Good Friday, April 19th
Throughout the year, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for April 19th: Psalm 22; Isaiah 52:13—53:12; John 18:1—19:42; Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Today is Good Friday. This will be the last of the Lent Blogs for this season. I would encourage you to continue with daily Scripture reading. If you’d like, here is the link to the Massachusetts Conference’s daily reading schedule: https://www.macucc.org/lectionary.
I will post occasionally, but these Lenten offerings were one of my ways to engage daily with God’s Word. For as often as I read the Bible, I am reassured constantly that it is God’s still speaking Word. There is always something new. I believe that comes in part from my own ever-changing relationship with God. Jesus speaks to me where I am, which shouldn’t be a surprise since that comes across repeatedly in the Gospel stories, but it is a matter of listening. And Lent is a very special opportunity to listen.
Our church will be open today from 9AM – 3:30PM. Mark’s Gospel informs us that Jesus was nailed to the cross at 9AM, that the skies grew dark at noon, and that He died at 3PM. These are contemplative hours. The silence and sanctity of place can help. Pew Bibles are available. Maybe read Psalm 22. Think back to the time before Jesus when this prayer of suffering and of faith was first uttered. This was a human in deepest despair. Then, read the Psalm again as on the lips of Jesus, the Crucified God in Moltmann’s turn of phrase.
Try to imagine that God in Jesus experiences forsakenness. Mark, the oldest Gospel, tells us that there is not a single comforting face for Jesus to look down upon from the cross and that painful cry of “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” means that there is no one above either. Jesus on the cross feels the isolation that can plague our mortal condition. He dies as one of us. His death is the perfect act of at-one-ment. Jesus …
“Though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2: 6-8)
Jesus forsakes everything, God forsakes everything, for us. There is no more perfect a love. God’s everything is everything, and this is all offered up for communion with us. If that were not enough, God even sacrifices His own self. In Christ Jesus we discover that God loves us more than He loves Himself. Think back to Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac and the repulsion the whole affair generates, and then look to the cross where the Son actually dies. “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53), and yet He dies. The cross was accepted by Christ as a sacrifice for His gospel. Jesus’ lived proclamation is the only way we can survive as our better selves. It’s the only way to protect us from our more dangerous selves. And it cost Jesus His life, a beautiful life tortured to death in a most heinous way.
This is why today is a day of contemplation and self-examination. This cannot be like any other day. It must be treated with grave reverence. Jesus deserves no less.
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