“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
This has to be one of the most shocking and disconcerting utterances in all of Christian scripture. And coming from the mouth of Jesus, this cry of dereliction has the power to shake one’s faith to the very core.
In ways big and small, yes, we’ve known abandonment.
I remember the day I received that fateful notice in the mail which began, “Greetings.” Within what seemed only a few days, I was at the U.S. Army reception station at Ft. Polk, LA.
It hadn’t been more than a several months before that I had begun seeing this wonderful Occidental College coed. Thoughts of her had begun to fill my waking moments and occupy my dreams at night. And now, I wasn’t sure I would ever see her again.
I was so depressed with heartache that first day that I wandered over to the post commissary, feeling that some soda and doughnuts might help ease my distress. What should I hear as I opened the door? What should be coming over the sound system Andy Williams crooning, “Can’t Get Used to Loosing You.”
I was devastated. When I got back to my bunk it didn’t help to discover that my fellow barracks-mates had relieved me of my watch and some other things. The remaining possession which appeared to have been left was my Bible. I was devastated.
My spirit cried out, “My God, Why me? Why me?” Of course, in the grand scheme of things, there’s much worse than my loss on that day. My loss was nothing. My experiences of abandonment are rather puny compared to the real and complete abandonment many experience around the world.
Ask any parent who has lost a child. The scenes of Iraqi mothers clamoring at a burned out government building wanting to know the fate of a son or husband who disappeared in the pile of rubble, I find utter sadness itself. The ache in the gut which never goes away. Life put on hold. Never knowing what has happened. Is he alive or not? Even if he’s dead, just tell me so I can know. So we can bury him. To feel such utter abandonment of hope – ask any parent who has lost a child. Whether a child in the rubble of a bombed out building or a child killed in a drive-by in East L.A. It’s the end of all that makes sense.
Abandonment, death, gut wrenching tragedy. It’s so often our human fate – more devastating for some than others.
In ways large and small, we have all lived those moments which seemed bereft of any saving comfort – times when our world seemed to collapse, and an empty hollowness hijacks our days. Times when the dark night of mourning seemed endless. In a way we expect to experience such moments, for we are but frail human beings. But Christ? The one we Christians confess as Son of God?
When I contemplate those awful words uttered by Christ, I am cut to the core. If Christ Almighty should be forsaken by God, who then can be saved? There is no hope.
“My God, My God.” The cry echoes down the corridors of the years. Faith in anything turns to quicksand. There is no ground on which to stand. My easy religiosity turns to rot.
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me? Why are you so far from the words of my groaning?” The words of the psalmist, yes. The words of our Lord Jesus, no! No! I refuse to hear it!
Yet, there they are. Those dreadful words of Christ from the cross, suspended between time and eternity. Abandoned.
And why not despair? Everything he said and did seem to have come to naught. His followers, a poor lot. In the end, they all had run away. He of all human beings was most alone.
Yet, this is what I find most compelling about him. Compelling in the way a sore tooth keeps you fidgeting at it with your tongue. You can’t leave it alone. If Christ can also know utter estrangement from God, then here is a Christ who makes sense to me. “Fully human, fully God,” isn’t that what we confess?
In Jesus God suffers crucifixion on that rude cross no less than God suffers crucifixion in a bombed out Syrian neighborhood or in a solitary prison cell of Guantanamo.
Let’s be honest here. On this most holy of days it is imperative that we Christians acknowledge and confess our complicity in the suffering and devastation of creation.
Today, let us remember, those who have borne the cross of economic injustice. It is not coincidence that the poor are impoverished.
Let us remember our children who have borne the cross of failed schools and violent neighborhoods. We who live in decent places have ignored their poverty just blocks from us. We have chosen to look away. We have supported a political order that refuses to see.
We hear their cry reaching to the heavens, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken us. This is the cry of God in solidarity with all flesh – yes, their flesh.
The cry of abandonment from the city mingles with the cry from the cross, he in us and we in him, together tumbling into the abyss. On this most final of days, and on every final day, with absolutely nowhere else to turn, in the power of all that is Holy – in awkward silence we commend all that we are and might be into the hands of a living God. We are left with a whispered prayer, “Lord, have mercy.”
On this Good Friday we acknowledge that the living God enters into the places of hurt and abandonment – enters also into the hearts of the ones who bear witness, that some might have the courage and maturity of spirit to join those who do comfort and do make whole. Amen.