Today is called Good Friday.
What does it mean?
Over the centuries, the church has offered several explanations, called things like Satisfaction, Victory, Rescue and Government.
Interestingly, the church never officially settled on one, and in fact, some of these which are held as the True Meaning in some parts of the church are official heresies in other parts.
The theological term for all of these explanations are theories of 'atonement'. "At one ment". How does the Christ dying make everything ok?
It doesn't. It's not okay.
Not this year.
“We proclaim Christ Crucified”, wrote the Apostle Paul, “a stumbling block to those who want signs, and foolishness to those who desire wisdom”
Our neatly packaged solutions and explanations don't live up to the stumbling block we find in those first writings. In our wisdom we have stripped the Gospel of it's foolishness, and in doing so have stripped today of it's very meaning,
that is to say, of it's very meaninglessness.
When we rush to give "Good" Friday meaning, we kill Christ before he's even got onto the cross. Our perfectly packaged Crucifixions, complete with tracts and response cards, leave Christ's body hanging limp before the first nail has been driven in.
Forgive them father, they know exactly what they are doing.
You see, some events are beyond meaning. Let me give you an example.
What did the Holocaust mean? Nothing. It is the very meaninglessness of the Holocaust that makes it so utterly barbaric.
This is why every fibre of our being shudders to understand senseless killings. Because they are senseless. To give these events a meaning is to be complicit in the cover up; the very blankets we bring in to comfort help smother the victims all over again.
A few months ago, I was reading the end of Psalm 51 in my nan's old Catholic Bible: "Be bountiful, O LORD, To Sion in your kindness, and build up the walls of Jerusalem; Then shall you be pleased with due sacrifices, burnt offerings and holocausts"...
Pleased with what? Holocausts.
Holy and acceptable burnt offerings to God.
The Holocaust was not a holocaust in anyway, and that meaning is as bad as the event itself. To this day, Jews refer to this genocide as the Shoah. The Catastrophe.
"Meaningless", says Koheleth, "Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless!"
In The Book of Job, a man is crushed under the weight of an utterly meaningless cosmic penis-measuring contest. His friends rush to bring meaning. "It's your fault, it must be your fault, it has to mean something".
Today you will be with me in paradise, but not Job.
The Talmudic Rabbis have a saying "Anyone who requests that his need be met in the Aramaic language, the ministering angels do not attend to him to bring his prayer before God, as the ministering angels are not familiar with the Aramaic language".
Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachtani.
My God my God, why have you forsaken me.
What could it possibly mean when God's prayers don't even get to God?
Today, is Meaningless Friday.
Today, God affirms the meaninglessness of all evil, and the shitty randomness of all that is shitty and random
Today is for the countless victims of the unfair trial, for the needlessly downtrodden., Today is for lynchings and pogroms carried out in the name of this Crucified Messiah.
Today, there is no deeper meaning to your depression, your divorce or the death of your child.
At the death of the Christ, God affirms what you knew in your gut all along, that your trauma is utterly meaningless.
Today, there is no grand plan. Today, guilt lies firmly at the feet of the abusers, injustice remains wholly unjust, and all that is random remains, divinely, random.
Today, your illness is not teaching you anything. Not today.
I had chronic pain for over 15 years, and all the church had was meanings. My sin, my lack of faith, the fallen nature of the world. Today, the pain of God beyond meaning affirms the meaninglessness of my pain.
Woman, behold, thy miscarriage. Son, behold, thy abusive mother.
But, what about the good times? We can all find meaning in those.
And yet as you celebrate the Divine orchestration of your new job, your new house or your new car, countless unseen around the world suffer under the weight of the system that gave you those very things, and they wonder about what it all means, when they're not wondering where their next meal will come from.
Satisfaction, Victory, Rescue, Government...
Today is for those who aren't satisfied, those who didn’t win, those who weren't rescued, and those for whom Government never gave a fair chance.
Today for those who's desperate prayers bounced off the ceiling and smacked them in the face.
Where is the grand plan, to prosper you and not to harm you? Where is the soothing pill of atonement theory to anaesthetise us to the death of God?
For today, It is finished.
By all means celebrate today, and call today "Good" if you must. But don't tell me what it means.
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit