Advertisements
Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Good Friday’

The_Church_of_the_Holy_Sepulchre-JerusalemOne of my biggest disappointments on our visits to Jerusalem is that the traditional site of Golgatha and the garden tomb of Jesus are completely encased, totally overwhelmed and obscured, by the church that was built to preserve and honor them.

Not long ago, I was driving in Dallas with our grandsons after a hockey game, when I realized that we were not far from Commerce Street and Dealey Plaza, so spontaneously, I decided to drive by and give them a little glimpse of the history of what happened there in 1963.  Little has changed on that historical spot.  The “grassy knoll” is there, the overpass, and the street follows the same path, so you know as you drive over the marker on the street that you are passing over the very spot where JFK died.

What Christians have done in Jerusalem would be like Americans enclosing all of Dealey Plaza in one or more connected museums, covering the grassy knoll in marble to “preserve” it, and allowing tourists to peer through a window the size of a 1950s TV screen at the X on the street, marking where the first bullet struck.

It’s quite true that landmarks, especially open-air landmarks, if not protected, tend to erode and disappear.  Even the museums that are built to protect them cannot really prevent disaster. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem  has burned several times, was literally shaken to pieces by earthquakes, and has been severely damaged by wars over the centuries.

One conclusion, therefore, is that in our attempts to preserve, we obscure at best and perhaps destroy that which we seek to venerate.

Sometime before 1839, a workman placed a ladder on a ledge above the door of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Shortly thereafter, the Christian churches (and Muslims) who were fighting over political control of the physical site agreed to a status quo for the sake of peace.  Today, 175 years later, that ladder remains above the door of the church.  Once again, because of the extreme desire for preservation, which in this case meant maintaining the status quo in all respects, even the peripheral becomes “holy.”   The ladder is today called the immovable ladder and is pointed out by the tourist guides.  Though not yet holy, I have no doubt that someone will find a way to sanctify it.

Another conclusion is that preservation often leads to defending the status quo, which inadvertently can transform common elements into sacraments. 

Today is Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday. We are remembering that Jesus was crucified.  For six hours, he suffered physically and spiritually because of our sins.

Finally, he died; the Son of God experienced the Curse in His flesh, but His Spirit passed into the hands of His Father who honored His death with Life.

It’s really not very important for Christians to preserve the hill or the cross or the robe or the tomb.  Preservation seems a dangerous and ultimately fruitless occupation.  It can lead to obscuring, even destroying that which is real!

What happened on that Friday really happened! Let’s don’t build museums around it; let’s don’t die warring over the status quo.

Let’s let the simple fact be true enough that we spend our lives believing it and living out its implications:

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:8-11, NLT)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

dying-rose-bwc-big.jpgSince my Mom’s death in January, Sherrylee and I have spent five weeks in Europe, doing what we call site visits for the Let’s Start Talking Ministry

I think you will understand if I share with you that much of my thinking since January has been about death and dying.  I consciously decided not to write about it then because we Americans just don’t want to be reminded about our mortality too often.  We like happy endings.

The Germans even have the word Happy-end to describe American culture.  We like that—but they don’t really mean it as a compliment. They use that word more to describe Pollyannaism or a naïve positive bias toward life.

However, . . . .

Here we are just a few days from Easter, moving rapidly towards the Cross and the Tomb on Friday, so I suppose we must talk about death and dying.

The TV version of Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Jesus was shown last Sunday. I didn’t watch it. I still haven’t recovered from Jim Bishop’s The Day Christ Died (1957) that preachers used over and over again to describe in lurid detail the horrors of the crucifixion.  You certainly haven’t forgotten the images of the savagely beaten and crucified Christ from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2005).

But here is what I’ve been thinking:  the horrible physical suffering of Jesus was not the death that Jesus pled with His Father about in Gethsemane.  Other people have died more violently than Jesus did. Others have been tortured longer than the six hours that Jesus hung on the Cross.

Our fascination with the details of his physical death represent our own fears of death—especially a violent, painful death.

Three weeks ago, Sherrylee and I flew one stretch of our European trip on Germanwings, the same airline whose plane crashed in France last week.  That same co-pilot who on that day killed himself and all the passengers might have been sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of our flight the week before.

Should we be afraid to fly Germanwings?   Should we be afraid to fly?   Should we be afraid?

Jesus was not afraid of death.  He turned his face toward Jerusalem, saying “It’s time!”  He rode the donkey through the gates of Jerusalem amid the Hallelujah’s and the waving palm branches, fully aware that the next crowd he saw would be calling for his crucifixion.  He praised the anointing of his feet because he knew the poor would always be with them, but he would not be.  He broke the bread and drank the cup of Passover with his closest followers, knowing that his next drink would be vinegar.

Jesus was not afraid of death. He went to his death, not because of the scheming of the Jews, not because of the callousness of Pilate, not because of the cold-bloodedness of the Roman soldiers, but because He was obedient:  by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8)

Jesus was not afraid of death.  He knew that Friday must come before Sunday, so every day of his ministry, really every day of his life, he walked deliberately toward Friday, not rushing, but at the appointed pace, and when the Friday had come, Jesus was there.

We should not be afraid of death. We have the same promise of Life that Jesus had, but as with Him, so with us, Friday must come before Sunday.  To walk in His steps means to walk deliberately toward Friday, not rushing, but at the appointed pace.

There is no promise of eighty years, no promise of a peaceful passing, no promise that we won’t die before or after someone we love, no promise of anything but that our Father will receive our spirits and keep us until Sunday morning when the dead in Christ will rise!

Life is more certain than death!  Don’t be afraid of death.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: