Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday, 2018: The song of heaven

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

En el nombre del Dios: Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen.

Pilate said to them: Here is the man! Look, here is your king!

Behold him, beaten and bent… bloody where the nails have pierced his flesh. Behold him breathing his last, his head dropping to his chest, as his body goes lifeless.

Here is the man…Look, here is your king.

We try to look - to picture in our minds the events of that first Good Friday, but it's a surreal experience. It's like that movie trick where the world is buzzing around in fast motion in the background while the main character in the foreground is moving slowly, as if standing in a vortex of two realities of time.

As the world happens all around us, our reality this week also includes a slower, interior experience of the unfolding of our salvation story. Through the liturgies of the Triduum: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, we live in eternal time, time not measured by clocks or calendars, even as we continue to live in the world's time.

We walk together slowly, liturgically, aware of our tendency to run quickly through the dark and difficult parts of Holy Week and head straight for Easter, and the relief and joyous victory that it brings. But on Good Friday, we go slowly, patiently, fully into the darkness of Jesus' crucifixion.

Today, we begin our mourning. The Innocent Lamb, has been executed. It is shocking and profoundly sad. As was foretold in Isaiah: "…there were many who were astonished at him so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance… By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future?"

While doing some mission work in Romania some years ago, I visited a monastery in SuceaviĆŁa, where I saw an ancient tapestry of Jesus' crucifixion. Above his body were four angels who were covering their faces in grief and crying. The face of one of the angels was twisted in an expression of absolute horror.

While part of me must have known this before, that day was the first time I let myself really know and experience the reality that heaven was also shocked and horrified by the world's execution of the Messiah.

Behold the man! Look here is your king!

God knows how hard it is for us to wait in the discomfort of our shock and deep sadness. It's a normal human response to want to escape discomfort. It helps us survive! But when our survival isn't at stake, when it is spiritual discomfort, we must learn to wait through it.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got on this was from the rector of my home-church in Valdosta, GA. I was experiencing a spiritual crisis like I'd never known before. I was ready to come undone. I wanted to run away from God, from the Church, from everything. It was the darkest of nights for me.

My rector, Fr. Stan White, said to me, "I hear you Valori. God hears you. Be willing to wait in the discomfort. Trust. Remember, God has already acted to redeem."

I commend Fr. Stan's advice to you: be willing to wait in the discomfort. Trust, for God is already acting to redeem.

Practicing Good Friday drops us into a great mystery, which is this: by his death and resurrection Jesus has reconciled us to himself. Now we are the living locations of the unity of heaven and earth enfleshed in us. Each one of us.

Together then, our prayers are truly the song of heaven. When we pray, all the company of heaven is praying with us… in us… through us.

From shock and horror to joyful songs of praise. This is the movement of the prayer in Psalm 22 which Jesus quoted as he died on the cross. By speaking the first line of this prayer Jesus, the rabbi, was commending the entire prayer to us.

Whenever we feel forsaken we go to our family of faith, we place ourselves "in the midst of the congregation" and praise God committing once again to serve God and to make known "to a people yet unborn," that is, unaware, the Good News of our redemption in Jesus Christ.

So let us continue our Holy Week journey together, and in this midst of this gathered congregation, let's praise God and pray for the world for whom our Savior, Jesus Christ, gave his life, remembering that our prayer is the song of heaven.


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