For Christians like me, Good Friday is often that day in Holy Week to easily move past. Many of us are more comfortable with the joyous entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, than we are with Good Friday. We’d much prefer moving on to the joy of Easter.
Part of our discomfort is that we simply don’t want to deal with the pain that takes place between these two events. Who wants to focus on betrayal, arrest, crucifixion and death?
Our society in the USA (at least for white middle class folk like me), is built on the illusion that we are in control. Captains of our own destiny. This illusion teaches that power, possessions and accomplishments will make us happy and give our lives meaning. Our economic and to varying degrees, our political system, is built on this narrative of the rugged individualist. This illusion also permeates and to often warps Christian theology
The pandemic that we are living through, has laid to rest this illusion. We aren’t in control. We have a profound sense of dislocation. We worry over our health and economic well being of self, family, neighbors, nation and world.
This pandemic has made the Good Friday story relevant and real. We can relate to the despair that the early disciples felt on that Good Friday as they watched Jesus take his final breath. Many of us have lost family or friends to COVID-19. We too know grief.
The story of the cross is of God entering into the pain and brokenness of the human condition lived out in the life and witness of Jesus. People who live on the margins know this to be true. (For the Passion story, read Luke 22 -23)
In the 1970’s a group of Catholic bishops in South America, led by Gustavo Guttierez spoke of God’s solidarity with the poor and oppressed. They chose the phrase ‘Liberation Theology’, to reflect God’s accompaniment with the vulnerable.
Liberation Theology is rooted in a theology of the cross, in particular Jesus being crucified at the hands of the Roman Empire. This complements Jesus’ other teachings, such as Matthew 25:40:
“Whatever you do unto the most vulnerable of my sisters and brothers, you do unto me.”
Such words, coupled with Jesus’ willingness to go to the cross, reflects the heart and essence of God. As Jesus says in John 15:
“No one has greater love than this, than to lay down ones life for ones friends.”
Such teachings and witness have so much to say during this pandemic crisis. We belong to one another and, we belong to God. It was true at the time of Jesus and it is true now.
Parker Palmer, the Quaker theologian speaks of a tensions between an ‘economy of scarcity’ as compared to a ‘gospel of abundance’. During this pandemic we see the economy of scarcity being lived out as affluent nations gobble up ventilators, while poor countries struggle to respond.
For example in Nicaragua I’m on the board for a public health ministry called AMOS: Health and Hope (http://www.amoshealth.org). It is estimated that there are less than 100 ventilators in a nation of 6 million people. The AMOS staff are gearing up to be on the frontlines of COVID-19 with few tools to draw upon.
Truly the vulnerable in such nations are living out the pain of the Good Friday story.
Yet, there is another way. The path of sacrificial love as expressed by Jesus. A way of living and being that teaches that we belong to one another. That love transcends national boundaries. That when we see each other as connected, we become responsible to and for one another. This is what Parker Palmer calls, a Gospel of Abundance. This radical love is in part, what the cross symbolizes.
That few countries, including my own, will respond in such a way, does not make it any less true. Or, any less compelling.
Those who live on the margins know the truth found in Good Friday. During this challenging time more of us are discovering this truth too.