Friday: The "Why?" of the Cross

We have to demand this one question of God:

Looking at all of the hurt, suffering and horror we have to ask the God of creation and power, "WHY?"

But how do we respond to God's question in response?

Let's listen to Jesus' desperate question from the Cross.

The Cross is the mystery that we can only step into from a posture of screaming "Why?"

Audio Postcards

 
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Teach your body the vocabulary of prayer through the ancient practice of repeating sacred phrases with the rhythm of your breathing and actions.

This is modeled over and over throughout the Psalms (the Prayerbook of the Bible).

Today's prayer is from Psalm 97:10-11

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"Hear the Story"

Mark 15 and Psalms 22-23

read with some commentary and a little explanation.

We can't understand the Cross or the scenes surrounding it without hearing it in the context of these ancients prayers to describe the Messiah's suffering and ultimate victory.

 

6 Yahweh, you save from darkness, Light is sown like Seed
00:00 / 02:26
Mark 15 and Psalm 22-23
00:00 / 12:48

the mystery of "The Cross"
the posture of asking "Why?"

Screaming "Why?" with Jesus

Why is there suffering?
   Why so much meanness?
       Why is it heaviest on the most vulnerable?
Why do the weakest suffer the most? 
If creation is so good and beautiful
   Why is it falling apart?
   How could something so good be filled with so much evil?
       Why?

Why do children have to suffer so much?

Why do parents have to suffer so much?
Why does such a beautiful creation have to endure so much destruction and risk?
Why do we invest so much in war machines and tools of death?

We ask these questions of God.
But, here is the beauty and problem with asking God questions:
God responds to our questions with deeper questions. 
(Jesus modeled this so often)


We cry out questions from the pit of despair, and God cries out questions from the same place,

BUT God's questions completely change the way we see the pit, and ourselves.

We ask God all these “Why?”s 
And God responds:
“WHY has creation turned from me?”
   “Why is the suffering so deep?”
   “Why is the anger so rejecting?”
   “Why use choice to choose disconnection from beauty?”
   “Why not just take hold of me now... why not just grab the power to pull you to safety?”

God asks “Why” too, 
But the question is NOT asked from afar.
The question is NOT asked from above.
“Why” is asked RIGHT NEXT TO the person who is suffering.

[As I’m writing this to y’all, it is late evening, and my phone keeps blowing up with the desperate calls from Central American migrants trapped in a horrific place in Mexico. They’re terribly vulnerable to violence and suffering, and they’ve already been through so much, and they’re begging for help. The infant is sick, the mother has been targeted, the father feels powerless, the streets are hard.  How can we help? I am infused with this sense of powerlessness which is the soil of the "Why?"]
   
“Why God?” is not a theoretical question, 
This is not a philosophical question
This is not a question of academic pursuit

We ask “Why?” NOT to understand
   NOT to have power
   NOT to feel better
We ask “WHY?”
because God is asking it too

“WHY?” is the question of the CROSS.
Jesus [according to Mark] screams out “WHY?” in the moment of greatest suffering and torture.

 

In Suffering, 
WE ask WHY? 
And it is a question of INVITATION


In that SAME suffering, 
GOD asks WHY?
And it is a question of TRANSFORMATION

Our “Why?” is an invitation
God’s “Why?” is the beginning of transformation

Jesus asks “Why? a dozen times in the Gospel of Mark
Always, it is a moment pregnant with transformation:


“Why are you thinking these things in your heart?”
“Why are you afraid?”
“Why are you weeping and mourning?”
“Why do you demand signs?”
“Why are you worried about bread?”
“Why are you testing me?”
“Why are you bothering her?”

These are questions of transformation.

 

Also,
These questions are asked RIGHT NEXT to people who are suffering
Right next to hungry, dying, terrified, mourning folks...


…And these questions are surrounded by transformation

But the LAST time Jesus asks “Why?”
   Like us, He is desperately asking God:

“Why, God?” 


"WHY?" is the question of the Cross.
Mark records it in Aramaic, Jesus’ mother tongue: 
Eloi, Eloi, lema sabakthanei?”
“My God, My God, WHY have you forsaken me?”

Jesus is dying on the Cross,

a political execution,

horrifically tortured in front of his mother and the ones who love him.

And this is what he cries out.

Jesus is directly quoting the first line of Psalm 22.

It is the "hour of prayer" Mark notes, and in the suffering Jesus choses this one.
[Psalm 22 is this magnificent Psalm of horror transformed]


This ancient prayer,

preserved by the people enslaved in Babylon,

shows a promised Messiah horrifically suffering, humiliated, and pierced…


And yet Psalm 22 has the most magnificent imagery of God’s accompaniment that you can find in Scripture:

God is seen holding our lives at its birth,

God is tenderly supporting us at our mother’s breast for sustenance and warmth.

God is seen giving us a family of love beyond anything we can imagine. 


Psalm 22, the Psalm of crucifixion, is and astounding “Why?” that becomes the most beautiful expression of unity and praise that we can comprehend.

This ancient prayer describes horrific trauma being transformed into the “kingdom of God.” 

 

If, in a single line, I had to summarize Psalm 22,

[the prayer Jesus screams from the Cross],

I would try: 
“You will wake up in my arms”

 

In Suffering, 
   WE ask WHY? 
And it is a question of INVITATION


In that SAME suffering, 
   GOD asks "WHY THIS?"
And it is a question of TRANSFORMATION

As the bombs fall on homes and hospitals in Ukraine
As famine blazes across entire communities in Yemen and east africa
As desperate families migrate and are preyed upon by the violent
As we weep, and tremble in the caves of depression, addiction, pain, and fear

We DO NOT believe in a God that sits in Judgment on High

 

We believe in a God who stoops down next to us,
(In the dark dirt)
And asks a 
“Why?” 
... deeper than we can now imagine

 

We DO NOT believe in a God who “takes a stand” on issues 
We believe in a God who walks with us
... Navigating the suffering and darkness

 

We DO NOT believe in a silent God who hides behind multi-syllable theological terms
We believe in a God who holds the dying child
Who holds the trembling father
Who holds the weeping mother
And says, “Why this?”
Which means:
   You will wake up in my arms

 

Please, every time you see a Cross
Ask God, “Why?”

 

Your, “WHY?”
Is not INDIGNATION
It is not CONDEMNATION
It is not FAILURE

 

YOUR "WHY?" IS INVITATION

Next time you ask "WHY, GOD?"

Imagine your arms and heart opening wide
See the presence of God right there

    and all around

Then listen to God’s “WHY THIS?”

 

Here is a good translation of God's question:
Come into my arms.

     Wake up in my arms.”
 

 
 
Evening Examen for Good Friday
00:00 / 10:30

 An Evening Examen

Seeing yourself well

Choosing to receive wisdom

Leaning into God

Follow along with this printed Examen

Seeing your gratitude

Seeing your stresses

Seeing yourself in the power of God

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