The Rev. Genevieve Razim
“When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus…” (Luke 23:33).
The place of The Skull can be found in the territory of our hearts. Where we know — from our own experiences and those of loved ones — the pain and trauma of fear, violence, loss, and grief. All of the places we’d never go if we’d had a choice.
But what can feel like a God-forsaken place in these experiences — my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22) — Good Friday is Christ choosing to go there, to be with us.
Jesus had been on a collision course with the values of the Roman Empire and religious authorities had felt threatened by his popularity and teachings for some time. This was not a secret. So when Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem, he knew that his ministry of liberating souls in this life (Luke 4:18-19) would take him to the end of his.
Emmanuel — God with us — is with us. All the way to death on a cross.
As the writer of Hebrews proclaims:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:15-16).
As Hurricane Irma’s gusts finally ceased, Bishop Rafael Morales Maldonado, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico, ventured outside to survey the damage to churches and neighborhoods. He had only been bishop for four months, and shared with those of us with Episcopal Relief & Development, that he was overwhelmed by what he saw.
The devastation was immense. As the grief he felt for his people met the learning curve of his new role as bishop, his heart sank.
But as he continued to survey the damage, he came upon a cross. Still standing strong and tall, undamaged by the storm.
He knew in that moment that Christ was with him and all who suffered. He knew that Christ would be with them, through it all, and provide him with the strength to persevere and lead through the disaster.
Because of the cross of Christ, the godforsaken landscape of death and destruction is no longer forsaken by God.
The cross means more than “Christ died for our sins” … the cross means that “God is with the suffering.” The cross of Christ says: I love you. I am with you. I will not forsake you.
Allow this truth to reach the deepest, most tender territory of your heart; that place of piercing pain, grief, loss.
Emmanuel — God with us — is with you.
All will be redeemed.
But for now we wait. Holding fast to our confession of hope … for God is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).