Just as we began the season of Lent by reminding ourselves of our own mortality, through the imposition of ashes and the invocation of stark words, “Remember that it is from dust you have come and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe in the good news,” our Good Friday service stands as the other bookend that brings focus on the frailty and brevity of life.
And just as we began this holy week marching through the city of Jerusalem to cheering crowds shouting “Hosanna, so does this night mark the beginning of the most solemn part of the painful procession to the cross with our Lord and master.
I think if we want to say anything on this most difficult of days for Christians (and certainly the texts speak for themselves sufficiently without our comment), what we need to focus on is not the death of Jesus as a blood sacrifice paid for our individual sins, but rather, on the sacramental mandate to make our own lives a living sacrifice for others: “And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us. . .”
What sacrifices have you made on behalf of others? How have you offered yourself as a holy and living sacrifice to this world? What have you really given up, in the name of justice and equality for all?
Recently I had a hard conversation with a friend that has caused me to reflect deeply upon some of the beliefs I hold and how I defend them. On this particular occasion, my friend asked me how I felt about the rights of the unborn, and whether I was pro-life or pro-choice. I have always been pro-choice, centering my arguments in the right of women to make decisions about their own bodies and reproductive health. But lately, I have been revisiting this long-held position, particularly in light of the fact that pro-life Christian women were, for all intents and purposes, excluded from raising their voices in the recent Women’s Marches. Of course, organizers did not prohibit pro-life women from joining the march. But there was a definite pro-choice agenda, so that if I had been pro-life, I might not have felt welcomed.
In my discussion with my friend, I said that I could be pro-life if it meant being completely pro-life, about every kind of life, and not just focused on the rights of unborn humans. I said that I could be pro-life if it meant an end to capital punishment. I could be pro-life if it included all of the species of plants and animals that are becoming extinct because of global warming. I could be pro-life if it meant actively working to end the destruction of the natural habitat known as planet Earth—which was created by God—at the hands of human beings, whom God also created and ordered to take care of God’s magnificent creation. I could be pro-life if it meant an end to growing animals for food, cutting down trees for lumber, and draining the lifeblood out of the veins of the earth to burn as fossil fuel, and polluting the oceans. I could be pro-life if it meant being about the business of valuing and preserving all forms of life for future generations.
But alas, we humans pick and choose what forms of life we think are worth saving. We place humans, and even certain privileged populations among humans, on a scale of value. Some lives are worth saving; others are clearly not.
On this night, as we come full circle in facing our mortality and watch our Lord and Savior carry his own instrument of public execution up a hill in a death march with his fellow criminals, may we take some time to reflect once more on the frailty of all life, and our responsibility as those created in the image of God, and called by our Savior, to protect the lives of those who are most vulnerable and in danger.
May we truly approach Golgotha with a commitment to join Jesus in fighting for life and protecting life, in all its forms, in the name of the one who went to the cross to protect, preserve, and save each one of us for eternity.