ISAIAH 53:8-12; Psalm 22; HEBREWS 4:14-16; 5:7-9; LUKE 22:47-23:56
The Rev. Carissa Baldwin-Mcginnis
It is hard to know what is good about this Friday so weighed down by the causes of hatred and the heaviness of spiritual darkness. Our hearts are made like led as we meditate on these things.
My own memories of darkness take me back several years to a day when winter was turning to spring. Before the dawn of morning I and several others slipped silently onto bicycles and rolled quietly onto the mystery of a country road. It was day two of the MS150 bicycle ride from Houston to Austin, and it was that hour when all things have wakened but not a one dares to stir. Each is still guarded against any predators that might have found their way nearby and yet remain unseen before the light of dawn.
There is a thickness to all that remains veiled just before the break of dawn. I remember nothing about how we navigated those last minutes of darkness, but it was as close to a physical mystery as I have come. It was one of the most frightening moments of the two-day ride, simply because we could not see.
Soon after we set out, it was as if God had brought up a dimmer switch on North America. What was a multitude grays began to transform into a multitude of colors; golds, greens, blacks and yellows. Billions of grass blades. And suddenly I could see the helmets of other riders. Finally, the road itself could be seen. The risks of the ride, now that we could see, were diminished. So was the power and mystery of that darkness. I was sad to see it go, and yet its end had brought me some relief.
I don’t have to explain why darkness is dangerous for riders. Darkness appears to the rider as though it were a solid wall into which we are about to slam ourselves and our bicycles, yet we pass through somehow. We pass through but with the threat of whatever may be in front of us that we cannot see. Something to run into or run over. Something we might run off of, or something unseen that might run into us.
The horror of Jesus’ crucifixion might be one of these apparent walls of the mystery of darkness into which we choose to ride year after year. Despite the illusion that it is dense and solid, each time we pass through into the center and have movement even without visibility and even without explanation for the injustice; or for our choice to relive that which ends abominably every time, every year, no matter what gospel we choose to read from.
Sometimes the spiritual paths take us through mysteries that feel like blindness or walking full frontal into opacity. Sometimes the spiritual path confronts us with mysteries that look like massacre.
Even while the story of Jesus’ crucifixion has a spiritual darkness, a multitude of beings are present. As the mystery is told by Luke, we get that same dimmer switch experience. The lights come up on the haters who have bodies and voices, but also the lights come up on the witnesses to truth who themselves are given mass and given sound.
The witnesses to the truth include Jesus himself who says to those who come to arrest him, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness!” not mine.
The witnesses include one woman and two men who say of Peter, “This man was with him!”
The witnesses include the centurion who declared, “Certainly this man was innocent.”
And there were the women who had walked all the way from the Galilee, following Jesus.
Finally, there was a man called Joseph from Arimathea who had a body, a name and a voice. And he used that voice to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus, and he received it and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb.
All these were witnesses to the truth. And it is the truth to which the mystery of Jesus’ crucifixion is devoted. All of these people witnessed to the truth before the suffering, on a hillside near the suffering, at the side of the sufferer, and after his suffering had ended. They remained throughout to tend to the truth. They did the faithful work of carrying a cross for the crucifixion and of mixing spices and ointment for Jesus’ body. They must have been exhausted.
If you have ever grieved a death or witnessed and injustice that leads to a death, you will remember how exhausting it is. And then you can remember these witnesses who did their work and then took their rest. They rest according to the commandment, because it was the sabbath day. Like cyclist having ridden so very many miles, these witnesses dismounted their grief, their loss, their labor, their love, and they rested. They rested.
Let us rest now. All of us. Shhhhhh . Take your rest.