A reflection for Good Friday

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12:30pm Eucharist
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5:00pm Evening Prayer
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A reflection for Good Friday

The Revd Preb Richard Springer

Why have you forsaken me?

I have not done it in this last sorrowfully strange year of pandemic and lockdown. But in times past, were I on my own, in a predominantly white town, somewhere distant from more diverse places – I recall that I would nod to any Black person I saw there. Typically, they would be alone too. I cannot remember a single occasion when the nod was not reciprocated. The nod is a kind of acknowledgment of our individual and collective vulnerability, solidarity and unconscious to me most of those times, the possibility that if one of us were to become seriously in danger, an unsaid agreement that we would unite.

In this anecdote is the idea that the two people recognise they are fragments of the same body. That Black person I see across the street, our shared hue teaches us about ourselves in real time. You are one. Acknowledge it. The tiny recognition raises questions. Of pain – are we in danger? And of potential – what could we do together? A layered storified lesson wrapped up in a brief head nod. Capturing our Black selves and our belonging.

We remember Jesus’ death today. The scriptures record His crying out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ He cries out these words for himself wracked with pain in his body and for us all in His body. His body on the cross and in the church, is good news, because it is simultaneously a particular reality and a universal symbol. His death has become a powerful symbol of sacrifice, forgiveness and love. The symbol is only powerful if reality can testify to it.

The reality of His divinity encased in that human frame grants each of us redemption, individually and all of us collectively. We do not commemorate the Lord on the cross if we overlook the real suffering and the danger the marginalised are in. It is impossible to imagine the muscular, blonde haired, blue-eyed man hanging in many churches, either as a suffering servant who endured pain for people that look like me or as a symbol of joyful liberation for the powerless. James Cone writes, that, “we cannot find liberating joy in the cross by spiritualizing it, by taking away its message of justice in the midst of powerlessness, suffering and death.”

Christian racism ignores the voice of the One who cries out for the forsaken. As with all sin it jeopardises our witness to the gift of salvation. The solution to this problem is not simply regret and good intention. It is for the church to return to the cross, to see in racism, the betraying, spitting, mockery that is the prelude to the negation of His very life.

The symbolic diversity we seek needs to be borne in facing reality. A reality that is painful and which causes too many of us to say, “Am I in danger here?” Yet a new safe reality might be born in the beyond where with powerful potential His body can pray, “What could we do together?”

Prebendary Richard Springer is the Rector of St George-in-the-East, Dean of Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic Ministry for the Stepney Area and Director of the Urban Leadership School at the Centre for Theology and Community.