Doxology in the Darkness

Meditations on Good Friday, Stanislaus Rapotec
04 Oct 1913 – 18 Nov 1997

Good Friday, which remembers the crucifixion of Jesus, has been given a number of titles over the centuries. Some construe “Good Friday” evolved from a mistranslation of the German phrase “God’s Friday” or “Guttes Freitag.” 1290 is the earliest known use of “Goude Friday” found in a South English dictionary.

It has been called Holy Friday, Great Friday, Mourning Friday, Silent Friday, and even Long Friday.

Good Friday is good because it is so bad.

On Good Friday foundations were shaken, hopes were crushed, and the inconceivable became reality. Good Friday pulls the vaporous veil of life aside and reveals things often don’t go the way we want. Incongruence is the norm. The daily bits and pieces of living have been turned upside down.

It’s called “Good” because Jesus absorbed all the bad, dark, injustice, evil and sin of the past, present, and future into His own body, nailing it all to the cross so that we could be forgiven and freed.

It’s called “Holy” because the love demonstrated by Jesus at this moment causes a holy hush to blanket the world; we remove our shoes entering holy space. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

It’s called “Mourning” because our hearts break when confronted with the brutality that accosted Love. The emptiness we feel in the immediate aftermath of so great a tragedy bores deeper and deeper into our soul.

It’s called “Long” because Jesus’ friends didn’t know Resurrection Sunday would actually happen. They entered the silence of a long Friday night…a long Saturday…and a long Saturday night of despair and devastation. They cried out the opening word of Lamentations, “Echah” which means “How?”

How could this have happened?
How could you allow this God?
How will I ever find joy again?

But this is the journey of Good Friday. This is the journey of life. We must learn to sing songs in the night. We must learn to trust God has something better beyond the dark night. Brennan Manning said it this way:

“To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.”
~Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust

I am still learning this lesson, the lesson of whispering a doxology in darkness. In some moments I am surprisingly able, yet in other charcoal moments, the darkness overwhelms me… until I remember.

There is nothing about Good Friday that seems right, and that is the point.

On Good Friday, God dealt death, darkness, and devastation so fierce a blow that the upturned tables of life started to turn right side up.

The dominion of death was changed from a finality to a fermata.

The darkness of injustice was pierced with the Light of Love.

The dungeon of sin was given the keys to freedom.

We live in the “now and not yet” period where Love has pierced the darkness bringing about the capacity for heaven to invade earth. However, heaven and earth will not be united into the Oneness of God’s presence until Jesus returns again (Maranatha).

So, in the meantime, through faith, trust, and love, we push back the darkness as we learn to whisper doxologies in the dark.

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
~Psalms 30:5

Go To Dark Gethsemane

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Good Friday reminds me that darkness must proceed resurrection.

Good Friday reminds me that pain and suffering, the blood sweat and tears of life, are part of the journey, not something to avoid, minimize or deny.

Good Friday reminds me that when life reaches the apex of darkness, the light of dawn is thinly close.

In the Garden of Eden humanity experienced the divine disconnect. There Adam chose self over God’s sovereignty, sin over God’s sufficiency.

It would be another garden where the second Adam, Jesus, would choose differently in order to redeem and heal the brokeness created by the first Adam. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus chose the sovereignty and sufficiency of His Father’s plan over his own safety and sustenance.

This choice transforms the world.

In his book “Life of Christ” Fulton J. Sheen noted:

“As Adam lost the heritage of union with God in a garden, so now Our Blessed Lord ushered in its restoration in a garden. Eden and Gethsemane were the two gardens around which revolved the fate of humanity. In Eden, Adam sinned; in Gethsemane, Christ took humanity’s sin upon Himself. In Eden, Adam hid himself from God; in Gethsemane, Christ interceded with His Father; in Eden, God sought out Adam in his sin of rebellion; in Gethsemane, the New Adam sought out the Father and His submission and resignation. In Eden, a sword was drawn to prevent entrance into the garden and thus immortalizing of evil; in Gethsemane, the sword would be sheathed.”

In Gethsemane we are faced with the brokeness of our humanity.

The truth is we are more about our own safety than sacrificing it for the flourishing of others.

The truth is we don’t forgive our enemies, we conceive of ways to destroy them.

The truth is we don’t really care about the plight of our neighbor unless it somehow affects us.

The truth is we seldom forgive an offender unless they grovel for it.

The truth is we have rushed, embracing resurrection without dealing with the darkness of Gethsemane and Calvary.

You can’t live out resurrection without first crying in Gethsemane.

There is an old Lutheran Hymn that inches it’s way up into my heart each year during Holy Week, and in particular on Good Friday. It is called Go To Dark Gethsemane. As a resource to help you fully embrace the darkness in order to truly live a life of resurrection, take some time to meditate on this hymn.

Go to Dark Gethsemane
By: James Montgomery

Go to dark Gethsemane,
All who fell the tempter’s power
Your Redeemer’s conflict see.
Watch with him one bitter hour;
Turn not from his griefs away;
Learn from Jesus Christ to pray.

 

Follow to the judgment hall,
View the Lord of life arraigned;
Oh, the wormwood and the gall!
Oh, the pangs his soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss;
Learn from him to bear the cross.

 

Calvary’s mournful mountain climb;
There, adoring at his feet,
Mark that miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!” hear him cry;
Learn from Jesus Christ to die.

 

Early hasten to the tomb
Where they laid his breathless clay
All is solitude and gloom.
Who has taken him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes.
Savior, teach us so to rise.

The last line is the call to live resurrectionally…

Savior…teach us so to rise!

