Thursday, 24 March 2016

Suffering, A Pregnant Pause and then Applause of Change.

On this sorrowful day, we remember the suffering that results from great love and compassionate concern for the world. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 is one who takes on the world’s sorrows out of humility. Although Jewish thought attributes the nation of Israel with this role of “servant” throughout Isaiah’s writings, Christians traditionally attribute these servant songs to Jesus. In either case, a message emerges that is profound and troubling. Innocent people suffer in our world.

One who would be a light to the nations has his life snuffed out due to an unjust and torturous world. This is the sorrow of Good Friday. This has been the sorrow of Jewish communities who have suffered under pogroms throughout history and in recent history in the Holocaust. It has also been the sorrow— and continues to be the sorrow— of oppressed peoples and individuals who strive for justice, advocate for peace, and live radically compassionate love and mercy. Jesus is not the only one who bears our infirmities. This is a day to remember the suffering people whom Jesus represents in his innocence, his compassion, and his prophetic courage: peacemakers; justice-seekers; and innocent children suffering in poverty, war, or abuse are just a few of the many suffering servants who bear our iniquities.

Thinking about the suffering servant in this way challenges the quiet contemplation of this day. What if the sin that the servant bears for me is the sin of my consumerism borne by a child labouring in a factory? What if my iniquity of prejudice is borne by the political activist imprisoned for her advocacy work? Where am I the darkness that overcomes the light? When have I pierced God’s love with cruelty and even hate? These are the hard questions of Good Friday.

Jesus lived a life of compassion and love. He healed, touched, and wept. And in the end, Jesus declares the sermon of his life complete, finished, done. He was not simply fulfilling a duty or completing a list of requirements for God’s will to be accomplished on earth. Jesus’ life changed the tide of time. Jesus’ declaration on the cross expressed the bird’s-eye view that the winds have finally changed. It has been finished. And
bowing his head, he gave up his spirit. He bowed his head, an act in some cultures as acknowledgment, reverence, respect. Where we might shake hands, nod, kiss on the cheek, a bowed head is an elegant gesture of recognition. 
Jesus’ sermon, his life’s performance, was finished. And, bowing the head, he gave up the spirit. It’s quite like the end of a breathtaking performance, Jesus drops his baton, and yields the winds of change to those who were paying attention. The proverbial music has stopped on the cross, the pregnant pause has entered, and as Jesus senses the pause, he says, “It has been finished.” He bows in recognition, puts down the baton, and in faithful surrender, releases new life riding on the winds of change. Just as those long ago, we spend this weekend in the proverbial pregnant pause. When we wake on Easter Sunday, what will our proverbial applause be?

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