From the flist:
* Meditation for Good Friday
* "The Seven Last Words" by Mark Strand [ha! Will posted that, too]
From the FCS UCC Good Friday booklet:
To sacrifice something is to make it holy by giving it away for love.
Do not seek death. Death will find you.
But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.
NO DANCESA religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.
-Ann Weems, Kneeling in Jerusalem
There are no dances for dark days.
There is no music to bellow the pain.
The best we can do is to remain
still and silent
And try to remember the face of God . . .
and how to kneel
and how to pray.
Jesus came, not to eliminate suffering, but to fill it with his presence.
Henri Barbusse tells of a conversation overheard in a dugout full of wounded men during the First World War. One of them who knows he has only moments to live says to another man, "Listen, Dominic, you've led a bad life. Everywhere you are wanted by the police. But there are not convictions against me. My name is clear, so here, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, my good name, my life and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death."
They gave our master a crown of thorns. Why should we expect a crown of roses.
To be a Christian is to cease saying, "Where the Messiah is there is no misery" and to begin to say "Where there is misery there is the Messiah."
We trust that beyond the absence, there is presence
That beyond the pain, there is healing
That beyond the anger, there is peace
That beyond the hurting, there is forgiveness
That beyond the silence, there is the word
That through the word, there is acceptance
That through acceptance, there is love and life renewed.
The abyss of God's love is deeper than the abyss of death. And the one who overcomes a fear of death lives as though death were a past and not a future experience.
-William Sloan Coffin
Q: Look at all those suffering people, God. Why don't you do something?
A: I did. I made you.
Jesus did not die at the hands of muggers, rapists, or thugs. He fell into the well-scrubbed hands of deeply religious people, society's most respected members.
If a man just happens to be 36 years old, as I happen to be, and some great truth stands before the door of his life, some great opportunity to stand up for that which is right and that which is just, and he refuse to stand up because he wants to live a little longer....or he is afraid he will lose his job...he may go on and live until he's 80, and the cessation of breathing in his life is merely the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Death is what takes place within us when we look upon others not as gift, blessing or stimulus, but as threat, danger, competition. It is the death that comes to all who try to live by bread alone. This is the death that the Bible fears and gives us good reason to fear. It is not the final departure we think of when we speak of death, it is that purposeless, empty existence devoid of human relationships and filled with anxiety, silence and loneliness.
The cross Jesus died on reminds me that his Way is not the way of violence against his enemies or victory over those who do not believe in him, but the way of self-annihilating love for God and neighbor. Because this is a difficult way, I can understand why some Christians see it as a kind of bluff on God's part: the temporary casting of Jesus in the role of a humble servant until the last act of the play, when he will return to the state a mighty victor---but I cannot make anymore sense out of "triumphant Christians" than I can out of "conquering servants" or "warrior babies." If Jesus meant for his followers to rule the world, then why did he teach them to wash feet?
-Barbara Brown Taylor
I do not expect ever to solve the mystery of the cross, but I do take heart in the unlikely good news that the cross has already solved me.
-Barbara Brown Taylor
We have crucified him over and over and over again---or stood way out on the edges of the crowd while someone else did---keeping a safe distance between ourselves and the one on the cross---who is, after all, beyond help.
"Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." Whom was Jesus talking about? Us. He was talking about us. He even gave us the benefit of the doubt, by assuming that we have no idea how much harm we do---by our inaction a well as by our action, by our collusion as well as by our outright contempt for those whom we declare "the enemies of Christ." How often, in our attempts to defend him, have we ended up killing him instead?
-Barbara Brown Taylor
The cross and the lynching tree interpret each other. Both were public spectacles, usually reserved for hardened criminals, rebellious slaves, and rebels against the Roman state and falsely accused militant blacks who were often called "black beasts" and "monsters in human form" for their audacity to challenge white supremacy in America... The cross and the lynching tree need each other: the lynching tree can liberate the cross from the false pieties of well-meaning Christians... The cross can redeem the lynching tree, and thereby bestow upon lynched black bodies an eschatological meaning for their ultimate existence. The cross can also redeem white lynchers, and their descendants, too, but not without profound cost, not without the revelation of the wrath and justice of God, which executes Divine judgment, with the demand for repentance and reparation, as a presupposition of divine mercy and forgiveness. Most whites want mercy and forgiveness, bug not justice and reparations; they want reconciliation without liberation, the resurrection without the cross.
-James Cone at HDS 2006
from Monty Python's Life of Brian***
[A line of prisoners files past a jailer.]
Jailer: Good. Out of the door, line on the left, one cross each. [Next prisoner.] Crucifixion?
Prisoner 2: Er, no, freedom actually.
Prisoner 2: Yeah, thy said I hadn't done anything and I could go and live on an island somewhere.
Jailer: Oh I say, that's very nice. Well, off you go then.
Prisoner 2: No, I'm just pulling your leg, it's crucifixion really.
Jailer: [laughing] Oh yes, very good. Well...
Prisoner 2: Yes I know out of the door, one cross each, line on the left.
I passed Jeremy across the street this evening and when I realized he was waiting for me I said, "I'm going to different church," and he said, "You see the hand?" (a "talk to the hand" gesture, not flipping me off). Except I'd forgotten that FCS UCC wasn't actually doing an evening Good Friday service, so I went to CAUMC after all. I told Jeremy, "I lied," and explained that last night had been the most uninspiring Maundy Thursday service ever, hence my hesitation. Marla said she had heard it was amazing and was sorry she hadn't been there. I said that it tried, and there wasn't anything offensive, I just didn't find it powerful, but that I'm an outlier in most everything.
The Good Friday service was basically exactly the same as last year -- different Call to Worship, and the last Song of Response was "So Much Wrong," which I think Tallessyn said was a Middle Eastern song.
Again, the prayer themes seemed mostly unconnected to the verses they accompanied, which I didn't like. I also wasn't a fan of how it's all "losses," because what I've been really thinking about is brokenness -- and the losses I have thought about don't necessarily fit into these categories so well.
We did the Affirmation of Faith responsively, and I was really struck by this portion:
When hope and fear were raging, when love was beaten down,I've been thinking about the Creed recently, specifically the parts I hesitate to Affirm, so the echoes of Christ's descent into hell particularly stuck out at me.
when hope was nailed and left to die,
Christ entered into our deep secret places
and went down into death to find us.
Another change from last year's service is that after A Word of Release (John 19:29-30), there was Prayer of Response "A Loss of Life" and then a Stripping of the Altar. We had just all symbolically laid our burdens on the Communion table (empty chalice on its side, plate with some cubes of bread), and the first thing Tiffany and Judy did was to put the stones back in the basin and take it away, and I had this initial immediate reaction of distress, like we were being erased.
The last thing was Tiffany lifted the open Bible off its holder, said, "It. Is. Finished." and slammed it shut. She has strong presence, but stuff like that is always also particularly striking because of the contrast to how she normally does things.
There was silence for some time, and then Tiffany relit the big purple candle and brought it back and gave us a Blessing, noting that even in the darkness, "We know how this story ends."
In Daily Psalms, I'm at 44. It begins as a praise to God for being on the speaker's side, but after the Selah things change.
9 But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.
17 All this happened to us,
though we had not forgotten you
or been false to your covenant.
18 Our hearts had not turned back;
our feet had not strayed from your path.
19 But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals
and covered us over with deep darkness.
23 Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?
25 We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
26 Rise up and help us;
redeem us because of your unfailing love.