“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me and seem so far from my cry.” We all know these words. We have all said these words in some form or another at some point in our lives. These are the words of the ages, the psalmist, of Christ and each of us. These are the words of the 34 families who lost loved ones in Brussels this week. These are the words for those who are fleeing from their homes and for their lives where war continues to go unabated throughout parts of the Middle East. These were my mother’s words just last week as the fog of dementia, which has been closing in on her for years, lifted just long enough for her to understand my father was dying. “Why him?” she asked. “What has he done so wrong to deserve this?” “Nothing.” I would tell her as she asked the question over and over again.
Bad things happen on this earth. Bad things happen to good people. It is the story of Job, it is the story of the ages, it’s today’s story as well. We gather once again to hear and to remember the tragedy that was and is the crucifixion. Who! Other than Jesus of Nazareth, was more righteous and perfect before God, and yet had to suffer his own humiliation, trial and execution?
Bad things do happen to good people! They happened to Christ, they happen to us, as we descend into the nadir of darkness where the light of God is no more. It is from within the heart of this darkness that the Psalmist cries, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me. It is this same darkness that Christ, the Son of God plunges into as he hangs on the cross for his final moments of life knowing he has been abandoned and scorned by the world.
And where was God? Surely, if there was anyone whose prayers God would have heard, they were the prayers of Jesus as he prayed to have this cup pass from him the night before, but that was not the will of God. To have the cup of crucifixion pass from Christ’s lips would not have accomplished the work of the incarnation. Christ’s journey, Christ’s mission was not to avoid the darkness, but to become fully immersed in the darkness, to go into the void where the light of God could not, and would not shine. It is here, in total darkness where Christ declares, “It is finished,” and breaths his last breathe.
But our story does not end here! We are still in the midst of John’s Gospel who begins his testimony with the words, “the light has entered the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” I know tradition tells us the crucifixion is the moment when the earth was devoid of God, that in this moment God was dead. But I am not sure that is the whole truth. Yes, with Christ’s death the world is plunged into the nadir, the abyss of darkness, but this does not mean the world was completely devoid of the Light.
Look at the base of the cross, there John tells us the three Mary’s wept, hear the words of the writer, how Joseph of Aremathea arranged to place the body of Christ into his fresh tomb. Light cannot be seen by looking deeper into the darkness, but by looking up and out towards the edges. Light rarely shines from within the darkness, but surrounds the darkness and illuminates it from without. While Jesus may have died on Good Friday, the divine Trinity did not. John intimates at the darkest of moments that God is not dead, not fully absent, but in the process of transforming. As the leaves of the crocuses tell us spring in coming and new life is on it way, the Mary’s and Joseph of Aremathea tell us that this is not the end, there is still compassion in the world and there is still hope. Every year at Christmas I proclaim there is hope as long as people still gather to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. John affirms this by bringing compassion to the foot of the cross.
As children of God, we believe that the gathering of the baptized, the Church is the Body of Christ. We who have been washed in the waters of Baptism, who have participated in the death of Christ are now part of the Incarnation and are called to continue being the Incarnation to this world. It is no accident that the Easter proclamation of Christ’s resurrection waits until immediately after the baptisms. Prayer shapes believing as the prayer book tells us the same, that Christ continues to thrive through us.
Therefore, even on the darkest day of the church year, when all the world, and God the Son joins the psalmist in his cry, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me and seem so far from my cries,” the truth is, all is not lost, the world has not fully extinguished the light. Instead, the work is finished,” as the light of God is found surrounding the darkness once again.
Yes, Christ’s work is finished! Thanks be to God!