Archives for posts with tag: Good Friday

This is Passion Week: from the volatility of Palm Sunday to the violence of Good Friday. I call Good Friday Armistice Day—the day that Jesus put an end to the need for animal sacrifice in worship and also the need for human sacrifice in war.

The Reformation was an important time of church reform but the dark side of the Reformation was that it was also a time of unbridled violence involving the old and crumbling Holy Roman Empire and numerous smaller jurisdictions: German principalities, various independent city states, and unorganized peasant groups—all of them aligned with some reforming and protesting branch of Christianity. Perhaps the most infamous of the violent events was the Munster debacle, climaxing on Easter, 1535. It was a tragic and terrible event that illustrated the extremes of the Anabaptist movement.

Although the Munsterites may have been on the fringes of Anabaptism—a radicalization of a radical movement—the events at Munster became very influential in shaping the theology and practice of Dutch Anabaptists for generations to come. Munster was a defining moment even if it was something to react against. My theory is that the terrible violence at Munster was instrumental in forming the strong pacifist theology of Menno Simons and subsequent generations of Mennonites.

Consider Menno’s own words: “After this happened [the bloodshed at Munster] the blood of these poor misguided sheep fell so hot on my heart that I could not stand it. I saw that these zealous people voluntarily gave their lives and possessions for their [false] faith and beliefs… while I myself continued in my comfortable life simply in order that I might enjoy physical comfort and remain outside the cross of Christ.”

After much agonized soul-searching Menno left the safety of the priesthood and joined the fledgling Anabaptist movement. He wrote about his developing convictions: “Christ is our fortress; patience our weapon of defense; the Word of God our sword; and victory a courageous, firm unfeigned faith in Jesus Christ. And iron and metal spears and swords we leave to those who, alas, regard human blood and swine’s blood about alike.”

And what of the violent debacles in our world today? The situations are much more complex in a global society but some of the roots are the same. Do these situations break our hearts the way the Munster debacle broke Menno’s heart?

Passion Week moves through all kinds of emotion: from the celebration parade of Palm Sunday to the sorrow of violent death on Good Friday to the surprise of resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Life too is a mixed bag. There are psalms of lament and there are psalms of praise. There are days we mourn death, brokenness, and pain. There are days we celebrate birth, healing, and pleasure. Sometimes in fact they are mixed up with each other. Sometimes in the midst of suffering there are the best parties. We are “dancing in the dragon’s jaws!”

I entered the Lent season with some weariness and despondency this year. Therefore, I decided to do something different this year than give up chocolate or dessert. (I have enjoyed some almost every day of Lent!) I decided to give up wallowing and do something cheery and positive for someone every day. It’s been good for me.

Sometimes people like me say that positivity and celebration in the midst of suffering and death, trivializes the pain, but that is not necessarily the case. We acknowledge that not all is right with the world, but we can put on the “garment of praise” in the midst of that. Just for a moment we are transported to another realm where death and crying and pain shall be no more. We are present to all our passions and the passion of our Lord.

Praise and deep celebration is a healing balm. Sometimes such praise is an act of the will. As I turn my will I am drawn into praise by the presence of my faith community who shares my pain but also lifts me up out of my self-deprecation. I can hardly form the words, but as my feet begin to move and my body begins to sway to the rhythm of the people and the music around me I am transformed by the presence of the Spirit.

We are wretched. We are lost. We are in darkness. God is absent. Yet out of that abyss we cry. And a cry, even of absence, is the cry of faith towards the Faithful One. We celebrate the light even though we see it not. We party the kingdom even though it seems only a mustard seed. Even though my soul is knotted and numb it can unravel with praise. I want to be present to all the passions of Passion Week: the pain, the pleasure, and even the mundane.

Last year I created a series of 3 self portraits for our church’s stations of the cross Lenten art display. They were entitled “I don’t know you.” [You can come to our church to see them and other provocative art work hanging in our hallways.] We find it easy to critique Peter for his denials of Jesus when the pressure became too great, but if I am honest I would have to say that I do the same on a regular basis. This thought inspired the art pieces.

This year I managed to deny Jesus in a small but tangible way in my Lenten practices [not to mention the rest of my life]. For many years our family has given up dessert for Lent. We are not legalistic about it and to make it easier we have celebrated the resurrection every Sunday [since the 40 days of lent do not include Sundays]. Our young adult children are on their own and they have dropped the dessert idea and have developed their own practices that are meaningful to them. Our youngest son also decided to rebel and gave up computer games instead of dessert. My wife and I continued the old tradition but it has become stale. We found excuses and devious methods of getting around it. We became poor examples of pharisees. I suppose we could say we taught our children well and now they are teaching us!

My son Adriel continues the tradition this year of identifying with Peter. He wrote the following to be delivered on Good Friday morning at our church’s worship gathering. He is not only doing Lent better than his old man but writing poetry that exceeds anything I’ve ever done [proud father here]. The profound thing about the poem is the identification with Peter and his denial to be sure, but also the word of hope that Jesus uses this same Peter on which to build the church. I am thankful for Christ’s message of grace and forgiveness in that he also gives me a role in the church despite my repeated denials.

I am the betrayer.

I am the weak.

The liar.

The violent.

I am the rock, upon whom the church will be built.

I am Peter.

I was there:

His friend; his brother; his servant.

On his deathbed, his final hours,

He called to me,

And James, and John.

His final hours:

“Stay here and keep watch with me?”

In agony;

Alone,

He prayed—

For we were asleep.

Could we not watch with him for one hour;

On his deathbed,

Pray with him?

“He is at hand that doth betray me.”

Nay,

“I shall lay down my life for thy sake;”

Yet,

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee,

The cock shall not crow, til thou hast denied me thrice.”

I am the blind,

The deaf.

“He is at hand that doth betray me.”

Nay Lord!

I shall not pray
with you.

I shall not sit with you,

On your deathbed,

In your final hours!

I shall take action.

Wherefore I sleep,

Wherefore I rise,

I lent him not mine ear.

“Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake?”

Nay Lord,

I shall flee.

“He is at hand that doth betray me.”

“I know not what thou sayest.”

An oath,

“I do not know the man.”

Yea,

Even I curse and swear,

“Goddamn,

I

Know

Not

The man!”

Of whom do I speak,

O Simon,

O Rock,

O Peter?

Of whom do I speak?

“He is at hand that doth betray me.”

I am he.

And I shall weep.

Bitterly,

From beyond the walls.

I could not watch with him,

On his deathbed,

In his final hours.

I could not stand with him,

When the kiss came:

“Hold him fast.”

I could not be for him,

Outside the walls,

In the morning.

I am he:

The rock, on whom the church will be built.

I am he:

Whom Jesus loved.

And yet I slept.