Good Friday revisited…

Although my daily blogging for Lent and Easter is over I am still finding wonderful stuff… here is a piece from Cheryl at hold this space which encapsulates in a few lines the grace and redemption of Easter:

They call today Good Friday
but what could make this day good?

if you have ever believed that love inevitably leads to betrayal
this day says it doesn’t.

if you have ever believed that some people are unlovable, irredeemable
this day says they aren’t.

if you have ever believed that there is a limit to forgiveness
this day says there isn’t.

if you have ever believed you aren’t worth saving
this day says you are.

if you have ever believed that you don’t deserve freedom
this day says you do.

if you have ever believed that fear, anger, hate and despair will always win
this day says it won’t.

this day is good for you.

(Picture from a post  on Everylittlewonder inspired by Cheryl’s Good Friday liturgy.)

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Sunday… let the Alleluias slip in!

Our congregation put away the ‘alleluias’ for Lent and today we brought them back as one great shout of praise to our risen Lord (Many voices banner ).

We thought you were dead.
We thought the cross was the end.
We thought that when the stone rolled over the tomb,
that was it.
But this is it:

the dead are living;
the cross is empty;
the stone is rolled,
and one word describes it all:
Alleluia!
Jesus is risen!

We thought you had said your final word.
We thought those with the power had won.
We thought that when you cried out,
that was it.
But this is it:

the word breathes;
the powers are defeated;
the final cry was only the beginning,
and one word says it all:
Alleluia!
Jesus is risen!

We thought the story was finished.
We thought the hope had ended.
We thought that when the tomb was sealed,
that was it.
But this is it:

the story has just begun;
the hope is newly born;
the tomb is empty,
and one word says it all:
Alleluia!
Jesus is risen!

This is the news:
Jesus is risen!

This is the moment
Jesus is alive!

This is the gospel
Jesus is with us!

We thought that when they crucified you,
death had defeated life,
and that was it.
But this is it:

Love is stronger than death,
and one word says it all:

Alleluia!

Jesus is risen!

from: Mucky Paws

Saturday… hear the silence

Followers of my old blog blog will know that I am passionate about the theology of the late Scottish theologian Alan E. Lewis… and Easter (or Holy) Saturday is his thing.

Lewis developed his theology of Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, as he was dying from cancer. The resulting book Between Cross and Resurrection was published posthumously.

The principle point behind Lewis’s thinking is that the middle day… this “time of waiting in which nothing of significance occurs” …is central to the whole of Christian theology.

Although Lewis acknowledges that the middle day might be considered a “bizarre and hopeless starting point for theological reflection” he chooses this space – the “no-man’s land”  dividing cross and resurrection – from which to meditate upon the meaning and significance of Christ’s death and resurrection.

But what is it about this day (a day largely neglected by Theologians and by the Church in its liturgy and worship) that holds such significance for Lewis? I think it is probably the shocking enigma that we have to confront as we contemplate Saturday– that it is God himself who has suffered and been rejected by humanity, that the ‘Immortal’ has died and been laid in a tomb.

For Lewis, and for us as we face this paradox, Holy Saturday is “…a day which forces us to speak of hell and to conceive how it might be that God’s own Son, and therefore God’s own self, lay dead and cold within a sepulchre.”

Easter Saturday is the day from which we must look back on Good Friday. It is only from the perspective of Easter Saturday that we can begin to grasp the true reality of the horror and hopelessness that must have overcome the followers of Jesus, indeed all who loved him, on that first Good Friday.

But Easter Saturday must also take us forward to Easter Sunday.

Although the suffering of the cross and the dark silent space of the tomb where “death is given time and space to be itself, in all its coldness and helplessness”  is central, it never overwhelms the powerful and joyful victory of resurrection, because it is the resurrection that confirms beyond all doubt that Christ was in fact God.

So when we view the resurrection from the perspective of Easter Saturday, we are made to think again about the radical nature of the suffering and death of God in Christ and we are also confronted with the shocking reality that God himself has been found and identified among the dead. God has not only suffered and died, he has also been laid in the grave.

Easter Saturday is a day of mystery and a time for reflection.

Bonhoeffer once said that our reflections on the significance of Christ must begin with silence (all voices must be stilled, all conversation must cease).

Easter Saturday gives us that silence.

It is the space for our reflection… space for us to dialogue with the three-day story of faith and to explore, from a different perspective, our ideas of a Triune God who fully embraced our humanity.

From the liminal space of Easter Saturday we are able to gain a much fuller appreciation of the depths of the humanity of Christ – the God become flesh, who lived to die and then to pass through death into glorious new life.

The miracle of the resurrection (our hope for life beyond death) takes place in the silent hidden space of Jesus’ tomb. In Mark’s Gospel this miracle of new life for all is revealed in the words of the young man in white who startles the women at the empty tomb –

“you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here”.

God’s victory over evil – over all suffering and ultimately over death itself is revealed in the young man’s words which proclaim the power of God for a world come of age.

Passion picture from: Way out West

Friday… “And it was night”

“He, the Lord of all lords in heaven and earth, becomes and is the most despised and wretched of all servants!

He, the divine and human Light, was wrapped in deepest concealment!

He, the divine and human Judge, was judged!

He, the living God and the only truly living human, was executed and destroyed, disappearing into the night of death!

This is the one antithesis in the existence of Jesus Christ.”

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/2, p. 349.

Thursday… watch and pray.

This is one of my favourite Mary Oliver Poems. Her preoccupation is with the created world and the beauty which is offered to us every day.

Here creation keeps faith and watches with Jesus in the garden as his disciples sleep.

The grass, the roses, the lilies and the crickets… the wind, the stars and the water of the lake keep watch as Jesus cries out his fear and anguish to his heavenly father.

The grass never sleeps.
Or the roses.
Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning.

Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.

The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet,
and it sings, have you noticed, with its whole body,
and heaven knows if it ever sleeps.

Jesus said, wait with me.
And maybe the stars did, maybe the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move, maybe

the lake far away, where once he walked as on a
blue pavement,
lay still and waited, wild awake.

Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not
keep that vigil, how they must have wept,
so utterly human, knowing this too
must be a part of the story.

And isn’t this so reassuring… to us who are so utterly human… to know we too are part of the story?

Wednesday… taken to the cross.

Another meditation for Lent from Mucky Paws. But just as appropriate for this Holy Week as we travel ever nearer to Friday:

a place of birth
of dying
of renewal
of transforming

a time of losing
of seeking
of questioning
of relearning

a way of revelation
of discernment
of faith-ing
of perception

such is Lent

where all things of faith
are taken to the cross
left there
and allowed to die

but those that speak of love
are redeemed through death
and, transformed,
they break into life once more

Tuesday in Bethany

There are moments in life that call for extravagance, moments when we must lay aside calculation and caution, moments when we must give wholeheartedly of ourselves.

Some things and some people are worth giving all that we have and all that we are.

Today Jesus is in Bethany (John 12.1-11). He is with friends, surrounded by those he loves most in the world. He is at rest, eating and drinking and enjoying their company.

Mary adds to this wonderful evening for Jesus by pouring perfume over his feet until the whole house is filled with its scent, the locks of her hair caressing his feet. She gives herself completely to what she knows and believes about Jesus. She is caught up in the moment and she ministers to Jesus, her actions mirroring all the ways that Jesus has previously ministered to her and to her loved ones.

But more significantly, Mary is also anointing Jesus in preparation for the journey he is about to make. Her actions foretell all that Jesus will do in this most holy week. They foretell of his extravagant and self-sacrificing love… love which will take him all the way to death on a cross…his life poured out for the life of the world.