Killing God for God, Killing Good for Good, Killing Good for Good Friday…

The Highs and Lows…

(Scapegoating) Lk 23:33-34

Note: With the exception of a few edits, I did preach this at a 7 Last Words of Jesus Good Friday service… I had the first word… Days of celebration also require reflection and introspection. 

“Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”

This isn’t Sunday Morning. This is Friday. This is Jesus on a cross. This isn’t new. This isn’t a 2000 year old event. This ain’t about Jews and Romans and Christians. This is Friday. And Fridays are cross-cultural. This is Emmett Till’s 14-year-old, tortured and waterlogged body in Mississippi’s Tallahatchie River, with an eye gouged out, a bullet to the head, a swollen unrecognizable face, and a cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed-wire.

This isn’t Sunday Morning. This is Good Friday. Where a woman who has just been raped is asked by a police officer or an uninformed, though well-meaning, friend or family member: “What were you wearing?” “Did you yell ‘no’ or ‘stop’ loud enough?” “Were you leading him on?”

This is not Resurrection Sunday; this is not yet the joy that comes in the morning. We are weeping in the valley facing the Dark night of the soul; we are in danger of capsizing, tossed by the brutal waves of the real. This is Friday. It’s on a day like today, a scene like Jesus’ crucifixion, that allowed Melle Mel to rap “You search for justice and what do you find, you find just us in the unemployment line, you find just us sweating from dawn to dusk, there’s no justice; it’s (huh!) just us.” Father forgive…

God, in Christ, is asking us not to get ahead of ourselves, not to rush to the end of the story. This ain’t Sunday Morning. This isn’t men dressed in dazzling white robes, or a Road to Emmaus, rolled-away stones, or empty tombs… This is Curtis Mayfield’s lament in his funk classic “Freddie’s Dead.” “We’re all built up with progress. But sometimes, I must confess. We can deal with rockets and dreams. But reality? What does it mean? Ain’t nothing said, cuz Freddie’s Dead.” Today we are challenged, in the words of the late Ignacio Ellacuría–we are challenged to bear the burden of reality. Today, we are challenged to bear the burden of Good Friday, without moving quickly to Resurrection. Doing this will take nerve and honesty, it will indict and challenge us, it will put our faith on the ropes, but it is vital if we are to understand the kind of violence continues to rob us and even God of life.

Where was this simple and better time when Christian values reigned supreme? Where was the concern for family and values when African men, women, and their children were on auction blocks to be sold and split up during American slavery? Where were our values and families when Native Americans were killed, pillaged, and conquered with disease, the gun, the sword, and the cross?

This is Friday. We murder innocent people on Good Friday and proclaim it justice and God’s will. We scapegoat immigrants on Friday as a way to explain why our economy is so bad. Today is the day we blame sexual orientation for the breakdown of family and values, because things were so much better back in the good old days. And I can hear Gladys Knight saying, “You know everybody is talking about the good old days, the good old days. But can it be that it was all so simple then?” Where was this simple and better time when Christian values reigned supreme? Where was the concern for family and values when African men, women, and their children were on auction blocks to be sold and split up during American slavery? Where were our values and families when Native Americans were killed, pillaged, and conquered with disease, the gun, the sword, and the cross? Have the descendants of the oppressed now become the oppressors? Is history so easily forgotten? Have the slaves become slave masters? Father forgive us… But we can be attracted to scapegoats the way flies are attracted to…

Have mercy, Lord.

This is Good Friday. This is the day where the soldiers who crucified Jesus cast lots for his for his clothing, rolled some dice for his clothing, played the lotto for his clothing, and auctioned his garments on eBay. Because I can always make an even greater profit by exploiting and robbing those I’m already killing slowly. This is Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. This is a “not guilty” verdict. This is being convicted guilty of attempted murder for Jordan Davis’ friends who survived the shooting, but not being convicted for killing Jordan Davis. This is the victim of the Stanford rape case finding out her assailant was only getting 6 months because the judge was worried about the assailant’s future.  This is insanity. This is masculinity run rabid; this is gang retaliation; this is depression; this is drug addiction; this is genocide, this is hatred;  this is flat-out injustice; this is a moment where we take pause at the underside of our existence.

Failure to consider Jesus’ words in this first word results is the failure of our faith, our rituals, and our religion–not to mention our economics and politics. This is the point where Christianity must prove that it is not a pie-in-the-sky-religion that cannot take seriously the troubles of the world. Christians must prove that we don’t skate over suffering and see all suffering as necessary and part of God’s plan. Our good news to the poor is on a razor’s edge today. Our concern for the least of these is a step away from mockery and blaming the victim.

This is Good Friday. This is a day where Christians should proclaim to the world that God doesn’t know about violence simply because God knows everything, but because God, through Jesus, experienced death, suffered injury and absurdity. Jesus, like so many before and so many after him, suffered scapegoating.

Brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends… A religion, a faith is worthless if it cannot admit the lows and dare–with a stammering tongue–to speak about the highs. A Christianity that can’t sit with and grieve with the victims and practice love isn’t worth squat. Our preaching, whooping, tongue-speaking, prophesying, prayers, charismatic gifts, and singing ain’t nothing but noisy gongs, clanging cymbals, and nails on a chalkboard. A faith that can’t admit Red Seas will never cross them.

This is Good Friday. This is God, the Son, on a cross, tortured, crucified, sacrificed, and scapegoated for the sake of God and for the public good. This is Good Friday: where religious, political, economic, and social powers conspire to kill you for the sake of the status quo. This is Good Friday, where bishops, elders and pastors, collude with mayors, police chiefs, governors and presidents to whip a crowd into a frenzy so that we can find somebody to blame and kill. So I guess Good Friday is like any other day then, because apparently, we still crucify, scapegoat, sacrifice and kill each other for the sake of God and for the public good from time to time. 

Father, forgive us. We don’t know what we are doing….

©2014 M. J. Sales

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