Friends in Faith and Struggle:
The acclaimed preacher
Barbara Brown Taylor said,
Christianity is the only
world religion that confesses a God who suffers. It is not that popular an
idea, even among Christians. We prefer a God who prevents suffering, only that
is not the God we have got. What the cross teaches us is that God’s power is
not the power to force human choices and end human pain. It is, instead, the
power to pick up the shattered pieces and make something holy out of them – not
from a distance but right close up (from God in Pain).
it staggering to think of our faith like that? It makes so much sense. People
often wonder why a good God allows suffering, especially of innocents. While I
wish I had a ready answer, especially in those most poignant moments, I do know
that God in Jesus was innocent, but suffered as well.
are now at the moment, at Easter, when we realize, again maybe, or for the
first time, that God indeed transforms our suffering into something holy, and
beautiful, and life-changing. That is the example of the cross.
first thing I think we should remember about this Holy Weekend and Easter is
that Jesus did not relish suffering. He accepted it, but he also asked God to
“let this cup pass” from him. There is nothing beautiful or helpful about
we need to remember that Jesus suffered not at God’s hands, but at the hands of
a sinful humanity who did not understand Jesus nor did they want his message of
love to go any further than it did. Lots of suffering is human caused, which
makes it neither inevitable nor acceptable. Part of our call as Christians is
to help alleviate suffering where we can.
it is not Jesus’ innocent suffering that makes him the Messiah. He is hardly
unique in that regard. Innocent people suffer all the time, whether from war,
famine, illness, or a host of other causes. Rather, it is his resurrection that
makes Jesus the Christ, and unlike Lazarus, whom Jesus resurrected, Jesus lives
forever in God. Resurrection is the action that God takes against death and
against sin as the ultimate example of transformation. Jesus, sometimes called
“the firstborn of the dead,” leads the way for us into a new life, a life in
God’s kingdom, where lions lie down with lambs, and children are safe wherever
I think people are too excited about Jesus’ suffering and not interested enough
in his resurrection. But we do call ourselves Good Friday people. We live in a
Good Friday world. We are Easter people – Jesus’ resurrection is our reason to
be! In this Good Friday world, we are meant to point to Easter, to manifest
Easter in our lives, and to keep our eyes on Easter even when all other signs
of the time are so very discouraging.
Friends, the good news of
this April, and indeed every day, is this: He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Rev. Dr. Mary N. Pugh, Pastor