This morning I attended the 8:30 a.m. contemporary worship service at Christ Presbyterian Church, Tucson. Pastor Steve had arranged the chairs in groups so that we could work together. Many of you are familiar with the twenty-third Psalm. Our job was to finish the sentence : The Lord is my…. And then write a Psalm together based on the word we used to complete the sentence. At the end of worship, Pastor Steve challenged us to go home and write a psalm on our own. Here is my creation.
JESUS is my LIFE COACH. He called me to join his team. Together our goal is not to win a game, but rather to live a life of faith. Jesus walks this life with me, giving me comfort when I am hurting, strength when I am challenged, and praise when I do well. Because he is my coach, he does not live my life for me. He gives me the freedom to make mistakes and then picks me up and supports me as I begin again. Nothing, not even death will remove me from Christ’s team. This is my place and I am secure. When I feel like giving up, when I want to quit, even when I choose to follow another coach, my Jesus will not give up on me. He offers me advice, pushes and prods me, gives me strategies for living, and responsibility to care for others. He will never abandon me. He asks only for my love and gratitude. Jesus is my shadow and my friend. I am truly blessed.
For the last two weeks I have been enjoying the sunshine in Tucson Arizona. The desert is amazing in the spring. The landscape is awash with brilliant reds, yellows, oranges, blues and more. Flowers are literally everywhere. My mom lives in a well-manicured subdivision, similar to a city subdivision in Ontario and yet very different. Instead of wide expanses of green lawns, the yards are covered with brightly coloured gravel, raked to perfection. Rocks of every size, shape and colour add texture. Tall, short, skinny, barrel shaped, flat and always prickly, the cacti are in bloom. And of course there are trees – huge spreading eucalyptus, tall swaying palms, lebanon cedars, mesquite – the list goes on and on. This desert is not miles and miles of sand. It’s green and beautiful.
Why a “Good Friday” Service?
On Good Friday we hear the crowd call, “Crucify him. Crucify him!” and we wince. That’s not us. We weren’t there.
Years ago, I asked a counselor, “What is hell?”
His answer rings out in my mind, every Good Friday morning. “Think of hell as knowing and feeling in your entire being, all the pain you have caused in your life time.”
I spoke of Hitler and the crushing weight of pain he would endure.
The counselor shook his head. “How many wars have been fought to put gasoline in your car?” he asked.
I didn’t want to see my role in the world’s pain. None of us do. We close our eyes to the fact that many in the world go hungry in order to support our comfortable life style. We choose to see only our small bag of garbage rather than the mountains of garbage world wide. We ignore the pain given by a careless word of criticism and are ignorant of the ripple effect that word will have for strangers. We do not know, nor do we want to know the pain, the violence, the destruction we have caused in our life time. The little we do know is already more than we can bear.
On Good Friday we read Jesus’ word’s, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” In today’s words: “It’s not about me,” he says. “It’s about these your beloved children. Their fear, their desire for power or love, has taken over. They don’t understand the pain they are causing the world, pain that will last for generations. Please, forgive them.”
We celebrate “Good Friday” each year, not just to be reminded of what we do to bring chaos and destruction in our families and our world, but also to hear Jesus’ words of forgiveness. We have the courage to open our eyes and hearts to understanding the far reaching consequences of even our smallest sin when we are assured of God’s forgiveness. Good Friday tells us that God loves us at our worst. We are forgiven. New life will happen. We can begin again. Easter Sunday is coming.