240329 – Wondering – Cross – Good Friday

Good Friday ~ John 18:1-19:42

There are so many pieces to this story that it’s hard to know where to begin.

Every year we find ourselves lost in the strangeness of these events, and yet compelled to rehearse them again and again hoping each time to find something more – Something More.

Betrayals, arrests, denials, debates, priests, Pilate, Barabbas, Judas, Peter, Mary, soldiers, crowds, and cruel anonymous voices shouting “crucify”.

And so many questions.

Who are you looking for?
Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given me?
Aren’t you one of this man’s disciples?
If I speak correctly, why do you strike me?
Aren’t you one of his disciples?
Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?
What charge do you bring against this man?
Are you the king of the Jews?
Am I a Jew?
What have you done?
What is truth?
Why won’t you speak to me?
Don’t you know I hold your life in my hands?
Do you want me to crucify your king?

I wonder.

I am thirsty.
It is finished.
Finished. Completed. Once began now ended.
It is finished.
It is inevitable. It had to be this way.
It has to be this way.
Not because God demanded it but because the rhythm of renewal requires an ending.
A death of what was.
Something More will emerge, but not yet.
First there is the ending.
It is inevitable, but it is not insignificant.
It cannot be shrugged away knowing Easter is a couple of days away.
Endings hurt. Dying is not nothing.

Even though Jesus knew, and lived, and taught this rhythm of living and dying, of letting go and embracing, it didn’t make his dying easy.

There were beatings.
There was scorn.
There was heartbreak.
There was fear.
There were thorns.
There was agony.
There were nails.

There is so much ugliness here. Is there any beauty?
There is so much pain and loss here. Is there any hope?
There is so much badness here. Is there any good?

What is good about this Friday?
Is this Friday good because it teaches us guilt? – reinforcing our complicity in the death of Jesus because we too betray, and deny, and question?
Is this Friday good because it reminds us that Jesus suffered, and that makes us feel more attached to him?
Suffering and guilt have fueled a lot of churches, is that what we’re supposed to be about here?
Is that the good?
Is that the message Jesus’ death on a cross brings?

A cross.
An instrument of intimidation and torture wielded by the powerful.

What value is there to bear witness to this execution?
Because make no mistake, this was an execution.
A first century electric chair.
The state killing someone who crossed the line.
What line?
What was so terrible about preaching Presence?
What was so threatening about love?

I wonder.

Jesus lives on, and it’s important to never forget that, but it’s also important to always remember that the rhythm of transformation requires a dying before the renewal can emerge – but that renewal comes at a great cost.
I wonder.
I wonder if we cheat ourselves out of transformations because we’re afraid of the cost.
I wonder if our lives are so comfortable that we cannot imagine willingly dying to anything.
I wonder if our faith is so comfortable that the idea of change and growth irks us.

So there’s Jesus on the cross.
Jesus who spent his whole life trying to help us notice God’s Presence, realize our hands are clenching something less, and loving us to open up, let go, and embrace Something More.

Jesus who even now, dying on the cross, teaches us that the dying part is integral to the renewal part – that the rhythm of transformation is reality.
And knowing that Sunday is coming, and that renewal is as inevitable as death, we can look at that cross – that ugly, horrific, awe-full cross – and see something profoundly beautiful.

Not the dying part – we don’t revel in the dying.
The beauty is in the rhythm.

The beauty is in the rhythm. (in rhythm, and quieter each time)
The beauty is in the rhythm.
The beauty is in the rhythm.

The beauty is in the way every single aspect of Jesus’ being bears witness to the cruciform rhythm of God’s renewing love.

And this cross – this instrument of death – becomes an instrument of new life.
I wonder if we can see past the ugliness and take in its beauty.
I wonder if we can give the dying part the attention it demands, and not just skip over to the resurrection part.
I wonder if feeling the sting of the loss is what makes the joy of the renewal so much sweeter.

But today it is not sweet; it’s bitter.
Today the cross is not empty.
Today the story is all too human.
Today the mystery of the cross is all we really have.
I wonder what it might teach us while we wait.
I wonder…