Dear Church family,

On this day we stand in silence as we hear Jesus crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and we wonder at the deep mystery of God’s presence and absence. We wonder about it in Jesus’ life and in our own lives. It recalls for me a bit of a sermon one of my heroes, Fred Craddock preached about God’s absence. Here is a bit of it:

“I do not know if the distance between us and God increases sometimes. I can imagine there are times when God might just get tired of us and say, ‘Try it by yourself.’ It might be that sometimes God needs to let us do it on our own to develop some strength. My wife Nettie and I got acquainted with a minister in New York City who has no arms. He was telling us one day of the experience of learning to put on his own clothes. He said his mother always dressed him. She fed him, she dressed him, she fed him, she dressed him. One day, she put his clothes in the middle of the floor and said, ‘Dress yourself.’ He said, ‘I can’t dress myself.’ She said, ‘You’ll have to dress yourself.’ He told us, ‘I kicked, I screamed, I kicked, I screamed, I yelled at my mother, “You don’t love me anymore!” Finally he realized that if he was going to get any clothes on, he would have to put them on himself. After hours of struggle he got the clothes on. He said that it was not until later that he learned that his mother was in the next room crying.”

I don’t fully understand the deep mystery of God’s absence or if he really does distance himself from us. I do know we can feel that way sometimes. But perhaps God’s absence does not necessarily mean he is distant. Perhaps he is as close as the next room, weeping as we struggle to become our most faithful selves. Certainly, on this day of all days, when we celebrate the gift he gave to us of his only son, of himself really, we are taken back by the wonder of how far God goes to be close to us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, like the thief on the cross I beg that you will remember me when you come into your kingdom. What love I see on this day in your sacrifice. How close you have come to me, joining me in my humanity and in my sin. Help me to live with peace knowing you are close, even if you feel absent. In your holy name I pray. Amen.

A blessed Good Friday to each of you,