Handed Over

Lectionary Scripture Text (Good Friday):

16Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; 17and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew* is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth,* the King of the Jews.’ 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew,* in Latin, and in Greek. 21Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.” ’ 22Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ 23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says, ‘They divided my clothes among themselves,  and for my clothing they cast lots.’ 25And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ 27Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

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            I am standing here but it does not seem real.  I want to hold him, to comfort him, to cradle him in my arms like I did when he was a baby.  But the guards are holding us back.  Oh, please, I don’t think I can stand anymore.  But I must stand with him.  He has to know that I am here with him.  He has to know how much I love him, how much I hurt for him, how I would trade places with him if I could.

All of the memories are flooding into my head.  I remember that night when the angel came to me.  (Luke 1:26-38) I did not understand.  I was so afraid.  But I knew I had to say yes.  I had no idea what I was agreeing to do.  And then for nine months I carried the baby in my womb. It was joyous.  In one respect, it was just like any other pregnancy, like the others I had after that.  And yet, it was different.  I always felt like there was someone there with me, guiding me, loving me, helping me through it.  It’s hard to explain.  

The birth itself was hard, downright scary in fact.  (Luke 2:1-20) We traveled to Bethlehem.  It was so far, so painful.  And then when we finally arrived, it was so crowded.  The streets were wild.  I remember that nice man who let us bed down in the room that housed his animals.  I remember the first time I looked into his eyes–those dark, compassionate eyes.  Even as a baby, he had compassionate, loving eyes.  He was special.  I knew that he was special when he came into the world.  I just didn’t know how wonderful he would be. 

I remember that day in the temple when we went for the Purification. (Luke 2:22-40) That strange man that I had never met took him from me.  He cradled him in his arms.  It was as if they had known each other always.  And he told me my soul would be pierced.  Oh, how right he was! 

I remember the day that my cousin’s son baptized him.  He didn’t know I was there.  I hid behind the trees.  After all, he was an adult; he didn’t need his mother always looking on.  And I remember when his ministry started.  He was so brave, so fearless.  It scared me at times.  I thought something like this might happen.  But I am so incredibly proud of him.  I am so proud of what he became, what he made others become that he touched in his life.  He was special.

No, this does not seem real.  Somebody needs to help him.  Please, please, he’s asking for water.  Please, someone give him water.  I’m afraid this is it.  I’m afraid he cannot take it anymore.  I’m afraid he’s going to give up.  Perhaps it would be better.  Perhaps it is better to let go…Oh, how I love him! How I want to go back, to hold him just once more!  It is over.  It is all over.  He is gone.  What did it all mean?  I don’t understand.  Why the angel?  Why the star?  Why did it all happen if it was going to end this way?  What does God have in mind for him?  He promised me that it would be for good.  He promised me that it would be OK.  I guess I have to believe that, hold on to it, hope.  Someday maybe I’ll see it.

I wanted to stay here until they gave me his body, but I don’t think I can.  There are others here too–Jesus’ friend Mary, who has always been so lovely toward me, and the disciples.  I hope they all realized how much he loved them, how he would do anything for them, how he wished the best for them.  The rain is really coming down now and the skies are angry, angry like me.  The wind is blowing so hard, I can no longer stand against it.  There are rocks and debris sliding down the mountain above us.  It seems that the world is breaking apart.  Will the world ever know what it has lost?  Will the world ever know what it did?  Will God ever forgive this world for killing my son, their son, God’s son?  Someone just told me that the temple curtain has split in two.  It is as if the holy has spilled into the world.  I can’t explain it.

My son came into this world wrapped in so much hope.  He was supposed to change the world.  He was supposed to open the eyes of the world to what it could be, what it could become.  Is it all for naught?  Or, someday, will we finally understand why he came?  Someday, I know, that God will make it all make sense.  But, now, today, I am grieving more than I could know.  The loss is unbearable, a thick wilderness of loss through which I cannot find my way.  But what a gift I’ve had!  What an incredible gift that was taken away all too soon!  I have to leave this place, as hard as it is.  Shabbat is starting in a few minutes.  I must go prepare, light the candles, and usher in the joy of the Sabbath.  I must go rest.  I need it.  I need it to resurrect my hurting soul.  God will be with me.  Let it be.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  (Luke 1:46-55) Shalom, my dear Son!  May God’s Light stay with you!

