Dear Members and Friends,
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.
-The Gospel according to Mark, 15:33 (NRSV)
Because Good Friday is not about us trying to “get right with God.” It is about us entering the difference between God and humanity and just touching it for a moment. Touching the shimmering sadness of humanity’s insistence that we can be our own gods, that we can be pure and all-powerful.
-Nadia Bolz-Weber, 21st century public theologian
As I write these words it is not quite 3:00 p.m. on Friday. Here in Miami there has not been darkness covering the land since 12 noon. In fact, there has been bright sunshine out of a piercingly blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds. The irony of the outside environment struck me as we began the Good Friday observance at noon with several congregations coming together in our sanctuary to listen to reflections from six different pastors on the theme “Were You There.”
In those reflections we heard from Simon Peter, who encouraged us not to miss our golden opportunities to stand up with Jesus. We heard from a thief who was crucified with Jesus, who reminded us how Jesus had nothing but words of love and forgiveness for those who abused him and killed him. We heard from Mary of Clopas, the aunt of Jesus, who stood by and witnessed the horror and suffering of Jesus and his mother as do so many people who stand by and witness the suffering of mothers and fathers who far too often lose a child to gun violence.
Through all the reflections the sun shone brightly and I wondered, “Where is the darkness?” But the truth is the darkness is pervasive in our world today. The darkness of gun violence which continues to take children and you and Black men and women in disproportionate numbers. The darkness of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace, in schools, in the dating scene, churches, and in male/female relationships in general. The darkness of xenophobia, the fear of the stranger, which leads us to build walled & gated communities, our President to advocate for walling off our national borders, our Immigration authorities to accelerate deportations which lead to people living in fear in the shadows. The darkness of homophobia, which is raising its head once again, after so much progress seemed to be made in such a short time.
Even with the sun shining brightly, there is so much darkness and shadow covering our land. When we are confronted by that shadow and darkness we often are moved to the same cry of dereliction that Jesus uttered: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But John Mogabgab, founding editor for Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life once offered a different perspective on the meaning of that darkness:
The agonizing hours of that terrible afternoon stretch out between two definitive marks of our tortured human condition: the crucifixion, through which a world delirious with fear and confusion immobilizes the incarnate God on the wooden crossbeam of its own alienation, and then death, that cosmic affront to the Creator of life. The immovable solidity of the cross and the irrevocable silence of death frame a vision of God’s most profound vulnerability. … What is this darkness? Perhaps it is the mystery of divine vulnerability. In the secret depths of this mystery a new work of immeasurable proportions is underway, a new destiny is forming for the creation which hitherto had been condemned to death….
There was one more, final reflection: from the Centurion who oversaw the crucifixion of Jesus. He uttered the last word, at least in Mark’s Gospel. As he watched Jesus die he proclaimed that “Surely, this man was God’s son.” While that was a profound proclamation, we were reminded that in truth, the Centurion did not have the last word. God always has the last word. Which God did not utter on this day, when the land was cloaked in shadow and darkness. God did not respond on this day to Jesus’ cry of dereliction, or to any of the cry’s from the broken hearts of any of the women or disciples who had been following Jesus.
No, God’s last word was not uttered on Good Friday. But it was shouted out on Easter Sunday. So whatever you are dealing with: the death of a loved one; a difficult diagnosis; the stress of a job with too high expectations leading to too little life; the loneliness of a broken heart; chronic pain; whatever shadows are covering the land for you, be sure to gather with us, or other brothers and sisters in the faith on Easter Sunday. Come together to hear God’s last word proclaiming that God has more in store for you; more life for you; more joy for you. Good Friday and the shadows of crucifixion and death are never the last word!
See you in church.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida