Waiting to Love

Salvador Dali's Crucifixion

As I sat in the church pew during the Good Friday Tennebrae Service last evening listening to readings from Luke’s gospel of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, mock trial, torture and crucifixion , my mind recalled the account of Jesus’ death in Matthew 27:45-53:

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[c] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[d47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[e] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Upon remembering the prophetic and poetic earth-shattering event that Matthew describes, I suddenly realized the significance of Earth Day and Good Friday’s being recognized (for the first time) on the same date.  In all honesty, it would be appropriate if Earth Day was held every year on Good Friday. What better way to celebrate the gift of God’s creation and commit to being good stewards of the Earth and making a better world for generations to come…than on the very day in which Jesus’ crucifixion shakes a world corrupted by violent systems of power, greed, corruption, oppression and death; raises the dead to life and transforms the world into something new–a place of redemption, healing and love for all!

It’s clearer to me now than ever before that resurrection begins on the cross. But in this Dead or Holy Saturday, resurrection is not fully realized. To be accurate, it’s not completely realized on Easter morning either, although we do have a more profound awareness that faith is alive, hope is coming and love cannot be defeated by any amount of evil and darkness.

As singer-songwriter Brent Dennen sings, there ain’t no reason things are this way…but love will set us free:

Resurrection and redemption is (in good ole Reformed Presbyterian speak) already here/not yet. God’s love has conquered death but we are much too limited in our our linear view and living of time to see the complete affect of that love.  Yet we know we are headed toward new living in a world that is filled with nothing but love.  In the meantime we have to wait for that day–actively wait. Ponder. Discern. Question. Lament. Stir. It is then that we begin to see a little bit more and a little bit more (like the light at the end of a dark tunnel) glimpses of God’s love that we are destined for and are called to embody in the here and now.

This idea too became much more transparent to me last night after the Good Friday Service as Elizabeth and I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (just released on DVD during this Holy Week, which is intriguing considering the entire Harry Potter story and its religious symbolism and references as well as JK Rowling’s Christian faith and membership in the Church of Scotland).

Although we were moved by the film when we first watched it at the local theater, the scenes in which Harry, Hermione and Ron are actively waiting for a solution to their predicament (a little faith, hope, love and light in the darkness if you will) took on more power considering the context of this weekend observance for Christians.

And while there is much pain and anguish in the final two parts of Harry Potter’s story (the film version of The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 opens this summer), we know that Voldermort and the Death Eaters will not win, even when Harry receives killing curse from the Elder wand V steals from Dumbledore’s grave.

Resurrection, you see, is beginning. Destruction is always an end.

The same couldn’t be any more truer than last evening’s episode of the J.J. Abrams sci-fi adventure Fringe, “6:03 AM”, which was appropriately timed for Good Friday

Walter Bishop holds a sign in the Fringe Season 2 episode "White Tulip"

This will likely only make sense to those who are Fringies but there was a powerful scene in which Walter Bishop (played superbly by John Noble) has a “Mount of Olives/Garden of Gethsemane” moment. To give a bit of background for non-Fringe viewers, Walter goes into a chapel to pray at the hospital where his son Peter is in ICU (gravely injured by a machine designed to destroy our world or an alternate universe eerily similar to ours).  Walter, a brilliant scientist and humble bumbler, is filled with enormous guilt for a series of choices he made that has resulted in a war between both worlds that could result in the destruction of our own:

“I ask you for a sign, and you send it to me. It was a white tulip. I was so grateful. Since then, in moments of deep despair, I have found solace in believing that you have forgiven me. I was willing to let it go. I was willing to let Peter die. I changed. That should matter. God, I know my crimes are unforgivable. Punish me. Do what you want to me, but I beg you, spare our world.”

Pain, anguish and even death of beloved characters on Fringe is inevitable…but if you know Fringe or it’s creators (the same folks who brought the world LOST, wink, wink, nudge, nudge) or reflect on the greatest epic literary stories of our time (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc.) as well as those in history (Alice Paul, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr., Oscar Romero, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu)Destruction won’t be the end.

Resurrection is just beginning.

Love is waiting to happen.

Michael D. O'Brien's Jesus Laid in the Tomb

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