Suggested reading: Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12
But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises [stripes] we are healed.
I work in a United Methodist Mission Institute that houses a food pantry. One day in the lobby of our food pantry, I was handing out newsletters to people after they got their bag of groceries. I watched the clients talking with each other as they gathered up their belongings. One couple said, "We're living out of our car right now."
As they kept chatting, I pictured them lying cramped in their vehicle. How could they find a comfortable position for sleeping? How could they keep warm as the nights grew colder? Where did they shower or go to the bathroom? And wouldn't such close quarters put a strain on their relationship? The mental image weighed me down.
This is what happens when, every so often, the weight of the world feels heavy on my shoulders. Suddenly I remember that all is not well--that people are cold, hungry, scared, alone. Did Jesus feel this weight as the suffering servant? Did he think of poverty and desperation as he was crucified? Is this what caused him pain?
- A child accidentally shoots off a loaded gun, paralyzing her brother from the neck down. Another stripe.
- A lifeless body lies on the porch of our food pantry--a homeless man who froze to death in his sleep. Another stripe.
- There is strong opposition to a bill that would protect people from being fired or evicted based on their sexual orientation. Another stripe.
The world's problems continue to mount, and we start to hurt, along with Jesus. What do we do when that same pain infects us? Do we let our spirits die on Good Friday?
God's vision for the world is not one of continual battering. God's vision is a world of wholeness, justice, and peace. Jesus' ministry is not the stoning of an adulterous woman or the shunning of the foreigner. Jesus' ministry is sharing a table with people of all races, economic statuses, ages, and beliefs. Our life is not a life of helplessness, and the story does not end on Good Friday.
I believe that, by looking at Jesus' ministry, we can learn how to respond to his crucifixion. He took the pain--the weight of the world--and responded with love and compassion. We, the hands and feet of Christ, can work together to effect change.
It may be dark tonight, but we are steadily moving toward Easter. The circle of light grows wider. The stone in front of the tomb is moved another inch, revealing a sliver of morning light.
- A protest convinces legislators not to cut healthcare for people with disabilities, protecting their lives and their dignity. Another inch.
- A new building with low-income housing opens up, providing an alternative to homelessness. Another inch.
- A neighborhood develops a community garden, sharing in the fruits and caring for the environment. Another inch.
The weight of Good Friday is very real. It is my prayer that we can turn our heavy burdens into compassion. May we work together to roll away the tombstone, inch by inch.
Sarah Martindell is a US-2 missionary serving as a social justice advocate in Salt Lake City, Utah. She graduated from Otterbein College in central Ohio, with a creative writing major and religion minor. Her placement site, Crossroads UrbanCenter, runs the busiest emergency food pantry in Utah, and hosts several anti-poverty advocacy groups.
Lent/Easter meditations by missionaries and other resources.
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Mar 10, 2009