True cheers of Joy
Good Friday I watched a documentary about two of Americaâ€™s most infamous African-American gangs, the Crips and the bloods. South Central LA, a strip between Rodeo Drive and Hollywood that in the 50â€™s was separated by highways that were not to be crossed by those marginalised inside or those of racial anger or fear encircling this suburb of internment.
A suburb that has grown from young men forming their own clubs in the fifties because of not being able to join the boy scouts because of the colour of their skin, to now open warfare between the gangs where most families are broken. Young men who grew up without role models to a future where a quarter of them will be either in prison or dead.
A future where many, many of them have never been outside their turf never mind feeling the breeze at a beach and all must not be caught â€œslipping.â€ Which is not to be caught unfocussed at all times because to do so at the edges of the gang territories, be it at the petrol station or the deli caught well get you killed by those wearing other colours. Blue for the crips, red for the bloods.
In the Middle East, Arab against Arab except for the universal hatred of Israel. South Central L.A. Afro American against Afro-American except for the universal hatred of the Authorities of Law that they see as wardens.
A climate of anger, un yet fear not to be showed, and hopelessness that saw one young 19 year old voice that â€œhe did not choose that destiny, it chose him, a life that he knows God did not want in society, yet trapped, his only way out is if someone will come down into the pit with him and show a way out.â€
In the beginning God created the earth, the heavens above and all within and saw that it was good, only for us to fall to sin.
Sin that has seen nation rise against nation and those within, brother against brother and sister against sister and in the church, Christian against Christian and maybe the most fierce of all, the inner fight of self against self.
Mary Magdalene standing at the Tomb in the presence of Jesus was asked â€œWoman, why are you cryingâ€
Her tears that could not be quelled for she saw not the risen Christ, but a tomb of lost hope.
On Jesus Cross, Pontius Pilate wrote an inscription â€œJesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jewsâ€ and when those present sought for that truth to be distorted, Pilate answered â€œWhat I have written, I have written.â€
I read this and for you, and for those still fighting the emptiness as I bring it before you as it was to me.
Woman, why are you crying?Â Iâ€™m crying because the one who gave me hope, the one who accepted me not for what I do but for me as a person, my friend, Jesus, is dead!Â Iâ€™m crying for all those who pinned their hope on him; for all those who saw God like theyâ€™d never seen him before; for those who felt unburdened by chains which bound them, chains of oppression, chains of hopelessness, chains of feeling you have to do the right thing but never being able to do it well enough, chains which said you werenâ€™t allowed here, you couldnâ€™t go there, you werenâ€™t the right race, didnâ€™t have the right background, werenâ€™t rich enough, religious enough, healthy enough, werenâ€™t the right gender to be a part of Godâ€™s plan for his people.
Iâ€™m crying for all those people who felt a sense of liberation in the message of Jesus who are now shattered because he is dead.Â Iâ€™m crying for all those through the ages who have lost a loved one, for those who have experienced what it is to be separated from someone they thought they would have for ever, for all those who know the pain of sickness and disease and tragedy and have sat by the bedside of a loved one as they slowly let go of the breath of life, or have been stunned, shocked, numbed by news of an inexplicable tragedy, those who in the death of Jesus see nothing more than that he went the same way we all go.
Iâ€™m crying for all those with emptiness inside, all those who search for meaning, and all those who are confused and lonely and wanting to give up.Â And Iâ€™m crying for a world which is without direction, spinning hopelessly out of control, a world marked by millions without a home, without enough food, without the security of knowing how safe they will be tomorrow, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, for all the displaced people, all the orphaned, for the unborn who are terminated before they see the light of day and the elderly and frail who wonder when it will be their time to be extinguishedâ€“ I cry for all those who could have found hope in this Jesus who have now been left hopeless as Jesus lies cold, dead in the tomb!
And Iâ€™m crying for me and for those like me, for those who lived before me and believed that God would one day set things right, and all those who come after me. And Iâ€™m crying because a man like this, a man we thought was Godâ€™s man, the holy one, should be treated this way.
But then like a voice from the dead, Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? â€œMary, Mary it is I who you seek.â€
Un yet still she cries.
Woman, why are you crying?Â Lord my tears now are for this moment where my joy no one can take away from me.Â My hope was dashed but now it has been restored.Â I wept for others, but now I know that they, too, can have the experiences Iâ€™ve had of Jesus and everything he brings.Â I cried because my Jesus, the Rescuer, the Saviour was dead, but now I smile because I know that my Redeemer lives!
Yes our redeemer lives. Jesus having been into death itself, came out of it as Victor; having trumped Satanâ€™s last trump.Â Having verified, underlined, confirmed everything he did, everything he said as real, genuine, believable, trustworthy, life-changing.Â Not a loser but a winner.Â Not defeated but victorious.Â Not just one with us in our pain and our dying. Not just one with us, but one who is in front of us, who has gone ahead of us, offering us healing and help and hope, wanting to dry our tears and lift our heads and tell us that this isnâ€™t all there is.
So today we celebrate and far from hopelessness, should we weep our tears cry of thanks and hope. The sure hope in Christ that:
Because he lives, we can face tomorrow
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â (that) Because he lives, all fear is gone
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â (that) Because we know he holds the future
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â That future is worthÂ living, Â because we know that as He lives, so do we!