ORUCC Good Friday, Holy Saturday & Easter Sunday

“Mama” By Kelly Latimor Icons, purchased for download to honor the artist

“The cross can heal and hurt; it can be empowering and liberating but also enslaving and oppressive. There is no one way in which the cross can be interpreted. I offer my reflections because I believe that the cross placed alongside the lynching tree can help us to see Jesus in America in a new light, and thereby empower people who claim to follow him to take a stand against white supremacy and every kind of injustice.”

James H. Cone, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree”

Dear Ones of Orchard Ridge UCC,

It was an absolute JOY to share a meal with many of you last night at our Maundy Thursday “Love Feast” and Agape Meals. Thank you so much for those who were able to participate. For those of you who would still like to participate on your own at home tonight or tomorrow, feel free to use this template used by our Maundy Thursday dinner groups to create your own ritual.

To continue our Holy Week observances, you are invited to church tonight for a service at 6:00 pm and a contemplative labyrinth walk anywhere from 5-7:30pm. Below are some theological reflections to frame our long awaited and joyous Easter celebrations this Sunday. Easter is truly coming!

Good Friday

This icon above is by Kelly Latimor and hangs at Holy Communion Episcopal Church in St. Louis, MO. It is called, “Mama” and was painted after the murder of George Floyd. The artist reflects, “Many people asked whether the man in the icon was “George Floyd or Jesus?” The answer to that question is “yes”. This dualistic question (either/or) is fine for the simplification of conversation but not for the sake of the truth. It is Christ, but as St. Teresa of Calcutta said it is also “Christ in distressing disguise.” In Matthews Gospel Jesus tells us he is to be found in those who suffer, just as George Floyd did.”

In a country with a history of slavery, lynching and the continuation of white supremacist violence, it is important for us to see the crucifixion as not something far away and in the past, but something that has shaped this nation, sins we are still repenting from, wounds we are still seeking to heal, work that takes lifetimes and generations. Connecting lynching with the cross, as Dr. James Cone does, allows us to understand the connection between these public acts of torture 2,000 years ago into the present.

You are allowed to be angry with God today, on Good Friday. Well, any day, really, since God can handle it. Although I do not believe that God caused the death of Jesus, we can still shake our fists at the sky and cry, “Why!?” The death of Jesus was sheer tragedy, and God suffered and wept alongside and through Jesus. This death did not need to happen; Jesus was too young, too full of beautiful potential, already changing the world. But of course he was murdered, because we humans continue to harm one another and break each other’s hearts, continue to be seduced by violence and power. Jesus as a metaphor for the goodness of humanity, suffers at the hands of the Empire. 

From Rev. Anna Gordy, “Holy Week Public Service Announcement: you aren’t so bad that God needed to kill Jesus in order to be able to love and forgive you. Empire killed Jesus for being a good rabbi and a threat to the power structure.”

Good Friday brings our devotional attention to the ways suffering persists in the world. We also remember our own mortality. Good Friday brings up close and personal with the death of Jesus, where we follow his journey to the cross and ritually peer into the eyes of the individuals whose lives are stifled because of injustice, who feel forgotten downtrodden, who have lost all hope and where devastation and ruin seem to have the final word. 

Moving through Holy Week, we also encounter a story of great love, of a God who loves humanity so much that God becomes one of us, even facing the suffering that mortality and violence bring, of a Christ who forgives us, for we know not what we do, and a Jesus who too, feels abandoned and without hope, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

You are invited to church tonight for a service at 6:00 pm and a reflective and contemplative labyrinth walk anywhere from 5-7:30pm.

Holy Saturday

On Holy Saturday tomorrow, we enter the darkness and mystery of the moment between death and resurrection. We hold the ritual unknowing. We allow our hope to be dashed, and wonder if it will ever bubble up again. We sit in the after-waves of a traumatic event. It is like the day after a funeral, or the day we finally leave the hospital after weeks of waiting at bedside: we are emotionally exhausted, we cannot believe they are gone, we catch our breath, and finally have a moment of reflection. We do the regular things of life, with our world turned upside down. We hold vigil. It is like the day after George Floyd was murdered at the hands of the police, where I imagine his family woke up and ate breakfast looking out the window like they did everyday, walking through the same motions, with the world turned upside-down.

Easter Sunday

Then we move to Easter Sunday, where we will gather before sunrise together at 6:00 am, to watch hope dawn. We remember the women who came with herbs to visit the tomb and found the stone rolled away and the body gone. We remember the early Jesus following communities who insisted on telling a new story about death and violence. A story of justice and liberation and non-violent love.

As Christ followers, we face the violence of the world and do not become it. On Easter Sunday, we ritually face the death of the world and tell a new story about it. A story of life, and hope, and forgiveness and renewal. A story at the heart of our faith, a story of resurrection; that new life will surprise us with persistence. That God’s love is stronger than death, always.

The icon below called “The Resurrection,” was commission by Father Bill Carroll for Holy Week 2022. It is a contrast to “Mama,” where Jesus is rising to power. Reflections from the artist and Father Bill say how important it is for us to have art reflecting Jesus, “restoring the bonds of life-giving fellowship, in a community defined by love set free from all forms of domination and violence. In the icon, we can see Jesus set encounter Mary Magdalene and other disciples ALIVE on the other side of suffering.”

They continue, “The risen Jesus invites us to share his victory and his ongoing mission in the world—and therefore invites us into genuine forms of solidarity and liberatory praxis that are Good News for the oppressed, first and foremost, but then also for the whole world. Because in the words of Dr. King, “No one is free, until we are all free.”

Soon we can say that Christ is Risen indeed! Soon we can say our morning has turned into dancing! Soon we can say that hope persists, that we are forgiven, that we have a clean-slate to begin again, soon we will re-enter the holy work of non-violent love in the face of all things. Soon we can say the crosses are turned into tables of love-feasts and fellowship and the beloved community. Together, we await that sacred day of Easter. 

You are invited to join for our 6:00 am Sunrise Service in-person on the church lawn, followed by breakfast in Friendship hall.

We would love to welcome your presence for our 10:00 am Easter Service which will be in-person and live-streamed, followed by an Easter Egg Hunt at 11:15

Abundant blessings to you,

Pastor Julia

“Resurrection,” By Kelly Latimor Icons, purchased for download for our uses