Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday, 2020: It's taking too long

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

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It’s taking too long. The restrictions on our freedom from sheltering-in-place, the lack of personal contact with friends and loved ones, the constant hand-washing and not touching our faces… How long until this is over? It’s taking too long.

Even beyond the Coronavirus, when we look around us, the church seems to be fracturing more not less. The world is no closer now to living in harmony than it has ever been.

It’s all taking too long.

But that’s the nature of life as a believer - being willing to wait on God and trusting that no matter how things look right now, God’s plan for us is perfect and perfectly loving.

As Jesus walked the Via Dolorosa (the Way of Sadness), he was an exemplar of faithful obedience – and we are called to follow his example, for as long as it takes.

Jesus walked carrying a heavy burden that wasn’t even his own - it was ours - yet on he went. He fell from the weight of this burden – not once, but three times. He needed help carrying the burden. He sought the loving face of his mother to sustain him as he walked this terrible path. And he never stopped loving us, even as his flesh was torn and when the nails pierced him, even as he struggled to breathe.

It took too long. The reason the Romans used crucifixion as their chosen corporal punishment is because it was slow and painful. It took very long.

When I was 16 years old, Life Magazine did a story on Mother Theresa of Calcutta that changed my life. It showed pictures of Mother Theresa bending over people covered with oozing sores and skin diseases. She bent close and tended to their wound and whispered comfort to them. The interviewer asked Mother Theresa why she wasn’t worried about catching what these people had. Her response changed my life. Mother Theresa responded: “In the face of each of these I see the face of my Savior, Jesus Christ.”

The risk we face as modern Christians is making this all a movie that plays in our minds and not in our lives. We can share real emotion watching this movie in our minds, but we remain safely distant from the reality of it. Mother Theresa showed us how to make it real – how to find the face of Jesus all around us, not distant from us.

The truth is suffering always takes too long - especially when we’re the ones suffering. When someone cries out to us from their suffering and we respond, we expect to do our good deed and be done with it. If that person continues to need or suffer, we may give one or two more times, but then we get impatient. We begin to blame them – or use the very convenient (and over-used) excuse of not wanting to “enable” them. The truth is, what we really want is freedom from their suffering. It’s beginning to take too long.

In his book “Love Wins,” author Rob Bell says this: "What the gospel does is confront our version of our story with God's version of our story." And in God’s version of our story, redemption comes by the death of the Messiah on a Roman cross. Innocent of any crime, Jesus willingly gave everything - so that the will of God would prosper.

And what is the will of God? Salvation for the whole world – the WHOLE world. That could take a long time.

In the meantime, we are called to gather together to worship God,” not neglecting to meet together, even in our new online formats,” because we can’t do this alone. We need God and each other as we walk the way that has been set before us, remembering that it won’t be quick or easy.

When we find ourselves impatient with problems that just won’t go away or when we hear ourselves saying, “this is taking too long;” we need only look up and see the broken body of Jesus on the cross to remember, God is at work redeeming all things even when we can’t see how. Who could have imagined the resurrection at the moment of the crucifixion?

God is already acting to redeem, everything and everyone. God’s plan for us is perfect and perfectly loving, and it takes time.


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