Faith on Friday: God Created a Kingdom (on Good Friday)

Jesus in agony by Georges Rouault, from God With Us
Jesus in agony by Georges Rouault, from God With Us

In her essay, “Good Friday,” in God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter, Kathleen Norris says:

Death tests our faith, whether we are mourning the loss of a beloved family member or contemplating the suffering of Jesus on the cross. We can well imagine the disciples on Good Friday, stunned and disheartened by all that has happened to the dear friend they had dined with just the night before: arrest, a trial on trumped-up charges, and public execution.

I first encountered Kathleen Norris through her book,  Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks and A Writer’s Life, which explores restlessness and despair that so often accompany mid-life. Her life in the past decade has been greatly affected by death.  She lost her husband (the poet David Dwyer), her parents, and her younger sister Becky, who died of cancer. Becky was developmentally challenged and often appeared as a character in Norris’ books, serving usually as her sister’s moral compass. When Kathleen writes about death, I sit up and listen:

Good Friday is a wake-up call, forcefully reminding us that suffering and death are real, and that even the son of God had to endure them. But Good Friday is also about our limited vision. When it comes to death, we are as shortsighted as Pilate, whose kingdom is built on power, the visible might of armies. He can’t comprehend the kingdom Jesus represents, one grounded in truth and love. To us, death seems like an end, but for God it is the beginning of our return to the great love from which we came.

Wouldn’t we be just like the disciples—like Peter cutting off the guard’s ear—trying to protect our friend from the current political milieu? Wouldn’t we also have a hard time understanding that, as Jesus told them, His Kingdom is not of this world? Again, Norris brings Christ’s message home:

On Good Friday, God created a kingdom, and we now live in that new reality.

Listen to this hauntingly beautiful hymn, “Today is Suspended Upon the Tree,” chanted by Father Apostolos Hill.

Blessed Holy Friday, everyone. Only four more church services (at St. John Orthodox Church in Memphis) before we arrive at the celebration of His Resurrection, at 11 p.m. Saturday night! Have a glorious weekend.