and are so far from my cry,
and my words of distress?--Psalm 22:1
Today, we begin the sobering walk toward Good Friday. Of course, in Episcopal Churches across the country, we plowed right through the week in a span of 20 minutes. A celebratory walk inside the church with palms and singing, "Hosanna! Hosanna!" goes quickly depressive when we launch into the Passion Gospel reading in which we crucify Christ. I have already made my thoughts known on this one in past entries, and my theological viewpoint hasn't changed: I don't care if it's convenient for people to get Good Friday on Palm Sunday, so they don't have to come back to church at the end of the week. If the chuch can't communicate to its people why this is an important set of Holy Days, and important enough for them to come back one extra time, then the church is undermining its own relevance.
That gripe aside, when I thought of the reading today, and I thought about Jesus dying in a most grusome and agonizing way, I thought those words of the start of Psalm 22: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
I suppose Jesus could have been lifing those words upward toward God, the Father who sent him. He could be lodging his complaint against the Almighty for leaving him to this fate. He could be feeling quite alone in this time.
I also wondered if those words are directed to his disciples. They beat feet when they realized that the authorities were coming for Jesus rather than face guilt-by-association and wind up nailed to a tree, too.
And then I thought how these words of Jesus and the psalmist not only speak for us (afterall, how many times has anyone of us felt abandoned at a time of need?); these words speak to us. They level a certain accusation at us for our own behavior and the ways that we, who profess to love and follow Christ, veer off the path to follow any number of other desires. To actually follow Christ requires an emptying of our self, not something that is encouraged or rewarded in the larger society... and not practiced very often even in the church. This walk toward the cross is a painful reminder for me of how I can forsake Christ simply by not remembering his commandment to love as he has loved, and by failing to pay attention to the least among us.
My God, My God, I don't know why I have forsaken you. Forgive me for when I have failed to follow you and your path and recognize your presence which is nearer than I think. May I spend this week paying attention to what it is you ask of me, and striving to follow you, even to the cross. Because the cross is never the end of the story but the beginning of something new.