Friday, April 18, 2014 – Good Friday, Year Two
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 22 (morning) // 40:1-14(15-19), 54 (evening)
Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-33
1 Peter 1:10-20
How do we make the journey from the first to the last verses of today’s reading from Lamentations? The only way to get from beginning to end is to walk straight into the crux of our faith.
We start with the voice of one who believes that his suffering is orchestrated by God. The voice says, “I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long.” This “God” breaks bones, wastes flesh, builds walls, blocks ways, binds in chains, and shuts out prayers and cries for help.
Yet, by the time we reach the end of the passage, the voice has something very different to say about God: “He does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.” The lamenter suddenly recalls that God is none other than unceasing and steadfast love.
This lucid proclamation that God is lovingly present in suffering–not actively imposing or permitting suffering–stands out from the many other hypotheses in the lament. Elsewhere in this chapter, the voice searches desperately for the causes and purpose of his suffering. The voice suggests waiting patiently and bearing pain silently, looking for unforgiven transgressions that may have triggered this punishment, or fantasizing about the payback that God will surely visit on the human agents of injustice and cruelty.
All of these possibilities have found their way into the Christian contemplation of the cross where Jesus hung and of the crosses that we bear in our own lives. We speculate that perhaps this suffering was necessary to instill the virtues of patience and humility. Or perhaps this suffering was required as a punishment for our sins. Or, perhaps this suffering will pale in comparison to the suffering that God has planned for our enemies.
Or perhaps, just perhaps, “God does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.”
Today, can we look into the face of Christ on the cross and hear the loving voice of God declare these words to us? Instead of looking for reasons or causes or purpose or meaning, can we simply be a loving presence for Jesus, who came to be God’s loving presence for us?
We may need to confront the crux of our faith, which is to find our way from a view of God as a source of pain or condemnation, to the God revealed to us in Christ. From a God who causes suffering to a God who wishes affliction and grief on no one, we can make our way from a tightly-bound cross toward a tomb broken spectacularly open from the inside.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.