Saturday, April 07, 2007

Good Friday Walk for Justice

Walking through downtown Chicago’s financial district on Good Friday, I was struck by two things – the mind-numbing, bone-chilling cold wind that blew unceasingly during the three-hour walk, and the striking similarities so easily drawn between Jesus’ march to Golgotha and our Good Friday Walk for Justice. We walked for numerous marginalized people – both near to us in Chicago, and far away across the world – and, in doing so, took the brutal journey of a lone criminal to a cross two thousand years ago and made it powerfully relevant to us, here and now.

Besides my brief forays into the Catholic world, sneaking away from my Protestant upbringing to attend Mass with my grandpa whenever he came to visit our family, I know very little about the Catholic faith. However, since my recent whirlwind spiritual journey, beginning with my study abroad experience in Africa four years ago, to my confirmation as a Lutheran Christian in 2004, and finally to actively studying to become a servant-leader in the Lutheran church, I am interacting more and more with our sister denomination. The Stations of the Cross are part of that continuing education.

My stereotypical view of pious monks shuffling from one station to another was quickly challenged on this Good Friday, however, as I joined a huge conglomeration of people who somberly gathered on a workday at noon in the midst of the bustling financial center of Chicago. We sang in the shadow of the Chicago Board of Trade, affirming that we heard “the calls of our brothers and sisters” who work under unjust labor conditions. We cried out in response to the myth of redemptive violence that permeates our culture in the Federal Plaza, as police calmly stood by. We walked the counter-cultural walk of mourning injustice and corporate greed in a land of magnificent consumerism.

It was helpful for me to immerse myself in the meaning of Good Friday, since the very act of doing a walk on Good Friday is somewhat controversial. To connect the suffering and death of Jesus with the suffering and death of people on the margins of society doesn’t play too well in the “land of opportunity.” The “health and wealth” gospels spouted in mega-churches across the country spell this philosophy out loud and clear: If you only have enough faith in God, you will achieve all the prosperity and happiness you could ever want.

Unfortunately for many people, however, all the faith in the world won’t stop the harsh economic foot from crushing them. The working-poor often live paycheck-to-paycheck, and the unemployed (and underemployed) – not to mention those without homes – are straining to simply get by. Walking with “the least of these” in Chicago as we remembered Jesus’ excruciating walk to the “Place of the Skull,” we explicitly connected the exploitation of God in Jesus the Christ to the exploitation of God’s own children. Thus, to live into Good Friday (and all the sorrow it entails) means to consciously deny Easter – for the moment. In a positively sick country addicted to satisfying our own expensive way of life – often at the expense of developing nations – remembering Jesus’ death at the hands of unjust systems is controversial, indeed.

I do not mean to say that Easter isn’t the culmination of our hope in the risen Christ – this it is and so much more. We will rejoice on Sunday that Christ has conquered death and given us life through his own journey. But this journey is more than its celebratory ending on Easter – it is the silence of Good Friday, with the rich getting richer and the poor poorer, and the darkness of Easter Saturday, with the hopelessness of so many struggling to live a life of dignity. Their cry is Jesus’ cry.


At 11:31 PM , Blogger Pastor Lori said...

Who TAUGHT you this stuff? You are good. (OK, we'll give the Spirit her due...)


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