Good Friday: The Day God Dies (or Ta-Nahesi Coates, Miroslav Volf & N.T. Wright have a conversation about bodies)

We are all gathered in a small chapel for our normal good Friday service, the candles are lit, the incense is ready, but then Ta-Nahesi Coates stands up in the middle of the service, faces the congregation, and begins to speak:

“When a black man dies, everyone wants to talk about forgiving the killer.They want to weave his death into some kind of higher meaning, some purpose. But I don’t believe in God. I believe in bodies. When I sat in the church Prince’s funeral, my black friend who was rich, well educated, whose mother had groomed him for Yale, when I sat there I couldn’t see a higher purpose in his death. Continue reading

That Saved a Wretch Like Me

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US Civil Rights leader Will Campbell

We’re heading into the bloodiness of Holy Week in just a little while. Good Friday looms at the end of Lent, this horrible black, silent day where we actually contemplate the slow suffocation of a Palestinian Jew on a cross. Uh, depressing. I’d much rather skip it and get to the chocolate Easter eggs on Sunday. Continue reading

An Uprooting

lent.jpgIt’s Lent. It’s a time we in the church make time and space for God to uproot things in our lives, so he can plant something good.

We start out by admitting our frailness, and our propensity to be bent along the lines of a broken and sinful world around us, instead of walking in the straight and life-giving path of life in the Spirit.

We receive ashes, slashed grey on our foreheads, and we’re told “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.” You are fleeting. You are frail. You will fail.

One of the most difficult and most obvious truths I learned the first time I went to counseling back in college was: “It takes work to be healthy.”  Continue reading

What do you say when it’s Friday all around?

Sometimes I wonder what to say and what to be silent about. I don’t often tell the sad stories. Not because there is not sadness, but because a sad story is a real story, about a real person. And I don’t want to make light of someone’s suffering by sharing it to make a sensation. I don’t want someone’s real pain to be something we can just sit back and consume along with our morning coffee. But there’s sadness in the world, and sometimes the sad stories need telling, too. 

Sometime’s it’s Friday all around.

There’s a teen on crutches, struggling to walk to school because he was stabbed at his high school. And there’s a boy who did the stabbing, and social workers say his home is not a safe place. And there’s a big brother breaking up a fight on his way to work, who’s now lying dead from a stab-wound. And there’s a little brother running up to a fieldworker, arms outstretched, tears streaming down his face,

“Uncle, Uncle, did they tell you? Do you know they stabbed my brother?” 

And the world spins back to that other one with arms outstretched crying out,“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

There’s sadness and darkness and the world rings with the hollow emptiness of death, and the question hangs in the air: Why? Why have you forsaken me? 

What do you say when it’s Friday all around? 

dancing

picture: Jabulani Kids Club Christmas Party 2012

When our eyes are still cloudy with tears, we cling to the fact that he is risen. When we feel alone we listen. We listen hard. He’s standing right next to us, saying our name. They haven’t taken him away. He’s here. He’s alive.

We grab on to this truth and don’t let go. We squeeze it until our knuckles are white and cramped. He IS alive. Death IS overthrown. And he IS here. And he IS making all things new. He is.

Quietly, bit by bit. All the dark bits will be rooted out. He hasn’t gone away to some cloudy place we must follow—he’s alive. The plan is not to scrap this world but to redeem it.  He’s risen, he’s risen indeed, that’s why we’re working,  joining him in the restoration of all things.

Until that final day when all the sad things will come untrue, and every tear is wiped, and his glory covers the world as the water covers the sea, we work and work and cry at the pain, and battle against the darkness, and stake out little corners where the light can shine brighter. We bandage the wounded and stand our ground, swearing our allegiance to the risen king who is coming back one day to reclaim his own. Even if we’re raggedy looking. Even if we don’t always know what to say. Even if our light flickers, it doesn’t go out.

This is a battle. On Fridays it looks like everything is over. But we cling to the hope that Sunday comes. 

And sometimes you’ve just got to say “Shut up devil, we’re going to dance anyway.”