Today is Good Friday. A day when millions of Christians all over the world observe, remember, give thanks for, and consider the crucifixion of Jesus. Notice I didn’t say celebrate. That word just doesn’t seem to fit. We celebrate one’s life, never their death. We celebrate Easter, but are unsure what to do with Good Friday. I always feel certain sadness on Good Friday because it reminds me of just how cruel humanity can be and how sorrowful life can be. And I always feel grateful on Good Friday when I consider how Jesus lived and died in the power of unending, unconquerable, undeniable Love. Sunday we will celebrate this very same Love that conquered even death and gathered humanity into God’s heart once and for all. But today I sit in remembrance. Maybe this year is more poignant to me than some because today I remember that my mother in law, who passed away this past October, was born on Good Friday. Her actual birthdate is April 18, 1930. That date fell on Good Friday the year she was born. She used to remind us of that often. Her mother named her Dolores, which means sorrow, as in the Spanish for the Virgin Mary, Maria de los Dolores. It seems fitting that her mother, a good Irish Catholic, would name her daughter, born on Good Friday, after the mother of God who underwent a sorrow worse than death on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. But while it seems fitting, it also seems kind of sad to me to name any child a name that means sorrow. Doesn’t seem like a very good welcome to life to me. Dolores’ life did have its certain share of sorrows, but it also, thankfully, held much joy.
Today, as I consider the year since last Good Friday, I am reminded of people who I have loved and lost this past year and of others I care about who have suffered great losses. And because of this the crucifixion of Jesus sits heavy on my heart. Why. Why death. I’m not even sure I will be able to get these musings down on paper enough to actually publish this post. But I do sit here and try…
For years I heard that Jesus had to die to pay some sort of price with his flesh and blood to satisfy the sin of my sorry ass. To satisfy my failure (and the failure of all humanity) before an angry God. This is not gospel; this is the penal substitutionary atonement theory. I was surprised, and relieved, when I learned this idea was not part of the original understanding of Christ but came around much much later. But, even though I went along with what I was told to believe, it never reached my heart’s knowing, you know that place where it is no longer about what you believe but about what you breathe. I knew that something was off when I would hear preachers preach how our sin was some unfathomable chasm between God and what God created. And that the only way we are saved from the fires of hell is by the tortuous death of Jesus. That God can’t look at us because God is pure and we are not, God can only look at Jesus standing between us. I couldn’t reconcile how God made us in God’s image only to find us too impure to claim. Or how God could somehow be confined. Or, how violence was the only way to…stop the violence.
Now, if you are still reading, by this point, you may be calling me a heretic. That’s okay with me. Much better people than me have been called heretics. I’m not denying that we humans are a broken lot of dust particles. Whether or not it happened exactly as the poem Genesis describes to us, it is clear that humanity has and continues to fall prey to all kinds of egotistical sin. In our attempts to be God, instead of Godlike (as in the way of Jesus, the way of unconditional love), we miss the mark continually. I’m painfully aware of my own flaws. What I’m saying is that Christ did not come to us as God incarnate in the person of Jesus in order to appease God’s anger, but rather out of God’s great and unconditional love for what God created, and in order to gather that creation back into the fold of God’s heart. Jesus stood, and stands, in the gap alright. But it is a gap that kept us from God, not God from us. God’s love has been there always. God is Love. The very breath of life in each one of us is God’s declaration of yes! Jesus was the human face of that yes. Jesus, in his full humanity suffered even death to show that God’s YES is stronger than any no we throw at it. He absorbed our mortality into his own body, rising again to gather us mortals into God’s eternity. To show us that God’s created matter matters to God. Jesus filled the gap, once and for all, between God and all that God created.
What a wonder-filled matter it is to consider the very power that lived in Jesus and raised him from the dead has been given to us as a gift. What a wonderful world it would be if we truly, not just believed, but breathed it.