Saturday, April 7, 2012

What's a Word?

A meditation I offered at St. James' Parish, Wilmington NC, in honor of Jesus' death. Good Friday 2012.

What’s a word, anyway?

Breath forced out of tight and tainted lungs,

Pressed between two cracked lips

And rolled off a tongue more used to blasphemies than blessing.

If words are just a feeble attempt

By a man to make sense of what he sees,

Than I could use words to fill all the seas

In the world and still fall short of making sense

Of the Cross.

Of the cross on which hangs

The Firstborn of all creation,

The Firstborn suffering creation’s fate

To die broken, bloody and battered

Though that same Firstborn

Saw divinity not as something to be grasped

With violent and vicious hands,

Instead using his hands, now enfleshed,

To heal beggars and blind men,

harlots and hungry women.

Tenderly touching the wounds of the world

With the gentleness of a mother,

A gentleness learned from his mother,

The same mother who watched him die

at the foot

of the Cross.

And what must she feel?

She who brought forth from her womb

The very life that makes her own life worth living,

The very life that offers life to a world addicted to death,

The very life that knows that life only comes through his death.

‘I’ve come that you might have life,

And have it to the full.’

But to speak life into the face of death

Makes one not wise but simply a fool.

Ah, but foolishness isn’t something to be scorned, says St. Paul.

For the foolishness of God has shamed

The wisdom of the world, and the weakness of God,

Yes, the weakness of God,

shows its strength to be stronger

Than even the feistiest of the feisty, the mightiest of the mighty.

The weakness of God…

The foolishness of God…

The weakness?

Yes, the weakness

It’s weak for a man

to stare deeply into the eyes of his betrayer

and not lift a finger in self-defense.

It’s weak for a man

To stay silent in a courtroom

When all the charges against him are worth less

Than the most worthless copper coins.

And it’s most certainly foolishness for a God

Who has all the power to make us nothing more than dust

To stay his hand, enter into this world as flesh,

And declare with his own life that forgiveness is a must.

But here we are,

On a Friday afternoon,

Remembering the story of a God-made-flesh

journeying slowly, and steadily, towards his own tomb.

And this journey towards the cross

Was not sudden, nor unforeseen.

It was deliberate, definitive,

though it certainly wasn’t his dream.

It’s a journey fraught with pain,

And the anguish of isolation,

As a great man prays alone

While his friends drift off to sleep

And a mob with burning torches

Seeks to kill him while he weeps.

Oh, my God…how could this be,

That the God of all creation is wrapped

In chains and led to Pilate

And thus is damned and then forsaken?

I’ll tell you how, my friends,

if you’ll only lend an ear,

he walked that road of suffering

so that he could draw us near.

Endured the scorn of Roman rule

And the pious Pharisees,

And faced denial from his disciples

So that ultimately he might free

The ones in need, the ones in pain

A teenage mother filled with shame facing judgment from her community

A bullied boy whose sexual orientation doesn’t afford him any immunity

A strung out addict in the gutter with no drive for opportunity

Or even the Blessed Body of Christ whose sins and scandals have driven it to disunity.

Everything you could imagine, be it sin, or scandal, or shame

Was carried on the back of the man from Nazareth that dark and dreadful day.

To Golgotha he walked and crawled

To Golgotha where Mary cried

To Golgotha where he would shout out ‘It is finished!

To Golgotha where he would die.

To set us free.

To set US free.

To set us free!

What’s a word, anyway?

I suppose it’s not just breath.

For I stand before you and with words

Proclaim the glory of Jesus’ death.

Crucified savior, naked God, you hang disgraced and powerless. Grieving, we dare to hope, as we wait at the cross with your mother and your friend

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