A few years ago my friend and colleague Rev. Alan Combs wrote this blog post for Good Friday. I reshare it today. Alan is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church serving in the Virginia Conference.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
These words come at the beginning of Psalm 22. Immediately, the biblical scholar-wannabe in me asks a biblical scholar-wannabe question. How much of Psalm 22 did Jesus mean? Psalm 22 forms two distinct parts. The first eighteen verses or so are full of pain, oppression, and despair. They feel very much like what Jesus might have had in mind while hanging on the cross, blood pouring from his nailed hands and feet, struggling to breathe.
But then Psalm 22 changes at verse twenty-five. “From you comes my praise in the great congregation,” the Psalmist declares. The Psalm shifts to a prayer of deliverance. Yes many “strong bulls of Bashan” (I want to start a band called “Strong Bulls of Bashan) surround the Psalmist (22.12), and yes “I can count all my bones,” (22.17) but at the end of the day “dominion belongs to the Lord,” (22.18) so much so, that “All who go down to the dust shall bow before the Lord, and I shall live for God” (22.28).
Today is Ash Wednesday in the life of the church. It is the beginning of the season of Lent, a season where Christians are called to repentance and self-reflection. A few years ago my friend and colleague, Rev. Alan Combs, an elder in the Virginia Conference, wrote the following post for this blog that I’m reposting as we enter Lent. May this season be a season of gut-checking. Peace, Jason
Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash
On Ash Wednesday, we hear the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust, you shall return” as ashes are placed on our forehead in the sign of a cross in order to remember both that we are mortals, and that we are creatures of a Creator. We remember also that our death and our life are wrapped up in the One we are following to the Cross.
One thing I always find so fascinating and helpful on Ash Wednesday is the Gospel lesson for the day. It comes from Matthew 6:1-6, and 16-21, which contains this admonition from Jesus:
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven (Matthew 6:1).
This week I learned about the death of Don Victor, a pastor who answered God’s call on his life to be in ministry of people in a shantytown. I’ve been reflecting on his ministry this week.
Where pavement meets gravel in Cartago, Costa Rica, is where you enter the shantytown of Los Diques. This is a place where people with no other means go. Families escaping abusive fathers. Mothers addicted to drugs. Grandmothers raising grandchildren. Young boys whose only way out is to join a gang; young girls whose only way out is to sell themselves. And this is a place the government would rather not exist, which is why they have been so reluctant over the years to give the basic necessities for these people.
Yet, none of this mattered to Don Victor.
“Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!'” (Matthew 27:22, NRSV)
Who is innocent?
Who is guilty?
Who Counts? 100 Sheep, 10 Coins, and 2 Sons, Amy-Jill Levine & Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Westminster John Knox Press, 2017.