Friday, March 25, 2016

You & AM~Erica Need the Passion of Good Friday

So anyway...

The very day of today, we are told is a "good" day. Because it's Friday. And Friday is good.


Until we come to Good Friday.

Such a conundrum.

We are wrapping up Holy Week. We celebrate Palm Sunday! Jesus' time is coming & he's getting ready to take his place to solidify that He truly is THE Messiah!

Then, somehow, we want to jump to 7 days later & just celebrate again!
YAY! It's Easter! We get to wear pretty clothes & find eggs! We get chocolate bunnies, gorge ourselves on jelly beans, and maybe go to church...because you're supposed to. Right?


Hold it. There's so much more!

Do you ever pick up a book, read the first chapter, maybe one in the middle, just read the last chapter (or the last couple of pages) & call it a day? Do you get the whole story like that?

How about your favorite TV show you follow. Is there any that go in a progression with each episode with canon that gets included? Those shows! The dramas with building characters & storylines. What if you miss an episode or two?

My point is this:
You cannot truly get to the end of a season or series by just watching the first episode or two, then picking up at the very end thinking you know everything that happened.

Holy Week is the same way. Really the Bible is! But I want to focus on Holy Week for the moment. OK?

So we celebrate the big hoopla, shouting, "Hosanna," waving palms in hopes this Jesus guy is the Messiah who will save & deliver the people! We wave the palm branches at church services, we sing songs about "Hosanna," then we get ready for Easter egg hunts & hope things will be awesome & ready for church services next week...

...but there's more episodes between Palm Sunday & Easter Sunday...

The Last Supper is more than just a Renaissance painting by da Vinci. There's an actual story to it. And it's not as pretty as the painting makes it, even though it's based on the moment Jesus announces one of them will betray Him. Because there's more! He had a Passover meal with His 12 closest friends. His heart was heavy knowing what was probably coming. He knew about being betrayed by one of his 12 friends. He broke bread with them. He drank wine with them. He changed their perception about said bread & wine. He washed their feet. That's right: the Master did the unthinkable & washed the feet of His followers.

After Judas left in haste, in hopes of forcing the issue of his friend rising up as the Messiah would do in HIS mind, the feast winds down...and the uncomfortable, yet important story-building episodes are yet to come.

For the Last Supper was only Thursday. An important Thursday, but it's Friday that Jesus told his friends about when he broke the bread & shared the wine with them. It was foreshadowing to a later episode in the story...

It's usually this part of the story where many choose to just talk about a couple of things, or skip it all together. This part is too difficult to face. This part is too much, too graphic, to uncomfortable to face...

Just a few days ago, our television screen was tuned into the daring "The Passion: Live" broadcast. Tyler Perry had gathered several talents to bring the Word to life, and to keep it relevant. There were pre-recorded segments, there were songs performed live, there was a choir in a colosseum-style theatrical set up, there was an orchestra, and there was Tyler Perry telling the story, live, to thousands. There was even a pilgrimage journey carrying a large, lit cross through the streets of New Orleans as the broadcast was going. As the cross traveled, each shot showed more followers walking with it.

The use of secular music to tell the ages-old story was done very well, in my opinion. The acting was done so well, too! I didn't know what to expect, and kept my expectations tempered to very low. But as the songs were used, and the talent was on display in a relevant story...I got chills...then I found myself sobbing at times. It was a very creative way to bring the story to life again.

However...the broadcast did exactly what many others do. The sort of talked about the ugliness of the Passion portion of the story. Everything was so built up! The crowd called for the release of Barabbas, live on TV! And then there was a Cliff's Notes-type synopsis of the crucifixion. Then it was time to party again - because resurrection & Easter, yo! Gotta skip the hard part! People don't wanna know about the beating & the excruciating pain of the crucifixion!

*side note: The word "Excruciating" came from the description of the horrible pain of dying by crucifixion. The more you know.

All of a sudden, the broadcast actually lost steam. There could have been an extra 30 minutes, even, to cover (somehow creatively), the darkness of all of Friday. I even said that the lit cross, that had just made its way into the theatrical setting, could have been turned dark at the climax of the death. It would have been better than a commercial break & only quick explanation of the crucifixion by Tyler Perry, as if he had to work in a lecture of all of Friday in 5 minutes. SOMETHING could have been done!

But I digress...because Friday was crucial to get to the crucifixion!

