“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Both Matthew and Mark record these words of Jesus from the cross. They are words of abandonment and fear. Words that speak to the desperation that Jesus must have known as he was subjected to the foolish but fearsome judgment of the ruling authorities in Jerusalem and is executed upon a cross.
As I sit and reflect on the first third of this year, and especially this Holy Week, it seems to me that, of all the words of Jesus from the cross, these are the words that most make sense to me. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As we read story after story of first responders, nurses, nurse-aides, social workers, doctors, chaplains, laboratory professionals, all those in senior-living, grocery store employees, housekeepers and so many others who are still working – and working incredibly hard – in order to care for all the rest of us, I wonder quietly and aloud, “My God, my God why have you forsaken us?”
As we look around the world and see the sorrow we know, perhaps for the first time, the sorrow of God. As we hear story after story of COVID-19 victims, see their pictures and come to know who they are, we are moved to a true sense of deep, deep sorrow.
Perhaps like you, I have read lots of articles written by pastors and theologians, university and seminary professors, and doctors and medical professionals as well – all in an effort to make sense of all of this. I listened to pastors who shared that “God has a plan for all of this.” “God needed to do this so that we might slow down and realize that God is in charge.” Well, I need to tell you that I have found most of these attempts to “explain it all” to be less than helpful and even misleading.
The only way to explain all that is taking place around us is to say that there is no good explanation and to remember that we are living in a broken world. Brokenness, pain, suffering and yes, even pandemics, are part of a broken world. As human beings we will find ourselves, so many times, like the very human Jesus on the cross, crying out as we feel forsaken and cut-off from God. We are living the lament of Holy Week. Holy Week, it seems to me, is about our recognizing that reality. It is about recognizing that we are indeed completely and utterly dependent upon God and God’s grace.
So, during this Holy Week, we lament. We remember, with an informed perspective, the pain and agony of our Lord and we wait. We wait with a sense of hope because we know that Sunday is coming. This Holy Week, indeed every day of our lives, we have a sense of hope that is more than simply saying, “We will get through this.” Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann writes, “We have a hope that is grounded in the good, faithful resolve of God. We rest in the confidence that God will not quit working among us until God has arrived at God’s good intention.” Our opportunity is to continue to bear witness to the steadfast love of God.
In all that you do and say during these difficult days and especially during this incredibly poignant Holy Week, may we continue to reflect the steadfast love of Christ to everyone around us. Sunday is coming!
God bless you all!
Rev. Glenn A. Beard, Jr., MDiv, BCC
Director of Church Relations & Pastoral Care, Luthercare