope, to the arms of God where I found love, safety, courage, and the will to go on, trusting in God’s love and desire to redeem even the hell I was living.

It seems that Jesus found the same kind of solace in the psalms. As he was dying a slow, miserable, unjust death on the cross, Jesus quoted from Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? and are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?

Two things were happening here: 1) as a rabbi, Jesus was pointing his followers to the entirety of the psalm by stating just the first verse; and 2) Jesus was reminding himself of the truth of God’s redeeming, powerful love in his darkest moment on earth.

I offer you tonight this first-person meditation on Psalm 22 from one who has known what misery is.

Where are you, God? I feel so alone. Why have you abandoned me? Do you even hear me?

My people have trusted you for generations. Scripture tells me of your redeeming love for others. Where are you, God, for me?

It’s me, isn’t it? I’m not worthy. They scorn me, despise me, laugh at me, and lie about me. They obviously know that I’m not worthy of love, of friendship, of justice.

But then again, God, you brought me to this life and you’ve kept me safe upon your breast. Stay close to me! I’m afraid.

They’re like snarling beasts trying to tear me apart. They’re drooling for my death.

I’m twisted up; melting into a puddle of nothingness.

I’ve cried so much by now that I’m all dried up. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I’m dying and I feel like you’ve left me at my dusty grave.

But I’m innocent! They’re the evil ones and they surround me like packs of dogs. They taunt me and gamble my value away like it’s some game. They torture me; I’m fading into nothing.

Where are you, God?! Come and help me. Save me. Save my tired, wretched body. Save my weary soul.

Do I matter at all to you? … because you matter to me. You are the only strength I have left; the only hope there is.

Therefore, I will praise you, God, because I know you. I praise you in the presence of your people gathered for worship.

Praise God, you people! Because God does not hate or despise. And God hears our wretched cries. We shall be satisfied, justified, and we will live in eternal love, because God is servant of ALL.

Everyone, everywhere, and for all time will hear my words and know that God is God - and I choose to serve Her.

Hear me when I say it is to God alone the whole earth bows in worship, remembering and respecting our Creator who formed us in the power of Her love.

I know this absolutely, and my children and their children will know it too, because I will make this known to them and they will make it known to people yet unborn.

That is my purpose. That is my promise.

On Good Friday we, as a congregation and as individual members of it, live fully into the reality of the dusty, miserable, hopelessness of death, and choose life anyway, trusting in the redeeming power of God’s love to move us from whatever death we face to new life.

That is God’s promise and we are witnessing, experiencing, and embodying its fulfillment again as we move through Holy Week to Easter together.

I close with this prayer from the Hip Hop Prayer Book:

We pray to God, and we also pray to the church
For understanding our message, and helping us do our work
For giving us a place, where we can get down
And shout our voice, spread the message all around
For watchin out for us, and stayin aware
Inside your crib we can never be scared
Keepin it real for us and keeping it hot
Cause God don’t quit and God don’t stop.

We give it up to y’all for deliverin’ the truth
The words that you flow show us the proof
So we send out a blessin’ for bringin’ us the message
For keeping it real and showin’ us the lessons. Amen! WORD!

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