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_4-9-04_ Good Friday Meditation


									                                    ALL SAINTS CHURCH
                                        P ASADENA, CALIFORNIA

                                GOOD FRIDAY MEDITATION
                             A meditation from the Rev. Wilma Jakobsen
                                   April 9, 2004 - Good Friday

         Every year as we roll through another Lent into Holy Week, I am amazed at the depth
of suffering and evil which seems to emerge around this time, and yet also the depth of the
work of God’s Spirit in many people’s lives, including my own. In our own church many
people have walked through fires of anguish, confusion, violence, doubt, tragedy and
betrayals. Events in the world often seem to follow suit. Over past years I can think of the
Rwandan genocide of 10 years ago commemorated this past week; or the assassination in
Holy Week of Chris Hani, a promising peacemaker and politician in South Africa in the
transition times before democracy; or the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
commemorated this past Palm Sunday; and today the commemoration of the execution
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the brilliant young German theologian who preached about costly grace
and the radical commitment involved in following Christ, and was part of an assassination
plot to kill Adolf Hitler.
         Even in these last days and weeks we are watching the unraveling tragedies escalate
in Iraq and in Israel/Palestine, as more and more people die. It’s almost as if the cosmos and
the universe itself acknowledge the enormity of what happened in that week we now call
“holy” and on this Friday we now call “good.” It’s as if God’s Spirit does a refining work in
us as we live interiorly and exteriorly in a crucible of suffering and pain, only minutely
interspersed with joy and trust.

        It’s into this context of our world that we hear John’s almost dispassionate word in
Ch 19: There they crucified him, followed by the debate about the wording on the sign and
the description of the soldiers’ callous actions. It’s into this context that we ask ourselves
today: What does it mean to walk the way of the cross and the crucifixion with Jesus? How
are we to respond to Jesus’ suffering, God-with-us and God-dying?

         John’s passion narrative is different from the passion narratives in Matthew, Mark
and Luke. John’s Jesus is self-possessed, in charge of his own destiny. In V. 17, John’s Jesus
carries the cross by himself. John’s Jesus fulfilled the Hebrew Scriptures in having the
soldiers cast lots for his tunic and divide his clothes among themselves.

         And much has been written about the interaction of Jesus with those courageous
enough to be close to the cross—with his mother and the beloved disciple, and those they
represent. It is widely understood that even in the midst of Jesus’ suffering, at this point
Jesus is enabling the creation of community. Jesus is reaching out with compassion and

DATE OF MEDITATION: 4/9/04                                                                     PAGE 1 OF 1
enabling the creation of a new relationship. And we read about the disciple taking Jesus’
mother into her home, so that he becomes the message for us. That phrase ‘taking her into his
home’ does not as much mean her moving into his home, but rather the creation of a new
relationship which made them kin – made them responsible for each other. That’s the
relationship for us to become part of – to realize that across the world, across that which
divides us and unites us as human beings, we are kin, we are family, and we are responsible
for each other. When one part of the body suffers, we also suffer.

         I read a very moving story which takes that interaction at the cross into the reality of
our world. It involves two young men in Chicago, one shot by the other. The 14-year-old
slayer was apprehended, put on trial and convicted. As the parents of the young man who had
been shot observed their son’s assailant – still alive— something prodded them to look
further into his story. Against their better judgment, not to mention conventional wisdom,
they started visiting him in jail. Initial fear and curiosity changed to attraction and interest;
they found themselves fascinated with their son’s assassin.

         The more they learned about him, the more they came to understand the forces that
contributed to his terrible misdeed. And like most loving parents, when they really
understood these dynamics, there was little to forgive. They wondered at a reality now made
fresh to them, that so many children have no home while their son’s room in theirs stood

        The time came when they asked the young man who had been serving his time if they
could take him into their home; if he would allow them to become his adoptive parents. What
had transpired at Calvary so long ago was made real in Chicago. The mystery of the cross
was borne out in human struggle and crisis, struggle and crisis that get re-lived in the human
family in every generation and in every culture. In surrendering their anger at the loss of their
son, they embraced his killer and took him into their home. A new relationship was formed.

