Good Friday

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This is a reflection I offered in Davis Chapel at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center on Good Friday (April 14, 2017) as part of the chaplain residents’ the seven last words of Jesus. I used the traditional Stations of the Cross as invitations to consider how people experience suffering in a hospital setting.

Mark 15: 33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three.… 34 And at three …Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

1.) Pilate Condemns Jesus: “Your tests came back…and so has your cancer.” “How long? How long?” “Weeks…maybe a month. I’m sorry there is nothing more I can do.” The doctor washes his hands and leaves the exam room. With those who receive a death sentence disguised as a diagnosis, we cry out with you, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

2.) Jesus Accepts His Cross: She hears monitors beeping. There is a din of voices talking in shorthand and letters. She sees blue and green clad men and women moving quickly. Panic sets in. She remembers screeching brakes. She remembers the headlights coming towards her. Headlights…then everything went black. Panic and shock. She sees that she is a mass of bandages and splints. Her breathing is fast and labored. There are tubes running in and out of her. She can feel the wires of her leads. With those who have just seen the cross that they must bear, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

3.) Jesus Falls for the First Time: “I know that God’ll not give me more than I can handle.” Brave words from a burn patient, but after weeks of wound care…weeks of therapy…surgery after surgery after surgery…and she has the rest of her life before her. Kyrie Eleison. With those who fall under the weight of their burden, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

4.) Jesus Meets His Mother, Mary: “She’s too young to be this sick.” No mother wants to outlive her son. Through long days and endless nights, she struggles to be bedside. With those who weep like Mary and for those who moan like Martha, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

5.) Simon Helps Carry the Cross: “You can’t do it all by yourself! Let me take care of it. Just rest, I got it.” He thinks about how she now keeps their house… How she manages their finances… How she takes care of their kids. He is troubled.  She can’t carry it all… In the end, that heaviest of loads will be his alone to bear. With those who are resigned to their fate, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

6.) Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus: “There is nothing else that can be done.” Still, she rounds faithfully, monitors his vitals, and answers his call bell. She keeps him clean. She alone safeguards his dignity. She wipes his forehead. The gauze soaked up his sweat and blood. With our many St. Veronicas dressed in blue who continue to do when nothing else can be done, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

7.) Jesus Falls for the Second Time: With his illness in remission. With his injuries healing. He is wheeled into rehab. Relearning how to walk proves harder than he’d thought. He stumbles often. He falls, again and again. He wonders if he will ever walk again. With those discouraged by slow progress, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

8.) Jesus Meets the Three Women of Jerusalem: He is surrounded by friends. He is surrounded by family. Each takes a turn sharing a favorite memory. A steady stream of well-wishers enter and exit, pausing only to say their good-byes. He thinks, “I’m still alive! I’m alert! I’m aware!” He gets it, “I’m going to die.” With each goodbye he grows more anxious. With those who see death coming, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

9.) Jesus Falls for the Third Time: “She’s a repeat customer…just let her metabolize.” Three times sober. Three times fallen. Three times using again. With those that know the crippling hold of addiction, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

10.) Jesus is Stripped of his Clothes: He surrendered his khaki pants, business casual shirt, and dress shoes. In their place, he gets a green gown and a pair of ill-fitting socks. His new clothes expose his vulnerability. With our brothers and sisters who must surrender their dignity when they become a diagnosis, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

11.) Jesus is Nailed to the Cross: “Ma’am we can only manage your pain, we can’t eliminate it.” With those who are in agony we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

12.) Jesus Dies on the Cross: Death came after hours of CPR. Death came with so many broken ribs. Death came as a soul bled out. Death came and a soul gasped for air. Death came and eyes rolled back. Death came announced by a flatline. With those who say, “it is finished,” we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

13.) Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross: “Wait in the hallway!” Nurses enter and extubate. Nurses turn off monitors. Nurses unhook leads. Nurses tidy. Nurses straighten. Nurses usher loved ones back in. Nurses say, “I’m sorry for your loss.” With those who find themselves in the wake of finality, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

14.) Jesus is Placed in the Tomb: What remains is the difficult conversation about what to do with her remains. Remains, but no longer a person. No longer a wife. No longer a mother. No longer a sister. No longer a daughter. Everyone has a date with decedent affairs. It is inevitable. With those who are people of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, we cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

15.) Resurrection: Enough of this dark Friday. Tell me, will Sunday ever come? And all of creation cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

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