For Goodness’ Sake

For Goodness’ Sake March 25, 2013

Every other week of the world, Friday is full of good things. Barbeques and kids’ sleepovers, happy hour and road trips, family game night or movie night, the beginning of Sabbath, baseball, and blessed downtime. But this week…this week, we say every year: what is possibly good about Friday?

We mark Jesus’ suffering death and explore stations of the cross. We hear the chilling last words. Silence, darkness, acts of God that shake the ground beneath our feet… Powerful, yes. Meaningful, certainly. Significant, transformative, humbling, awe-inspiring. All those things. But good? What’s possibly “good” about a day of violence, when the worst side of human nature is on grotesque display?

But really, this darkness of the human soul is not contained within a few pages of the gospel, nor to a single week of the liturgical calendar. We don’t have to look very far—the newsfeed, the front page, our own backyard—to see it on display, every day of the world.

Wait, I’m preaching myself into a dark corner…how is this good news again?

Of course, our faith in Jesus compels us to look past Friday, to see that new life and salvation lie just beyond the cross. Just right inside the mouth of that cave there… If we squint, we can glimpse the sun coming up over the mountain.

But somehow, looking ahead to Easter feels like cheating. The disciples didn’t get to do that. They didn’t spend their Friday shopping for dresses and coloring eggs. They might have had some dim hope, some shimmer of something that they could almost remember … What was that he said again? Something about rising from the dead…

No, surely, there is good news in Friday itself. Beyond the certainty of Sunday, beyond all those extra bulletins we printed, the new banners we raised, and the extra coat of polish on the floor. Somewhere, in the cloud of grief and pain and suffering, there is a word to live by.

Actually, there are 7.

Of those seven last words spoken from the cross, the most powerful, for me, is a simple introduction: “woman, here is your son. Friend, here is your mother.”  From the haze of a pain that most of us cannot imagine, Jesus had the selfless presence to give his mother and his best friend into each other’s keeping. In that simple transferral of love, the goodness of God would live on, regardless of what may or may not happen in a hillside cave, three days later.  The suffering one committed his love to those who remained, and then committed his own spirit to the goodness of God. Surely, he believed in that goodness, even unto his dying breath.

The goodness of Friday is not about being good for the sake of goodness. It is about being good to each other, because the Jesus we follow left us to each other’s keeping. Entrusted us to care for our neighbors, loving them as ourselves. With that truth as our story, we love and are loved, even in the midst of suffering; even if we once caused the suffering; even if the darkness says it’s sticking around for more than three days, and you can’t turn the page to see if it’s telling you the truth. God is good, every day. Believing that, we reflect that goodness to a neighbor; a long lost son, mother, sister, brother, friend, who, it turns out, was just waiting for a good word from us, to move into new life. Good news, on the worst day of your life, is the best possible news of all.

To survive the darkness of Friday—or any other day, in our news cycle—goodness must be defiant, and it must be shared.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we proclaim the goodness of God, even in the midst of terror; we bear witness to God’s steadfast presence, even in utter darkness; we believe that God’s grace reaches us, even on the worst day of our lives, even when the depths are self-inflicted. Having known Jesus in life, we believe in the goodness present at his death, even without peeking ahead to Sunday.

Faith rejects the darkness—implied or evident– and says there is more to life than this present suffering; there is more to me than this darkness within, and there is more to God than we can see from the cross.

May it be so, until Sunday.

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