         In Jesus’ words about creating kin-ship to the beloved disciple and his mother, it’s as
if we see the inverted understanding of power that is for me a helpful way of understanding
Jesus’ suffering on the cross and understanding suffering in the world. The suffering, dying
Jesus on the cross is in no way the picture of an omnipotent God but the image of a God who
suffers in solidarity with those who suffer. It is a picture of power as mutual relationality. It
is the image of a God who calls us to resist suffering and challenges us to solidarity and hope
by creating kinship and human community.

        The kind of power of God which truly speaks on this day is the power of kenosis, the
power of sacrificial self-giving in love, a power paradoxically expressed in the most extreme
weakness, abandonment, despair and perceived powerlessness. Described by some as “the
theology of the cross”, the alternate to Christian triumphalism and cheap grace, it is the
absolute opposite of a quick-fix to suffering and any quick, easy answers. The theology of

DATE OF MEDITATION: 4/9/04                                                                    PAGE 2 OF 2
the Cross understands that the only power which can address suffering humanity is the power
of love, and that is a power made perfect in weakness, as is described in 2 Corinthians 12:9.

         The theologian Jurgen Moltmann has said that to recognize God in the crucified cross
means to understand oneself and this whole world with Auschwitz and Vietnam, with race-
hatred and hunger, as existing in the history of God. God is not dead, death is in God. God
suffers by us. God suffers with us. Suffering is in God…. Because God is with us, our
suffering is given a new perspective and a new meaning and the prospect of transformation,
not through power, but by participation. And because of that, the cross can become a symbol
of creative power, a symbol of redemptive suffering. The cross can show a withstanding
with power and practice of power itself, as life and love that do not deny suffering and pain,
but move through them to other experiences of life. This would be the theology of those
such as Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Desmond Tutu. How often have we
heard that global archbishop’s words reminding us that goodness is stronger that evil, Love
— hate, victory is ours through the one who loves us.

        Coming back to Jesus’ call from the cross to create community, when we hear the
context of suffering— I find Carter Heyward helpful when she says that it is as we withstand
and experience our connectedness with Jesus’ life of love and death of love AND our
connectedness with those who suffer, so that becomes our primary resource for compassion
and healing, the raw material of solidarity and liberation. And there lies the possibility of

         So then how are we to respond to Jesus’ call from the cross to create community, on
this Friday we call good?

    1.) To encounter the crucified cross means wrestling with decisions about the actual
        suffering we encounter in the world.
    2.) We need to recognize our unity as humans in our suffering. We must wrestle with
        how to respond to our human family, how to bind up the battered and bruised and
        tend the wounds, listen to the broken-hearted.
    3.) We need to recognize our own brokenness, our own capacity for evil and abuse— so
        that we can know Jesus’ forgiving and unconditional love for all of what we are in
        our weakness, brokenness and for the worst and best of who we are.

    When we all know all of the worst and best of who we are and that Jesus loves us
    unconditionally, all of us, we can respond in love to the unadulterated love who died for
    us on the cross.

        We can accept Jesus’ sacrificial love offering of death for all suffering.
        We can leave all burdens at the foot of the cross.
        We can allow ourselves to lose ourselves over that edge we fear so much, free-falling
        into God’s infinite love and grace in Jesus.

DATE OF MEDITATION: 4/9/04                                                                  PAGE 3 OF 3
          We can discover that God loves in beyond forever, beyond our worst selves, beyond
          our worst world and makes us all whole, makes all well.
          We can allow that love to transform us and give us the hope and the strength to
          transform the suffering of our world.


O God, in whose weakness is our strength,
You have taught us not to trust in armed might, nor in the weapons of war.
As Jesus also suffered outside the gate, let us go forth with him,
That the gates of hell may not prevail against us,
And we may embrace even our enemies.
Through Jesus Christ out Savior. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer.

DATE OF MEDITATION: 4/9/04                                                              PAGE 4 OF 4

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