Good Friday Confession
On this deepest and darkest of days — the day we relive Jesus’ suffering and death — this declaration of my collusion in Jesus’ passion, imbedded in the great Reformation Era hymn “Ah, Dearest Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended,” has always been central for me. Beaten-down Jesus, I it was denied You, I crucified You.
But how? How do we crucify Jesus now, in our time, as we live the gift of life given to us by grace?
Answering that question for myself is my annual work on Good Friday. And there is no better answer than a comment I recently read on the website of the Presbyterian Outlook. In part, it said:
“I do not care about religion if religion doesn’t like people enough to feed the
hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, free the captives, and so on. How do I know,
because the Bible told me so, in so many words and in so many ways.”
Indeed, in Matthew Jesus tells us plainly that every time we pass the hungry, naked, sick or captive, we pass Him by. We crucify Him again. Jesus have mercy on us.
It is this teaching that compels us as Christians to give generously to the poor. Yet this comment did not accompany a story about charity or disaster relief in Haiti. Rather, it was a heartfelt response to the church court proceedings recently launched against John Knox Presbytery for approving Scott Anderson, a gay man, for ordination to the office of Minister of Word and Sacrament. (For those who are not familiar with Scott’s situation, you can read more about him in the Presbyterian Outlook here and my recent conversation with him here.)
In calling us to our highest selves as Christians, the commenter in the Outlook then goes on to remind us that Jesus died for love. And that is the heart of the matter. When we fail to love our brothers and sisters in Christ — including the GLBT faithful among us — we crucify Him again. Jesus have mercy on us.
I realize that it can be tempting to ignore the GLBT people among us by turning to other concerns we more readily agree upon. However, there is no virtue in turning away from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians who are so hungry for the love Jesus promises in the church; no virtue in turning from faithful Christians who live captive to fear that we will be dismissed by landlords and employers (including the church) if we are honest about love. Jesus tells us to heal the sick, yet we deny our GLBT brothers and sisters the spiritual health and wholeness of belonging fully in the church. He tells us to clothe the naked and yet we lay them bare, violating their privacy by making their personal relationships a subject for the whole community to examine.
Turning from our GLBT brothers and sisters is to crucify Jesus again. Jesus have mercy upon us.
In all this and more, I am sinning, Lord Jesus; have mercy on me. On this day, as Jesus hangs, nailed to the cross, our only consolation is to drink our sinfulness to the dregs and to sing the hymn to the very end. So join me in this last verse: