Good Friday

 

cross

John 18:1-19; 42

Every year someone asks the question, “Why is good Friday called good?”  It is the day within the life of the Christian tradition when Jesus’ crucifixion is commemorated.  It is hard to say the words good in relation to crucifixion.  Some call the day Holy Friday, but the use of the phrase Good Friday is what is most prominent.  There are various reasons lifted up, but one of them is that Good Friday is good because of the love that breaks into the world on that day when Jesus walked in love right up to the cross that would lead to his death.  That love becomes witness that love wins in the end, but first we must experience the taste of loss this day.

The following is a poem for reflection this Good Friday.  As always, thankful to be with you on the journey.

Michelle

The Way of Pain
Wendell Berry

  1. For parents, the only way
    is hard. We who give life
    give pain. There is no help.
    Yet we who give pain
    give love; by pain we learn
    the extremity of love.
  2. I read of Abraham’s sacrifice
    the Voice required of him,
    so that he led to the altar
    and the knife his only son.
    The beloved life was spared
    that time, but not the pain.
    It was the pain that was required.
  3. I read of Christ crucified,
    the only begotten Son
    sacrificed to flesh and time
    and all our woe. He died
    and rose, but who does not tremble
    for his pain, his loneliness,
    and the darkness of the sixth hour?
    Unless we grieve like Mary
    at His grave, giving Him up
    as lost, no Easter morning comes.
  4. And then I slept, and dreamed
    the life of my only son
    was required of me, and I
    must bring him to the edge
    of pain, not knowing why.
    I woke, and yet that pain
    was true. It brought his life
    to the full in me. I bore him
    suffering, with love like the sun,
    too bright, unsparing, whole.

How beautiful are the feet…

John 13:1-17; 31-35

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day during holy week when we pay attention to feet.  After sharing in the last supper with his disciples, Jesus knelt before them and washed every one of their feet.  This is not something most hosts in our day and age would do.  We tend to stay away from other people’s feet.  It would not have been something that a host in Jesus’ day would do either, it was the job of a servant to wash the feet of guests.  Jesus takes on the role of a servant with his disciples, so that they might take on the same role of servant for each other and all the world.

Mother Teresa's feetMother Teresa was known for having a servant’s heart.  She lived in Calcutta India, amongst the poorest of the poor.  Interestingly, her feet were well photographed.  Her feet are not pretty, but they are beautiful.  Her toes curl into one other having been deformed through all the years of her choosing to take the worst pair of shoes that were donated, so that no one else would have to wear them.  Her years of service to others, cost her in her feet.

There are at least 15,000 nerves that travel through the feet.  Though we hide them away, they are an important part of the body, in that they hold connections to other parts of the body as well.  Feet are what carry us from one place to another and Jesus decided to put his hands on the feet of the disciples, in a sense blessing their way.  Serving others requires humility and Jesus touches the place in the body that touches the ground—the feet.  As we journey along the way, may we find ways of serving others in the world around us, that the love of God might be revealed in the way we live our lives and in our beautiful feet.

With you on the Journey,

Michelle                                                                                                                                                  Holy Week, 2018                                                                                                                                  Cape Town, South Africa

 

Lines

John 1:13-20  “I am not the Messiah”
I was driving back on the coastal road from Hermanus this past weekend after a beautiful time of reflection and I misjudged on timing.  It got dark quicker than I expected and what is normally a beautiful drive became quite frightening actually. As the sun began to set, I struggled to see the road at all, for there was very little light.
coastal roadThe coastal road runs right along the sea and there are spaces where the guard rail on the seaside of the road disappears. Right now the road is being repaved and the center line of the road for most of the way is missing.  The missing lines caused anxiety to arise within me because I was on the sea-side of the road and the oncoming cars were passing by me with no boundary to keep them on their side of the road. There was nowhere for me to go but over the ledge, which was clearly not my hope.  So, I began to honk at cars to alert them they were crossing too far over the line that was not there.
I reflected for a long time when I arrived home about the gift of lines or things we call boundaries. Boundaries bring clarity, they help us to have a sense of the way rising before us.  Boundaries, used with understanding, help us to live in the reality of who we are–Children of God, not God.  John the Baptist was clear about something in his life. He named for all to hear that he was a voice, and a loud one, crying out in a time of wilderness for the people of God.  John was clear to communicate though that he was not the Messiah.  His clarity on this, helped people to keep looking beyond him to the one who was the author and perfecter of life.  It was good for John to have this clear line for it helped him and others to know who he was and who he was not.
We might think that Jesus was not a fan of lines, for Jesus was constantly crossing them, but we have to look closer.  Jesus crossed lines for a reason.  Jesus actually walked with a good understanding of order.  He crossed lines for the sake of love.  Jesus broke through boundaries that were keeping people and the possibility of love out. So, it is important that we are careful where we draw our lines, reflecting on what or who we are keeping out that needs to be invited in, and reflecting on what or who in our lives we are allowing to rise into the role of Messiah in our lives, recognizing the danger in this.
In life, we can find ourselves in murky spaces where we have crossed all sorts of boundaries believing that the way we are on will lead us to life, when in actuality the lines we crossed along the way created within our lives a way rising that leads to death. This is what Jesus steps into in the story we find ourselves in this Holy Week. Jesus was as clear about who He is as John was clear about who he was not.
Jesus was, is, and always will be the love of God embodied in life, death, and in life beyond death.  In Jesus we witness the power of love winning in the end.  Life is such a wilderness, it can be a road that seems quite dangerous and dark, this does not fade as we take the hand of Jesus.  There is still danger and uncertainty, we only have more light to guide us on the way, and an assurance that we are following in the way of love, that we know wins in the end.
With you on the journey,
Michelle
Cape Town, South Africa
Holy Week 2018

“What is right in their own eyes…”

international W DayToday is the 8th of March, International Women’s Day. It is a day when the world pauses to honor the women in our midst.  The origin traces back to the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States and the Women’s Suffrage movement worldwide.  It is a hard reality that in our day, 1 out of every 3 women worldwide, have experienced physical and or sexual violence.  As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it is important to recognize that a 1-day pause in the midst of a 365-day year, is not enough.  Women’s bodies are literally on the line in our day and so it is a charge to learn what it truly means to honor women in our midst.  True honoring will take more than flowers, more than a certificate of appreciation, and more than printed Women’s Day memorabilia.  True honoring will require reflection on the realities for women today and a move to turn things around.
Judges 19 is the story of the rape and dismemberment of a concubine woman.  It is not a story to turn to in the wee hours of the night, but if you wake in the middle of the night with the text on your mind, the reality of the connections to be made in this particular text to our present day begin to come more and more alive.  A read of Judges from beginning to end reveals a repetitive phrase. It reads, these were the days when there was no king, when men did “what was right in their own eyes.”  Winds of chaos can be seen to arise in the text as men in the story turn away from honoring life, all life.  It is as if the chaos that surrounds the moment of this woman’s body being offered up for rape and later dismemberment can be seen to be another character in the story when men are doing, “what is right in their own eyes.”  The chaos is almost like wind that begins to swirl about.
Another element alive in the Judges text is what South African theologian, Miranda Pillay, refers to as the “holy halo” or presence of Patriarchy hanging in the air in the culture of the day, making it seem like dishonoring others, offering a women’s body over a male body, is okay.  Pillay, commenting on the existence of Patriarchy within the life of the Church, notes that “the fact that patriarchy is condoned, defended, perpetuated, and sustained by giving it a ‘holy halo’ explains why many women remain in abusive and violent relationships, defend their partners’ behavior and carry the blame-not only for the abuse they suffer but also for being the cause’ of their partners’ behavior.”  Women will stay in situations because others believe and teach them to believe what they are enduring is okay, right even.
In the life of the Church, the existence of Patriarchy is so thick at times, it is like the chaos in Judges, a character alive in our life together.  Patriarchy impacts the decisions of both men and women.  In conversations with ordained Clergywomen serving within the Cape of Good Hope District in Cape Town, South Africa, the women shared stories of struggle with laywomen as well as struggles with men. Women formed and shaped under the ‘Holy Halo’ are formed and shaped to receive systems where men dominate and lead.  So, our understanding of the phrase, “when men do what is right in their own eyes” needs to be expanded to capture the consequences of what happens when women, as well as men, turn from honoring life, all life.  The impact of the ‘Holy Halo’ upon women, is that women can believe it is okay to discriminate against other women due to a formation that shapes them into receiving male dominated systems as being the natural way.
Sadly, the moral authority of leaders in our day and age that might lead us in these times is lacking.  It is said all too often that there once was a day when there was a Mandela, a Martin Luther King Jr., and a Gandhi.  Where there once was a day, those days are long gone.  South Africa, the United States, and India all experienced some of “the greats” in terms of world leaders who were agents of change.  In each of these countries today, stories of abuses against women, as horrific as the story contained within Judges 19 can be found.  In 2012 there was a gang rape on a bus in Delhi India.  A twenty-three-year-old woman was traveling with her friend when several other male passengers on the bus gang raped her and tortured her.  She died two days later as a result of her injuries.  Jacob Zuma, the former President of South Africa and Donald Trump, the current President of the United States, have had accusations of sexual harassment.  Women are under threat in a very public way today.
If there once was a day when there was a Nelson Mandela, a Martin Luther King Jr., and a Gandhi, those days are no more.  If we are looking for the leaders that will bring change, we must begin to look at ourselves.  If we want to honor women, on this International Women’s Day, we must investigate all the ways we have been formed and shaped to believe the dishonoring of women in their person or in their bodies is okay.  The final line in the Judges 19 text reads, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt.  Just imagine! We must do something! So Speak Up!” In the Judges 19 text, when men “did what was right in their own eyes,” a rape happened.  What I don’t think we take seriously enough is the reality that women are raped every day.  Patriarchy is a rape of women’s rightful place as children of God and it happens every day.  It is all about power and the manipulation of others to be underneath the power of an umbrella or “halo’ that does not honor individuals for who they are–holy, beautiful, equivalent creations of God.  There are people beginning to “Speak up!” about this.  We must be careful to listen.
The #METOO movement in the United States is a movement that actually started about ten years ago. It was started by a woman named, Tarana Burke. The inspiration of the movement was to leverage the voices of survivors of sexual harassment, so that, they might encourage others to speak out.  It was not originally a Hollywood movement.  The movement was actually on behalf of those the world did not care as much about.  The other hard reality about Patriarchy alive in culture is that if you are on the wrong end of the power spectrum, there is almost always great consequences for using your voice.  Women so often live in silence, not speaking out about the ways they have been violated, because the consequences for speaking are too great.  There are rightful critiques to be made of the #METOO movement, but it is creating a tsunami of stories that the world is having to process, and the act of processing is giving woman after woman after woman after woman back their voice.
Instead of honoring women in your life this International Women’s Day with flowers, consider spending time with women exploring in conversation the way Patriarchy impacts them in their lives.  Spend time reflecting on ways you might be shaped by Patriarchy.  Instead of honoring the women in your life with a certificate of appreciation, make commitments on how you will work to empower women or live into your power if you are a woman.  Instead of gifting Women’s Day Memorabilia, consider women in your sphere of influence and make sure there is space for them to share how they would like to be celebrated with their own voice.  We are living in days when so many are doing “what is right in their own eyes.” The task is for us to humble ourselves enough to be caught up in the ways that lead to life–what is right in God’s eyes.  Humanity is meant to be at work bridging every power and principality that seeks to divide.  It will take men and women working together to turn things around.
With you on the Journey,
Michelle
For Further Reading:
UN Facts & Figures on Ending Violence against Women
http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures
Thursdays in Black
http://www.thursdaysinblack.co.za/
General Commission on Status & Role of Women, United Methodist Church
http://gcsrw.org/

 

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