On this dreadful day of brutality which gave way to cosmic beauty so many Fridays ago, it’s helpful to consider Virginia Stem Owen’s clarifying realization:
“Good Friday is the day when you can do nothing. Bewailing and lamenting your manifold sins does not in itself make up for them. Scouring your soul in a frenzy of spring cleaning only sterilizes it; it does not give it life. On Good Friday, we are all, mourners and mockers alike, reduced to the same impotence. Someone else is doing the terrible work that gives life to the world.”
Graham Greene, the novelist, famously has a priest say to a confessing widow in Brighton Rock, in what could serve as an addendum to Owens’ statement above:
“You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.”
It is appallingly strange indeed, grossly unfair, and yet drastically necessary that God show extend his mercy healingly and wide as he suffered a criminal’s demise on the torturous tree.
This morning will pray through a meditation of the marvels of Christ’s inability, at least according to the mockers, “to save himself.” Of course, it wasn’t actual inability.
It was stubborn refusal.
For he had other saving to do.
And for that we can only drop to our knees, and utter with bowed heads:
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted Savior,
It’s a somber and praiseful thing to ponder this morning the treacherous and state-sponsored torture of One who had committed no treachery…by which you have brought about a new state of affairs.
It’s a sober and praiseful thing to consider that you,
pristine in character,
absent even a smudge of deception and
filled with nothing but perfected love for God and others
were executed with proven criminals so that we could stand before the Father “without
blemish and free from accusation.”
Without blemish Lord?
Free from accusation?
O, how I praise you for this divine reckoning which I can scarcely let myself fully believe!
But I want to believe it today.
Holy Spirit, inscribe its veracity on my reticent heart which is always looking for a catch, or some fine print proving me disqualified.
I transfer again today, Lord Jesus, my trust, from me to you, a trade you inexplicably welcome.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your completed sacrifice, a donation “once for all, of righteous FOR the unrighteous, meant to bring us to God”
Thank you, Lord Jesus, that your harrowing labor means death sentences have been rescinded for me and all who entrust themselves to you.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, that your cross-stranded demise means the disabling of the domineering mastery of sin in our lives and the undoing of my former allergy to you.
It’s all so wonderful!
I want to be able to soak in its truth and
steep in the marvel of it,
so much so that I become appropriately
overcome with appropriate gratitude for YOU, who are so profoundly worthy to receive praise, glory, adoration, and affection from all your pardoned and purchased people.
O Lord, let me, never for a second, cheapen your expensive righteousness, or your exorbitant sacrifice by looking down on others, as if I was not one of the ungodly who has been freely justified with an appallingly remarkable and undeserved mercy.
Settle the conviction in me, as I herald your cross, your heart, and your grace, that I’ll have no reason at any point today or in any that follow it to “to be confident in my own righteousness or to look down on everyone else.” (Luke 15)
I praise you for the relief of knowing that neither my prayers, my worship, my service, my repentance, my listening, my giving, my helping, my work performance, my refraining from impolite things, nor keeping of commands—nothing I manage to perform that I should nor resist that I shouldn’t will ever be enough!
Hallelujah, O Christ, for the impossibility of my self-salvation!
And hallelujah, O Christ, that you are enough and an all sufficient Savior, “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through you!”
It is strangely happy news on this sober and reflective day to breathe deeply Scripture’s consoling insistence, as reliable and true as the law of gravity that keeps me from floating out of my chair:
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130)
Thank you for standing in my stead.
Thank you for acting to reconcile all things to yourself by the divinely appointed means of sacrifice.
And thank you my Victor and my Hope for your defeat of Satan’s regime, your defanging of death, and your disabling of sin’s bottomlessly thirsty ambition in me.
Let me submit myself to no master today save the One
who was wounded that I might be healed…
who was punished that I might know peace….
who was abandoned that I might be accepted…
who died that I might live both now and forevermore…
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32)
(Spend a few moments making petitions for our community, others, or yourself, and offering praises for any thoughts of adoration, gratitude or appreciation that well up within you…perhaps begin by asking, “Holy Spirit, show me what and how to pray….”)
Father, as we go out into your world,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior,
carried along by your Holy Spirit,
convince us, and embolden us to reassure others that you are indeed the only “help of the helpless” and through each opportunity, aggravation, or struggle, O Lord, “abide with me.” In Christ’s name I plead, Amen.