Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Abandonment of the Cross

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 -- Week of Proper 12, Year Two
Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, and Henry Purcell, Composers, 1750, 1759, 1695
To read about the commemorations of our new proposed calendar, click here
to go to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 977)
Psalms 72 (morning)       119:73-96 (evening)
Judges 3:12-30
Acts 1:1-14
Matthew 27:45-54

"Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus' cry of spiritual abandonment on the cross has always chilled me.  The physical pain and the slow torture leading to certain death is one thing.  For one who had lived in such intimate union with God to experience God's complete absence and abandon, must have been infinitely more horrifying.  Meaning and purpose evaporates.  Grounding disappears.  In this expression we hear Jesus experiencing the deepest depth that humans can face.  As post-resurrection Christians we can say that this is the revelation of God.  God is with us.  God is with us in our deepest tragedy and suffering, including our own subjective sense of God's abandonment. 

The phrase Jesus utters is the first verse of Psalm 22.  The footnote in my Access Bible mentions that Matthew uses the Hebrew version of this psalm ("Eli, Eli") and that Mark uses the Aramaic ("Eloi, Eloi").  "Eli" sounds like "Elijah," who was the expected forerunner of the Messiah and the herald of the messianic age.  The bystanders express their curiosity.  Will Elijah come to save him?  The Christian witness says that Elijah has already come, and they are witnessing the pivotal messianic moment.  The slow death of an innocent man.

Psalm 22 has so many phrases and images that echo the scene of the crucifixion.  "I am a worm, and less than human, scorned by all and despised by the people.  All who see me laugh me to scorn; they curl their lips and wag their heads saying, 'You trusted in God for deliverance; let God rescue you, if God delights in you.'  ...I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; my heart within my breast is melting wax.  My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd; my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth, and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.  Packs of dogs close me in, and gangs of evildoers circle around me; they pierce my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.  They stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing."

Yet the end of the Psalm includes a vision of universal blessing and salvation.  "The poor shall eat and be satisfied, and those who seek you shall praise you: 'May your heart live for ever!'  All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to you, and all the families of the nations shall bow before you.  ...To you alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship; all who go down to the dust fall before you.  My soul shall live for you; my descendants shall serve you; they shall be known as yours for ever.  They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that you have done."

The Church has accepted our commission as the descendants of Jesus to make known the saving deeds that God has done.  What we proclaim is nothing less than universal blessing and salvation.  To use Paul's analogy:  As in Adam all died, so also in Christ have all been made alive.

In Jesus, God shows us the divine heart, descending into the depths of human evil and death, even unto the experience of spiritual abandonment in complete hopelessness.  God goes to the deepest darkness with us. 

God takes our deepest darkness into the divine heart, and God raises it all into the fullness of divine blessing and presence.  It is a nice juxtaposition today to read also in Acts 1 of the exaltation of Jesus as he ascends into heaven.  In Jesus, God shows us the divine intention to raise our tragic and broken humanity into the fullness of God's presence, to raise us into glory.  In the cross, nothing in the darkness of the human experience is beyond the grasp of God.  In the ascension, all is raised into fullness and light forevermore.  Thanks be to God.

Lowell

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Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.


Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

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