Saturday, 30 March 2013

Good Friday - worth it?

This Easter week has been dominated for me by thoughts of Syria. I found myself in the Good Friday service looking up at a large wooden cross in the centre of the chapel and full of the most intense anger. Anger at all the things I had been reading and writing about. Too frustrated to pray one more prayer for the world in the face of such inexplicable suffering. Angry even at the symbol before me. The barbarity and pain of it, of this event that stands at the centre of my faith. Perhaps that's not the right thing to say, even less so to God as I did this Good Friday, but I am of the school of saying it as it is (have you noticed?!) and no more so than to the Almighty. I reckon he can handle it, don't you? At the heart of my plea this Easter was, is there no other way than this?

When I read the gospel accounts I find myself drawn to Peter. He is simultaneously fiercely devoted to Jesus, and clearly they are great personal friends, as well as getting it so very wrong so very often to the point of denying his friend. I see a kindred spirit in him. He is described as the first to really understand who Jesus is but he is also the one who, when trying to prevent Jesus from going to Jerusalem where he was so clearly in danger, is told by Jesus to 'Get behind me, Satan'. Peter speaks his mind and sometimes he gets it so perfectly right and other times so monumentally wrong. Oh yes, I know that feeling.

The incident where Jesus rebukes Peter for trying to prevent him going to Jerusalem, and ultimately to his death, has stuck with me this week. If I had of been there I think I would have said the same thing. How can you see your friend, your companion, go to their death without protest? Even believing what I do about Jesus, that here was God in human form, and believing what I do about his death, that he was gathering us to himself by paying the penalty for the things we have done wrong, for that level of human destructiveness that has lead to conflicts like Syria, even knowing this - I still want to drag him back from his fate. I still want there to be another way, any other way than this.

But through it all this Cross, the heartbreaking, overwhelming, brutal love of God is the only answer to the kind of suffering I see in the world that has ever compelled me. I can't ignore suffering, or transcend it, or say it's just the way it is. It shakes me to my core and I always want to respond that way. When I railed against God in that chapel I heard a gentle whisper say, 'They are worth it'. I opened my eyes and looked around me at the faces of all my friends and colleagues all so free, so unique, so wonderfully and intensely worth creating and saving. That God is willing to come himself, to take on the worst that humanity can do, frames my question in a new light. And the love that I feel that cries out for any answer but this finds itself so enlarged and overwhelmed by his love that I find myself this Easter standing at the foot of that cross and echoing back what to him what I hear him saying to me. That you, my God, are worth it.

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