At The Cross:
It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming! In that one short sentence Tony Campolo summarised the essential message of Easter. I heard it 34 years ago and through the years it has stuck with me. It’s one of those messages that explodes into revelation on so many levels.
Today is Friday, Good Friday in fact. All through the news feed and the television there have been images of churches stopping to memorialise the death of Jesus 2000 years ago. For some it is a ritual that they have practiced all their lives, or for new converts, mainly those into established institutional churches it is a new ritual. But, I do wonder, sometimes, what people are taking away from that ritual?
I grew up in a church where Good Friday, Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday were actually obligatory, confession on Good Friday, before the veneration of the cross, or at the very least on Holy Saturday, before the Vigil mass, the principle being that one should be in a place to receive Holy Communion and unconfessed sin was best being excised and absolution received. In this case obligatory meant that it was obligation to attend. Non-attendance was regarded as a sin which would send you to, at the very least, Purgatory.
I still believe that it is important to expel sin, through confession and the receipt of forgiveness. But, I no longer need to go confess my sins to another man; but through the Grace and the Mercy of God I can and must come boldly (not belligerently) before the throne of God to maintain the communication with God, my Father, as clearly and as intimately as I can. (1John 1:9)
The receipt of that forgiveness of sin is by faith; it has nothing whatsoever to do with whether I ‘feel’ forgiven, or not. If I relied on feelings then I would be absolutely useless to God living a life of false humility, or in dire fear of Hell.
I once lived like that, wracked by a sense of guilt and shame. I believed that nothing I did was any good. I was afraid that what other people said about me was true. I was useless; I wasn’t worthy of living; and on a number of occasions I took steps to end the screaming pain deep down on the inside of me through suicide; I just wanted the pain to stop.
I had been convinced that things that I had been involved in, things that I had done with others was sending me to Hell. That was how I reasoned continuing to do those things that had me feeling so bad about myself. “Hey, I’m already going to Hell! So, I may as well go all the way!” I tried really hard to be the best I could be at going to hell. I put time and effort into it.
Each and every time that I did, deep down on the inside of me, I sensed the same yearning that had stopped me from taking the final step when I had tried to commit suicide. That yearning was and is that desire that draws me closer and closer to God. Draws me closer to my relationship with Jesus and is the work of the Holy Spirit deep down inside my spirit; the very core of who I am.
This same desire for God, is also the desire that I have had, since I was a child, to serve him. To share my Love for the one who has helped me to see the potential in myself and eyes to be able to see that potential in others as well. It’s the knowledge that when I was at the place where I believed that I was truly unlovable, unworthy; where I was filled with loneliness. He took me to where I understand that I am Loved Unconditionally, made whole and given Rightstanding “In Him”; to a place where I know that I am loved and welcome; not an outcast; a place where I can serve.
It has taken time and the work is not complete. I still have to remind myself, through the scriptures, what Jesus has done for me. But, I’m confident in the fact that he is able to complete the job he has begun. At least I am able to have that confidence, now that I know where and how to look for what God has said about me, in His Word.
Sadly, there are many going through their life, in churches, who are living the way I used to live, without answers; without the knowledge they need. Hoping that the next ritual they attend, the next sacrament they receive, will provide them with the key to living free.
It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming! Yes, it’s Good Friday. The day to remember the death of Jesus, on the cross at Calvary. The substitutionary work of Jesus Christ, fully human, fully divine, he who was spotless, sinless, blameless, truly innocent, gave his life, of his own free will, to bring to an end the need for human beings to perform ritual sacrifices to cover their human frailties, year after year. Once and for all, the final sacrifice.
Through this selfless act Jesus fulfilled the first part, yes, the first part of the process required to satisfy the law and the prophets. When he cried: “It is finished!” that was but the beginning. By no means was it the end.
To be continued