thinking theology

Good Friday 2016

Why do I dread Holy Week? I think it is because I am a fairly self-contained person. To engage authentically in the stories of this week, I have to be vulnerable; I have to let the abrasive winds of loss and regret scour my heart to leave it open enough for Christ to rise in it again. My heart and mind require openness so this ancient story will be a pathway to and from the cross again.

People often say about the cross, that Jesus died for our sins, remembering the story of the garden; but there is another way to think about this link between the garden and the cross. Genesis speculates that humanity was formed in a particular kind of image of the divine. All creation bears the stamp of the Holy, but humanity is invited not only to live but to walk with God. I think that means not only to be alive but to reflect on what it means to be alive. We were shown a way in which we could choose how we would live, beyond mere reflection. We chose to bite into moral choice. What accompanies that choice is self-consciousness, awareness of being separate and mortal. And so God clothes us with ego, to protect our vulnerable souls as we learn how to cope with being human.

As Holy Week unfolds, we notice the quiet also growing. When a person dies, we whisper. There is a quiet that fills the space of breathing until the sounds of our grief replace it.

I think that quiet is found also at the centre of the cross; the place where all contradictions, all choices, all possibilities, face each other, held in a dynamic tension. In that place, we are invited to place every loss, every disappointment, every regret, every unfulfilled dream. Jesus’ arms are stretched wide to accept all the loss we feel since the garden changed for us.

Jesus does not die for our sinfulness, but to complete the garden story. In the cross we see a sign of how everything harmful will be captured and rendered ultimately futile. Jesus dies as will all that lives, but he dies as one who heals and loves and forgives. This is how we are invited to live in his image now. We are called to grow beyond the burden of morality, a set of standards limited by culture and custom, to the responsibility of compassion. Morality may be the size of an apple, but compassion is the size of the cosmos. Love and mercy become the new standards. Restorative justice replaces the delusion of impartiality of the law. This is the radical freedom of which Paul teaches. Free yet bound by the constraints of compassion and empathy.

In the silence, after the weeping and shouting, comes the time when we wait with God. We thought we had been exiled, but now we see that we are always at home in the garden of holiness. We thought we were being punished, but now we see we have been invited to share in the sorrow of God. We thought we were supposed to be conquerors, now we see we are meant to be healers. We thought that death meant ending, now we see it means changing.

The cross holds all the misery and cruelty of life, but it also holds promise and freedom.

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