08 April, 2007

Easter: We Are Brought Back

“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer." Isaiah 54:7-8

The brief moment has passed. Sunday is here. The Christ is alive. We are gathered back. Scattered humanity is returned to their appropriate place through the power of Jesus' resurrection. We had abandoned God and He brought us back.

The real truth of Easter is that God holds us fast, whoever we are, whatever we've done and whatever our situation, however you and I may feel or whatever we may think, no matter how bad a mood we're in, God chooses us. He abandoned Christ and now will never do the same to us. This is the good news. And this is good news for me by the very fact that I still choose again and again to abandon Him. In spite of this, He is present, he does not abandon us, even when we cannot help thinking ourselves abandoned. The truth is that He is completely and utterly ours and we may be completely and utterly His.

He is risen. He is risen indeed.

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07 April, 2007

For a Brief Moment: Good Friday

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34.

Easter is on the horizon but we have nothing to celebrate on Easter if we have nothing to contemplate on Good Friday. We can not understand the joy, the glory and the hope of Easter if we do not dwell on Good Friday. What will happen on Sunday is the explanation, the revelation, of the mystery which takes place today on Friday. But it is a 'Good' Friday because we know our Friday has a Sunday. It would be a day of mourning if there were no day of resurrection ahead. By the same token however an Easter without a Good Friday could only be a day of empty festivity, which it has become to so many these days. So let us celebrate Easter properly and remember his death today.

What do you think it was like on Good Friday? What was the moment like when God breathed his final breath? Matthew describes it this way:
"From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” — which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And then later,
"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit."
Now I've often been shocked to think that in the last moments of Christ's life he'd cry out these words of abandonment, especially considering he'd just previously prayed, "Not my will, but your will be done." But I believe that we must hold on to this cry of abandonment, that to remember Friday as Good is to hold on to this abandonment. Here's why - Jesus shouted out that question in that way at that point because he literally could not help but feel and experience the abandonment of God for a brief moment. And this abandonment was horrific. It is the father turning his back on his Son, knowing the Son has done nothing to deserve this and knowing that he could stop it and knowing that his Son knows that he could stop it. It is the Father choosing to abandon a Son who has done everything he can to follow and obey Him. It was not Jesus abandoning his Father. No, in fact by being willing to be abandoned Jesus was determined to let only God's will be done. Christ set upon a journey that could only lead him to the place where God wanted to, and only could, abandon him, and actually did abandon him.
This is Friday. This is that brief moment.

So what journey was it that led Christ to this abandonment? Why would a Father choose to abandon his innocent Son? It was his journey to humanity; his journey to you; his journey to me. He journeyed into darkness, where Israel remained because of their great unfaithfulness, where all of humanity belongs because of our constant rebellion in the face of our Creator. It is His journey to us who have chosen to abandon Him and abandon Him again and again. God defies our decision to abandon Him and in Jesus, God entered into our godforsakenness.

Why does He do this? Why does He journey to those who have chosen to abandon Him? The answer is simple and profound and why we can call Friday 'Good.' God is for his people Israel. He is for the whole of humankind. He is for you and He is for me. And in the place of us He is the one struck by God's wrath and abandoned by God so that apart from Him no one need suffer again in the same way. He journeyed into our willful abandoning of God which should have been our due, to take it upon Himself and in the divine power granted to Him, to remove it, so that it would not be necessary, or permissible to come our way again. Jesus shouts the question, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" so that neither you or I would ever be able to.

Today is Friday and, “For a brief moment I abandoned you..." Isaiah 54:7

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