Good Friday: Reliable Narrators
“…all the ends of the earth shall remember”–Psalm 22:27
On October 11th and October 13th, I can tell you what was going on at 10:45am and 8:30am, and on December 18th at 1pm, the days I first held my children. I recall these days, hours well, who was there, how it felt. They are indelibly inked in my brain, on my soul.
As love has the capacity to take us to the mountain tops, so it can take us to deep ravines,
like the week in February when my infant son was hospitalized with RSV, a virus
coating his lungs like tar, making it hard for him to breathe. His lungs eventually cleared, but not before we’d met and gotten to know the entire respiratory staff at the hospital. I later officiated at a number of their weddings.
We remember highs in our life stories, and lows. They have staying power.
Today, from noon to 3pm, we think about Jesus hanging on a cross, suffocating under the weight of the world, and the weight of his body.
Holy week takes us from a mountain top with Jesus, the air still resonant with “Hosannas!” and traveling from that Mount of Olives to Jesus weeping over Jerusalem as he approaches, crying out, “If you, even you, had recognized the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:42) Much has transpired in this Holy Week…feet have been washed, the Last Supper served, Jesus denied and betrayed…. and today the cross, the instrument of death.
In this last week Jesus says, “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there you will be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
Now my soul is troubled. What should I say–’Father, save me from this hour’?
No it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.
Father, glory your name.” (John 12:25-28)
“Now my soul is troubled….” Jesus says.
This is the deep darkness of Good Friday, the dark story line of humanity, of what we can do to one another, what life can do to us, the story of how God can feel far away and absent, unattentive to our cries.
It’s a day when we think of both the light and dark of it all. The “Good” in a very bad Friday.
Southern writer Flannery O’Connor said, “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.
It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.”
“Faith is the cross,” she writes. Today we remember, as if we were there, we are not far from the cross.
We are in the crowd saying, “Crucify him.”
We are in the crowd grieving his murder.
We are in the wings, fearful of devoting our lives to him, denying we know him.
We are selling off our lives, betraying our faith for other things we deem valuable.
We are anointing him for what lies ahead, giving him all we have.
We are playing politics, wanting to curry favor with humans instead of with God.
We are washing our hands of him and whatever claims he might stake on our lives.
We are rule followers, doing our duty, blindly, nailing him and all he stands for, onto a cross. We kill the very voice of God so we don’t have to hear it anymore, so we don’t have to change.
God seeks to speak to us in human voice, in our language, the language of flesh and blood, through the thin reeds that are human vocal chords. God comes to speak to us
to tell us what God’s reign is all about: love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, kindness.
And we humans? We destroy what is not familiar, what challenges us.
We kill the voice of God so we can keep on keeping on with our power structures in place, so we can rule. Instead of God’s reign, it will be Our reign, we think, instead of God’s kingdom, Ours, which means we are bent, in so many ways, on our own destruction. And, if we think that was then, and this is now, think again.
We take a good long look at the cross, the blood, sweat, and tears of it.
Good Friday is a day we take a long, serious look at the darkness in the life
of faith, because on this day, humanity was trying to extinguish the light.
Before his death, Jesus says, “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness…I came not to judge the world,
but to save the world.” (John 12:46-47)
And we? We as by-standers of faith and/or followers of Christ? How do we take the narrative of the life of Jesus the Christ and weave it with our narratives?
I first heard about reliable narrators while studying The Great Gatsby in high school.
Was the character Nick Carraway a reliable narrator, as he told the story of Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and their lives in East and West Egg? In our lives, though we may wish to be, and often I dearly wish to be, we are not omniscient narrators.
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