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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  • Carol

    Perhaps the paradox of transformation is that it is by embracing the darkness with an unconditional, “inspite of” Love instead of “because of” love, rather than rejecting it, darkness, which so often is only a disordered love, may be overcome.

    “For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil. For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good?” – Augustine, Enchiridion (Marcus Dods translation, 1876)

    “The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved”. –Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

    “The contemplative finds God not in the embrace of “pure love” alone but in the prophetic ardor of response to the “Word of the Lord”: not in love considered as essential good but in love that breaks through into the world of sinful men in the fire of judgment and of mercy. The contemplative must see love not only as the highest and purest experience of the human heart transformed by grace, but as God’s unfailing fidelity to unfaithful man.” ~Merton, Thomas. Contemplation in a World of Action

    “If we can love the men we cannot trust (without trusting them foolishly) and if we can to some extent share the burden of their sin by identifying ourselves with them, then perhaps there is some hope of a kind of peace on earth, based not on the wisdom and manipulations of men but on the inscrutable mercy of God.” ~ Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation

    “We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.” –Gladstone

    “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” –Teilhard de Chardin

    “In order to avoid the sin of reviling the world, we have to love the world…(We must love it) the more desperately the more horrible and irreducible it becomes. Then, little by little, we shall see the universal horror relax and enfold us in more-than-human arms.” ~ Teilhard de Chardin

  • Johnny Wray

    The best Good Friday reflection I’ve read in a very long time. Thanks, Erin.

  • Bob Fugate

    The reflection was just outstanding a page from your life showing the soul searching you are doing and the depth of your train of thought. God is in your heart and the rules that govern our action are there. Our heart is a computer snip into the real us and it is a picture that shows God the true person we are.

    God loves all of the people and does not want to loose any of people he created. I believe that is why he sent his only son to pay the full price for anyone that has faith in God and who loves their neighbor as God loves us. It is truly hard too understand why Jesus had to pay that price as it is hard to understand why there is so much evil or sin in the world. Why then; when God made us why did he not make us perfect like him. We will only know the answer to that when we see God face-to-face. I believe that God being the know all see all, finally came to the conclusion that the only way to have the people he created with him was to make it very simple so that we people here on earth have a easy choice, just choose God ! Even from the very start of creation humans were not able to follow simple rules in order to be God’s people or to be with God in the hereafter, so God simplified the rules to one rule believe in me.

    Again a great Blog