April 10, 2020
Mark 15: 16-39
We are in a scary and uncertain time … both as individuals and as a faith community.
The COVID-19 crisis has pushed each of us behind closed doors … into our personal sanctuaries … and away from community … in a physical sense. Our connections are held together by telephone cable and Wi-Fi.
Behind those closed doors, we find ourselves spending parts of each day taking in the news … seeing how the pandemic has spread … how many new cases have arisen since the last time we checked … how many people have lost their lives and how people are at risk.
“Checking to see what death has done,” is how one pastor describes this new routine.
The daily news paints a grim picture of the present and, by extension, what the future will look like … and we are left to wonder what our world will look like when it’s all over … who and what will be left standing … who will be gone from our lives.
I think it’s obvious that whatever was “normal” when the crisis began, will not be the “normal” when the pandemic is just a memory.
Some of us wonder what the church will look like after we exit the crisis … we wonder what type of challenges we will face when we finally open our doors again.
I think it’s clear that we are all experiencing a level of grief..
We can be grieving the loss of routine in our lives … we can be grieving the loss of a job or of livelihood … we can be grieving the loss of the relationships … of how we connected with one another just a few weeks ago is no longer the reality … and we find ourselves grieving the loss of how we came together as a faith community … of what church used to be.
In this grief … at a time when community is needed for comfort and assurance … or support … community … at least the community we are used to … is hard to find.
Because of this … we can feel disconnected … cast adrift.
When we are asked … even ordered … to keep a distance … to go into isolation … feeling alone … despairing alone … is an understandable biproduct.
It is in this time when we find ourselves among those at the foot of the cross … left in the dark and silence lamenting the death of the old way of life … the old way of being.
Today, that’s where Mark has brought us.
In Mark’s version of the crucifixion, Jesus only speaks once during the during the three hours when darkness filled the land.
Jesus doesn’t react to the crowd’s mocking yells … or to the actions of the soldiers … or to the words of the religious leaders who made keeping their control and power a priority over serving God and the people.
In Mark’s passage, Jesus only utters four words. Jesus doesn’t cry out in pain.
Jesus cries out to God out of sense of loneliness … of isolation … out of a sense of being forgotten.
The only words Jesus says from the cross are words born from a feeling of abandonment.
He cried out “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Words that serve as the beginning of Psalm 22.
Even though Jesus felt utterly alone at that moment, we know that God was still present and working through the cross.
It is at the foot of the cross where the centurion recognizes the Son of God.
Dawn Wilhelm is a professor of preaching and worship in the United States.
In a discussion of Jesus’ death on the cross, Wilhelm wrote:
“Jesus’ death on the cross, his sense of abandonment by God, and his resurrection from the dead testify to the power of God at work among us even when we cannot recognize it ourselves.
“This is the source of our hope and power: God’s purposes will not be fulfilled by our own hard work and good intentions, but assured through the power of God alive among us, empowering us…”
This is the source of our hope and power…
Today, we remember Jesus’ time on the cross … we can visualize the landscape … the darkness of the sky … we imagine the noise of the crowd … the presence of the soldiers … the cross perched on the edge of a bluff right before us… the silence that falls over the earth.
But in the darkness of those three hours … and in the journey toward those moments, Jesus’ love … his love of God and his love for the people … shone brightly.
On the cross, the Son of God is not above human suffering – but is fully engaged with those who are suffering.
In the darkness, God’s forgiveness was present… Christ’s love was at work … is at work.
From the darkness, we are made new … and in this newness … we are called into relationship with God and with one another… to take others’ pain upon ourselves.
James Goodloe is the executive director of The Foundation for Reformed Theology.
Goodloe once wrote that:
“Jesus suffered the loneliness of being forsaken by God so that we will not have to. Jesus died and lives again to be with us and to have us with him.”
This means that we do not have to ask “Why has God forsaken me?”
The realities of the pandemic … the death and the suffering … the isolation and sense of abandonment … do not mean that God is absent … it means that God … through us … calls us into a different … a new … perspective … and that perspective offers us a new way of living in community.
This new way of being … this new way to love and serve … offers hope in the darkness of the day … a hope anchored in the grace we have received … a grace that was gifted to us … from the cross.
A gift that is a source of power and hope… for us.