Barbara Johnson wrote that Christians are an “Easter People Living in a Good Friday World.”
In the memorial acclamation which is part of many Eucharistic liturgies we proclaim “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” or possibly this variant “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored your life, Lord Jesus come in glory. It has been part of the proclamation of the Gospels and various books of the New Testament and is the faith and prayer of those that call themselves Christians almost regardless of denomination from the very beginning.
Around the world many Christians understand this as they are persecuted for their faith sometimes to the point of death. The reality of Christians and others who are persecuted for their faith in many countries is quite unlike many American Christians who seem to believe that if someone disagrees with them they are being persecuted, despite enjoying tremendous political power and being the majority religion of the land. Yet even in this country we live in a Good Friday world, maybe not like those that are dying for their faith but certainly in a place where suffering and violence abound, where innocent people are brutally murdered and where natural disasters bring destruction on the just and the unjust alike. In fact our country is experiencing a crisis of an order that it has not seen in many decades even while war, economic collapse and natural disasters and deep political division have left many people in deep despondency as well as in a very angry mood.
Our technology enables us to gather information and to receive news often faster than we can absorb it, thus when deluged by bad news it is easy to lose sight of the things that matter in life, especially relationships with those that we love as well as those that become part of our lives and of the Crucified God.
It is during Lent, Holy Week and in the Easter Triduum of Holy or Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter that the reality of God participating in our world, the real world of pain, suffering, injustice and death becomes something that keeps us, or rather those who profess the Christian faith from simply becoming exponents of what Luther termed the “theology of glory.” The Cross is that scandal or stumbling block that according to Jürgen Moltmann, the knowledge of which “brings a conflict of interest between God who has become man and man who wishes to become God.” It is the Cross which forces us to deal with the present realities even while we remain fixed upon the hope of Easter.
Unfortunately for many American Christians our focus tends to be less on the Crucified and Risen God than on our attempts to use the raw power of the political process and unsavory compromises with those that would co-opt and compromise the faithful for the advancement of their political, social and economic agendas. This is nothing new; it has been an unfortunate and painful series of chapters in the history of the Christian Church since the time that Christianity became legal and the State religion during the reign of Constantine. The sad truth is that in Western Christianity beginning with the Catholic Church and extending out to those that have been the theological heirs of Saint Augustine Catholic and Protestant alike have more often than not allowed their faith to be subordinated to their political, economic and social agendas and thereby becoming captive to things that are often antithetical to the Gospel.
Yet in the midst of this there is the constant call of the Gospel, that “God was reconciling the world to himself counting men’s sins not against them.” Moltmann puts this paradox well when he says:
“When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness. In Jesus he does not die the natural death of a finite being, but the violent death of the criminal on the cross, the death of complete abandonment by God. The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God, his Father. God does not become a religion, so that man participates in him by corresponding religious thoughts and feelings. God does not become a law, so that man participates in him through obedience to a law. God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him.”
It is in this that Christians can fully be Easter People who live in a Good Friday world. It is in living the paradox of Good Friday and Easter that we find just how God humbled himself for all people. In suffering the wrath of some incredibly religious people Jesus in the eloquent words of Paul the Apostle “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.” (Phil 4:7-8) and in that God, “who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” (2 Cor 5:18-19)
Yes this is what it means to be an Easter people living in a Good Friday World.