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We have all experienced loss and grief.  It DOES seem like a wilderness.  You want so badly to go back.  But the pathway behind you seems to have closed.  You can only walk forward.  But God takes grief and loss and redeems it.  God doesn’t take it away.  It is part of us just as the wilderness journey through which we’ve traveled will always be.  But God helps us restructure our lives and finds a place for loss, a healing, joyful place. 

The point of this journey through Holy Week is to empty, to surrender, to let God in.  It is the completion of the process of Lent in which we have made room for our death, for our surrender to God.  Resurrection is finding that place that is just for us.  The wilderness teaches how to be open to that, how to prepare our lives for re-creation.  That is what God does—gives us the gift of re-creation.  But, for now, we will grieve, and we will feel loss and God will hold us until we can hold it ourselves.  It is finished.

There is a journey you must take.  It is a journey without destination.  There is no map.  Your soul will lead you.  And you can take nothing with you.  (Meister Eckhart, 14th century) 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Jesus Wept

“Jesus Lamenting Over Jerusalem”, Gary E. Smith

Scripture Text: Luke 19: 41-45

41As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” 

If only…How many times does our grief and our feeling of loss begin with those words?  Jesus knows his time on earth is coming to an end.  He had to feel regrets over things he saw as incomplete, even undone.  He looked out over Jerusalem, his beloved city, the Holy City, and he knew.  His mission was to bring peace, not just an absence of war, but a peace that resides in the deepest part of every soul. Because the One whose name was never uttered, the Great I-AM, the Creator and Sustainer of the World had come to call and the world did not always seem to notice.  The world glanced at God-With-Us and then went back to its way of doing things.  Wars continued to rage; poverty and hunger were still there; there were still divisions; and not everyone really paid attention.  Jesus knew.  Jesus knew that the world was not completely ready.  So, he wept over the city.  He wept over the people.  He wept over the world.

The truth is, we are seldom the “finishers” of the things we start.  If Jesus’ work had been finished during his time on earth, there would be no need for faith.  There would be nothing left for God to call us to do.  But it had to hurt.  We all want to see what we start to come to fruition.  But sometimes God calls us to begin the story that we will not finish.  This is what Jesus knew in that moment.

There is an old wisdom story that tells of those that were building one of the amazing old cathedrals.  Now, keep in mind, these cathedrals did not take a year, or ten years.  They took centuries.  Those that started the work knew that they would never see the fruits of their labors.  But they poured their heart out, nevertheless. So, someone asked a builder of these great cathedrals what he was doing.  His response was that he was laying bricks.  He was right.  So, the person asked another person that was working on the project.  He responded that he was making a living for his children and his family.  He was right.  Then the person asked a third builder.  His response?  “I am building a cathedral.”

See, we’re all building a cathedral. That will be the end of the story.  That’s what we envision.  And yet, we want so badly to see the fruits of our gifts.  We want to reap the benefits of what we give.  But the story is not about what happens now; it is about the ending that will come. So, what we could imagine that could be is huge.

Sometimes we grieve for the moment—for what happened or did not happen, for what we did or didn’t say, for those moments that we cannot get back again, for what was.  And we weep.  But God is taking all that we’ve done and calling others to complete it—to build a cathedral.  So as we wander in this wilderness of loss and grief and things left incomplete or undone, we weep.  And then we remember that God is REALLY good at showing us the way out of the wilderness.  There is an Arab proverb that says if you expect to see the results of your work, then you have simply not asked a big enough question.

One of my favorite poems is by Ann Weems.  Here are the words:

God did not wait till the world was ready, till nations were at peace. God came when the Heavens were unsteady and prisoners cried out for release. God did not wait for the perfect time.  God came when the need was deep and great.

In the mystery of the Word made flesh the maker of the Stars was born. We cannot wait till the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice, or to share our grief, to touch our pain. 

God came with Love.  Rejoice!  Rejoice! And go into the Light of God.  Amen.

You and I are incomplete.  I’m unfinished.  I’m unfixed.  And the reality is that’s where God meets me is in the mess of my life, in the unfixedness, in the brokenness.  I thought he did the opposite, he got rid of all that stuff.  But if you read the Bible, if you look at it at all, constantly he was showing up in people’s lives at the worst possible time of their life. (Mike Yaconelli)

Grace and Peace,

 Shelli