Sometimes It Just Seems To Be Too Much…

Groundzerounderworld460 As I was spending some time praying this morning, I was, as many of you were, thinking about the events that happened on this day 9 years ago. Images were easily retrieved replaying the live news feeds of chaos in New York as two planes were evilly commandeered to become statements of hate when they were forced into the two towers.

Lives were taken…anguish created…questions reverberated…

I prayed today over those who are gone, but mostly for those who remain, and that I would live in such a way that my life might, in some small way, replenish slivers in the vortex of loss, disillusionment, and pain that exists, at least for those I encounter along the way.

Sometimes it just seems to be too much…sometimes the awareness of humanities wickedness or her apathy  just seems to be too much…sometimes it just seems as if we have dug to deep a whole for ourselves and will never get out…

This is when we need to realize that we have been graced by God to live an incarnational life. A life where we don't simply "do religious or good things", but a life that becomes a portal to allow God's goodness to flow through…there is a big difference.

Today is a day to choose to love and not to hate, to be honest with God, and to be honest with ourselves.

I read and ruminated on the following prayer today, and it spoke to where my heart had parked on this day of remembrance for 9-11. Pray through it and note the transition to be the answer of what we pray for..

_________________________

Sometimes, Lord,

it just seems to be too
much:

            too
much violence, too much fear;

            too
much of demands and problems;

            too
much of broken dreams and broken lives;

            too
much of wars and slums and dying;

            too
much of greed and squishy fatness

                        and
the sounds of people

                                    devouring
each other

                                                and
the earth;

            too
much of stale routines and quarrels,

                        unpaid
bills and dead ends;

            too
much of words lobbed in to explode

                        and
leaving shredded hearts and lacerated souls;

            too
much of turned-away backs and yellow silence,

                        red
rage and the bitter taste of ashes in my mouth.

Sometimes the very air seems
scorched

            by
threats and rejection and decay

                        until
there is nothing

                                    but
to inhale pain and exhale confusion.

Too much of darkness, Lord,

            too
much of cruelty

                        and
selfishness

                                    and
indifference…

 

Too much, Lord

            too
much,

                        too
bloody,

                                    bruising,

                                                brain-washing
much.

 

Or is it too little,

            too
little of compassion,

too little of courage,

            of
daring,

                        of
persistence,

                                    of
sacrifice;

Too little of music

            and
laughter

                        and
celebration?

 

O God,

make of me some nourishment

            for
these starved times,

some food for my brothers
and sisters

            who
are hungry for gladness and hope,

that, being bread for them,

            I
may also be fed

                        and
be full.

 

~Amen

_____________________


Honesty with God leads to a transformation of your soul…when you change, your world changes and you change your world, bit by bit, moment by moment.

This prayer was penned by Ted Loder in one of my favorite books of prayer called "Gorilla's of Grace" If your looking for some great prayers of the heart check it out.
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May the memories of this day in history cause us all to "Remember, Repent, and Return to God" because when we try to run this world separated from the God who made it, we becomes creators of loss instead of recipients of life.

Monty

   

Good Friday Meditation

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Many people have asked me, "In light of the events that happened to Jesus on this day in history, why do we call it Good?" A standard response is that it is called Good because of what Christ accomplished through the willing sacrifice of His life for ours. Good Friday then sets us up for Resurrection Sunday! So we don't get the resurrection without the pain of Friday's crucifixion.

That does make sense, and it is a "good" answer, but there have also been other names given to this day. Some of the names it has been called are; "Holy Friday" – "Black Friday" – "Great Friday" – "God's Friday." It truly is a powerful day. This is the day that we are reminded that in Christ, God had turned the entire religious system on it's head.

Through all the ages, God has been viewed as someone who dwelt above/beyond the earth. This is the realm where all that sustains life comes from. The sun, the moon, the rain, even the weather patterns. Humanity then began to "look up" and devised ways of trying to get God, or "the gods" to give them the things they needed, from a good harvest to favor in business.

Until the moment Jesus arrived,(an unfortunately still to this day) the religions of the world really moved in the same direction. If you wanted to be in a good spot with God, you had to do whatever it took to appease Him/them… if you did it right, then He would send the sun and the rain at the right times on your crops. If you did it right, you would have many children, if you did it right, good things would happen to you. However, If you didn't appease Him/them, bad things would happen to you. So life was/is spent trying to figure out what side-of-the-bed God got up on today, and where a person stood with God/gods.

It is easy to see how a religious system of "works" and "appeasement" so naturally came into being. Life was lived trying to make the invisible god(s) happy, and it seemed that not many were making much headway.

Then comes Jesus. Jesus reverses the order. In Christ it is not about appeasing God, trying to do things down here that would favorably get His attention…rather Jesus reveals the true heart of the Father. He initiates and completes everything necessary for us to be in relationship with God apart from a religious appeasement system.

Instead of trying to work our way up to God…

He loved His way down to us.

Jesus' sacrifice reminds us that He has done everything necessary for us to reconnect with the Living God. There is nothing for us to add to what Christ has done. His death and resurrection secure our hope. When we think there are things we must do, we are falling under the old system of appeasement again…there is no gift greater than Christ's life…there is nothing more powerful that we can do beyond Jesus raised from the dead…

A life that is following the Rabbi (Jesus) will change as a by-product of the renewed relationship available with God…but it is important to remember that the by-product of a transformed life is not the basis for your acceptance before God…Jesus is, and He is good.

So today is a day to be thankful for God's plan to equalize the playing field through grace. For turning upside-down the religious view that God is always angry, and we are never good enough. For God choosing to enter our skin and His willingness to substitute His life as a ransom for ours…

When you finish meditating on all that God has done…it is hard not to think…this is "Good."

Here is a great meditation piece for you from pray as you go…click on it, listen and enjoy

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Dei Gratia,

Monty