This week holds Good Friday and the cross looms large for us.
Some may think it odd. How can you have a symbol of torture and death as the symbol of one’s faith?
There are many reasons, of course. Chief among them is that for us Protestants, the cross is empty; meaning that it is a symbol of triumph over torture and death.
Beyond that, however, on this Good Friday it is important to remember that crucifixions continue to happen in this world and they are reflected in the cross of Christ.
For me, so much of the power of Christ’s death on the cross is tied to the solidarity with the deepest forms of persecution and suffering that he enacted by his death on that cross.
Our belief that Jesus is the divine in human form (the incarnation) allows us to look at Jesus and say “this is what God is like.”
God is the person who is born in the poorest of conditions and spends his childhood on the run as a refugee.
God is the person who speaks truth to power, names hypocrisy and will not be silent.
God is the one who heals the hurting and casts out dehumanizing thoughts from our minds and discrimination from our communities.
And, because of God’s persistence, God is the person who is willing to be arrested as a political prisoner and be executed as such.
God is the person who knows the fullness of the human experience and has lived it, personally. Consequently, God knows what it means to be tortured, as too many still are. God knows what it is like to suffer, as too many still do. God knows what it is like to die, as we all will.
In other words, there is no path you can take in this life that God has not already walked and, in God’s holiness, cut a path through the worst that life can hand you to a triumphal new beginning.
God, in other words, is love.
The cross is powerful for us Christians because love died on that cross but it is empty because love rose again.
Love always rises again.
It is a cycle that continues to be lived out today in gun violence, and racially motivated killings. It is lived out today in mental hospitals and hospice houses. It is lived out today in kids who are bullied and among people who are addicted. It is lived out in the quiet pain and desperation too many live with every day.
Love still dies. But it comes back. It comes back and it will keep coming back and will not abate until the forces of hatred and destruction are no more.
That is why the cross takes center stage this Good Friday. It reflects who God is. It reflects who we are. It reflects who we can become.