In a time, when there is so much desensitization, how is it there's so much blood, so much dying, so much violence on TV & in movies that are out in the open for kids to see, even? The video games & videos that contain this stuff is just out there. There's true stories told, as well as "(loosely) based on true stories," where there's quite a bit of violent occurrences that general audiences don't to seem to mind right in front of them. However, something happens with the story about Jesus' final hours on Earth.
The flogging, the beating, the journey carrying the cross, the crucifixion...this doesn't seem to be covered too often, or even talked about.
It was bloody, gory, and yet we want to look the other way.

Why is that? Why is it that these other stories can be told, but THIS story gets glazed over somehow?

Not that Mel Gibson has done amazing things in the passed few years, but his telling of "The Passion of the Christ" is so hard to watch. The pain, the suffering, the blood, the beating, the violence, the gore...but it's probably the truest-to-form in the telling of the Passion story.
And it was rated 'R'. Yet kids can play these games where they shoot people, blood & guts flying...but they aren't allowed to watch what Jesus did for them.

Don't get me wrong, we haven't shown our kids. When it came out, we did feel they were too young at the time. But we aren't big on the shoot-em-up games, movies & shows. But we will talk about the suffering Jesus went through. And we bring up this movie.
And our kids will watch it soon. Because it's necessary. It will be harsh, uncomfortable, difficult to witness, but they need to know. And I need to be reminded.

Tonight, though we don't show the hardcore suffering of the Passion Jesus went through, our church does a good job of letting people know how much Jesus went through for each of us...even me.

However, I was challenged, 4 years ago, by my hubby to put together a readers theater, of sorts, covering the 14 stations of the cross. This is basically 14 of the final moments of Jesus' life following through the crucifixion and burial. There's some readings that are responsive, and there is a Catholic version that is usually used. However, I found some scripture passages used for a Protestant responsive reading (I believe, if memory serves me correctly). So I took these scriptures & built a readers theater script around it. There's a narrator, Jesus, Judas, chief high priest of the Sanhedrin, the trial, Pilate, the crowd yelling for the release of Barabbas & to crucify Jesus, and the criminals crucified with Jesus.

I've had a great group of readers all 5 years of doing the reading (this was the 5th year), and I've always done well getting through all of the reading, even the crowd yelling, every time...until tonight. Something about the crowd yelling for Jesus to be crucified was hard for me to get through. I almost didn't make it through my next line. I had to work very hard to hold myself together after the chilling thought of the crowd aggressively YELLING for Jesus to be crucified.

I still can't wrap my head around that. Jesus, an innocent man, being crucified for false sins. But he did so knowing each mark on his body, from the scratches of the thorns of the crown on His head, to the stripes from the flogging, all the way to the nails through His hands & feet, the insults & verbal abuse...each of these marking the sins of every single one of us. We all caused a mark on the body of a perfect who willingly took those marks all the way to the cross, and let all of the weight of sin of humankind, to allow it all to die there.

I left at least one of those deep marks. So did you. We all did. Our imperfect selves, wether we want to accept it or not, left a deep gash on the Lamb of God - God's own Son. We punished God, come to us as our own, just so He could take all of our mistakes that separate us from God.

Why? Why would He go through all of this? The insults? The beatings? The verbal abuse? The excruciating death?
Love. That's why. Love for you. Love for me.
LOVE! Unconditionally!

That's a lot to take in, folks. It's so hard to fathom anyone wanting to make that sacrifice. We say we would do it for our family or our friends...but for EVERYONE? Yes! Even for those who don't want to accept it. For them, too. And that "them" might include YOU!

Now, I hope churches, people & productions stop skipping over this important part - no matter how difficult it is. I just wonder if people don't know how to handle their part in Jesus' suffering, but we know something most didn't at that time: we know that Sunday's comin'! There's new life to celebrate! But it came at a great price. We cannot just make it the Cliff's Notes type of synopsis in Holy Week. If we are gonna face Palm Sunday, we'd better be prepared to brace for the confusion of Maundy Thursday as we remember Jesus in the breaking of the bread as His body, and consume the wine as His blood becoming a part of us. Because it foretells of the what we put Jesus through & why we ask for His grace to fall upon us.

As horrible as the suffering was for Jesus...the "good" part of this Friday is that He took all of that for us...all the way to the cross to allow it to die there. We just have to turn to Him and accept it. That's it.

A great deal of grace comes from Good Friday. Proof of that comes on Sunday morning...

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica