Poetic reflections on this Good Friday; In Praise of Easter
The Power of the CrossPoetic reflections on this Good Friday I’ve sung “There’s Power in the Blood,” since I was just a boy. “Would you be free from your burden of sin?” the gospel songwriter asked. “There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb,” he contends. “The life is in the blood, the Scriptures say. So, there’s power in the blood.”
But is there power in the cross? A scaffold symbolizing loss? That’s what it is you know.
Loss of innocence. The cross was Caesar’s preferred way of punishing criminals. Those nailed to the hardwood crossbeams were hardened criminals. Guilty as guilty can be. Death row inmates. Punishment-worthy with a capital P. Green milers undeserving a purple heart. Only the worst were candidates to quench society’s blood thirsty desire.
Loss of dignity.The cross displayed an unclothed victim in the most immodest pose possible. Prior to being hoisted as society’s debt (reminding the crucified and onlookers alike that crime doesn’t pay), they was paraded like circus animals. Humiliated by the laughter. Peppered by the jeers. Flogged to within an inch of their lives before the main attraction would leave them ready for a yard of bones six feet beneath the blood-soaked soil.
Loss of pride. Those crucified were robbed of whatever self-worth they’d held on to since they stole their first breath at birth. Suspended between heaven and earth, writhing in pain, these objects of shame had no reason to be proud for crying out loud. And that’s exactly what they did. Screaming’s more like it. Agony. No ecstasy, except for the sick onlookers for whom human torture provided a demented sense of pleasure.
Loss of life. Those who hung from a cross didn’t hang around long. Not breathing, anyway. The cross was the final curtain. There was no intermission. The executioner’s mission was clear. In this one-at play, he knew his script by heart. He had his lines down cold. “Break a leg!” the prompter would call from off-stage. An expression to encourage the executor in his performance. It was also a suggestion for hastening the death of the victim on the unvarnished stake.
So, power in the cross? Are you kidding? The cross on which the victim cowered in pain and convulsed uncontrollably had no power. Could this wood be anything but a three-dimensional stage on which the drama of justice was enacted? It was but an inanimate object.
“Oh, I object,” a convert cries. “That crossbeam on which Jesus died, has fueled my faith and moved my heart. There’s power in His cross.”
Ah yes.It is the bridge that lets us cross a chasm far too great to span. It is the power that achieved God’s vast eternal plan.”
The cross achieves what nothing could, for in that intersecting wood what once was dead is born again as One once living dies.
There’s power in Christ’s precious blood and in His cross as well. For on that bloodstained wooden stake our souls are saved from Hell.
In Praise of Easter The ultimate grave robber
Graveyards are a fact of life. Just ask my father’s widowed wife. Those granite tombstones punctuate a lawn that’s hard to mow.
Such markers call to mind the pain of waging war (with Death) in vain. The landscape littered with gray stones is lifeless, cold and dark.
But there’s an empty grave I’m told that’s far away and very old. A not-so-final resting place whose vacancy inspires.
Within the earth they laid my Christ drained of the blood that paid my price. But mourning proved quite premature as night gave way to day.
That empty cave’s a mystery that fills my heart with ecstasy. This is the bedrock of our faith that robs Sleep of its sting.
Looking at the past through the lens of the present
The calendar above my desk announces that today is a good Friday.
But the headlines of my morning paper counter that claim. A river of crimson blood flows through the parched dirt streets of an ancient city.
It’s a pity really. Innocent life snuffed out. Victimized by fanatic fundamentalists. Warring factions who fashion a wardrobe of power cloaking the city in a sinister fog.
“Bag dad and bury him,” a jaded widow doubled in grief chides her frightened children. “Hurry please, before your father is disposed upon some garbage heap.”
This mother’s mourning continues late into the night.
“I rock my babies to sleep wishing them sweet dreams all the while praying my own will come true. Dreams that my sons and daughters will be able to grow up without being blown up never to wake again.”
The complaint of the ancient psalmist is voiced anew. “Where is God anyway?” “Why has He forsaken the helpless anyhow?”
The mother of Jesus knew a similar sorrow. Hunched at the foot of a Roman cross, Mary inched back in fear and revulsion. Her swollen eyes looked through tear-stained fingers at a lifeless body. It was a body she knew only too well.
This dead man was once the baby she had gently rocked to sleep. This bloody corpse had once been the toddler whose bloodied knees she had tenderly bandaged. This object of her grief had (not so long ago) been her twelve-year-old Bar Mitzvah boy. You know. The one who went missing for three days only to eventually to be found in the Temple talking with the elders.
And now that life (which God had supernaturally given her) was gone.
As she lived her own nightmare that day, I doubt Mary dared to dream she would again find her Son in three days time.
The injustice was just too blinding. The pain too intense. The reasons why the blood was flowing not nearly clear enough.
Two women (separated by two millennia) drank bitter dregs from a common cup. One lost an Iraqi husband. The other a Jewish son. For neither was it a good Friday. It was a bad news day all the way.
And in the midst of human agony the likes of which few of us could possibly imagine, God has a way of showing up unannounced and unexpected.