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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Guest Post Interrupting the Silence: Good Friday? Really? A Sermon on Suffering and Death

Good Friday? Really? – A Sermon on Suffering and Death

by Michael K. Marsh
Good Friday: John 18:1-19:42
Holy Week, Good Friday, Crucifixion, Suffering, Death, John 18:1-19:42
By Advance at Dutch Wikipedia - painting from Matthias Grunewald, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons 
He was arrested, tied up, interrogated, tortured, and executed. After that his executioners took and divided his clothes among themselves. The cross is always a story of suffering and death. There’s just no way around it.
How is it that something as brutal as this has become the centerpiece of our faith?
There is something about this story that is both attractive and repulsive, compelling and embarrassing. We glory in the cross and we denounce such violence when it happens in the world today. So why is this story of suffering and death at the heart of our faith?
Some say that Jesus suffered and died because we are so bad. I don’t agree. I think Jesus suffered and died because we suffer and die. Who among us today has not known suffering, loss, sorrow? Who here has not wept and felt powerless at the suffering and loss of another? Who here has not in some way been touched and affected by death?
The cross is not exclusive to Jesus. It’s your story and my story. It’s the story of Syria, America, ISIS, the Mother of All Bombs, and Afghanistan. It’s the story of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. It’s the story of those we love and those we hate. It’s the story of those we know and those we will never meet. It’s the human story and the cross stands in the middle of that story.
How do you make sense of the cross? What do you do with the world’s suffering? How do you understand your suffering? What explanations do you have for the tragedies of life? What do you say when someone asks you about her or his suffering? This is where I get stuck. Maybe we all do. I have no good or easy answers. Do you? In the midst of this insanity the only thing I have is a God who suffers. That’s why we cling to and glory in the cross of Christ. It’s all we’ve got.
Jesus is never more real, more human, more embodied, more identified with us, than he is on the cross. It’s not at his birth, or in his teaching and preaching, or the miracles he performs, or even at his resurrection. It’s on the cross. It’s in his suffering and dying. It’s in our suffering and dying.
Almost everyone ran away from Jesus’ cross on that first Good Friday. I don’t think it’s because they were weak, unfaithful, or bad disciples. It’s because the cross of our life is just too damn painful. We want to get away from it. We want to find something good in the horrific. We want to explain away the suffering. We want to make sense of that which makes no sense. We want to flower the cross before it’s time and jump from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.
We cannot, however, get around the cross of suffering and death. We can only go through it. Today does not offer answers to or escape from our sufferings. More than any other day in the church year, today holds our sufferings before us. It's a hard day. I don't like it and I don't want to face my sufferings. I suspect you don't either. But there in the middle of our lives stands the cross.
What is your story of suffering and loss? When was a time you thought your heart couldn't break anymore than it already had? Who are the loved ones you’ve lost? What is the pain that never goes away? When has your world come to an end? When have you cried in the daytime, but had no answer from God, or by night as well but found no rest (Psalm 22:2)? What suffering do you bring today?
I wish I had answers and explanations. But I have none. I wish I could make sense of suffering, for you and for me. But I can't.
Jesus does not take us down from our cross. Instead, he gets up on the cross with us. That’s it. That's all I have to offer you. That’s all I know about this day and I believe it with all that I am and all that I have. Jesus does not take us down from our cross. Instead, he gets up on the cross with us.
Today is not called Easy Friday. It is not called Happy Friday. And it's not called Painless Friday. What is today called?
Good Friday? Really?
I don't know how or why it's Good Friday. I can only trust that it is, and that somehow Good Friday is what carries us through our sufferings and deaths. It did yesterday. It is today. And it will tomorrow.
Good Friday? Really?

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