Good Friday 2007

Good Friday 2007

Tod and Ana Gobledale – Australia

Tod and Ana Gobledale – Australia

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  Oh, oh, oh, oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble…”

The bright sun beats down upon us.  The heat reflects and radiates off the asphalt.   We shelter under broad brimmed hats, part of a large crowd clustered on an open lot. 

In spite of the bright sunshine and warm weather, the scene feels ominous.  A group of young men and women, wearing identical black  “uniforms” and red bandanas stand sentinel between us and the bleak, back wall of the two-story building that rises behind them.  They remain anonymous behind dark glasses, each wielding a club for crowd control.  Blow-flies and a rivulet of sweat trickling down my brow distract me.  Then, as though the air has chilled, my blood runs cold. The guards escort a man — hands bound and chest wrapped in chains – onto a skeleton-like stairway that hugs the building wall. He stands above us, the accused….

ImageMy mind flashes back to church and the heavy, grief-laden words shared by a member during prayer time:  “Five years, the Americans have held him in detention. Five years!”  Our church friend, a retired teacher, protested in downtown Melbourne alongside thousands of others marking this infamous 5-year anniversary.  The Australian citizen David Hicks, just one of the many held by the USA government in Guantanamo Bay, has been held prisoner for five years, often in solitary confinement.  No charge.  No trial.  No sentence.  No idea when he will be released.   David Hick’s life, and that of his family, has become a “Kafkaesque” nightmare. I can hear people say, “He just got what he deserved.”  Where do we stand?

Where is the justice that America claims to stand for?  Where is the time-honored truism that all are innocent until proven guilty?  Five years without charge or trial?  I remember our time in South Africa. Now my own government has illegally held a man for five years.   How is this different from the illegal detentions during South Africa’s grim apartheid years?  Are cruel governments bullies only when they are not our own?  Does America’s wealth, power and sense of “being right” justify this inhumane treatment of others?  My face burned with shame and my blood ran cold hearing my friend’s words in church.  Now, once again, my face reddens and my blood runs cold as I watch “the accused” in this vacant parking lot with the crowd.

Before us, head bowed, hands bound, stands “the accused,” a tall, dark Sudanese refugee.  Luckily, this is not some kangaroo court, but rather our ecumenical community’s stations-of-the-cross dramatization, and this refugee is merely play-acting Jesus.  Yet as I consider the circumstances of others and our world, I am as deeply moved as I have ever been by this familiar Good Friday story.  The Bible reading over the PA system involves us all in the drama…Pilate offers to release a prisoner.  Planted agitators in the crowd bellow, “Free Barabbas!”  Pilate asks, “What is to be done with Jesus?”  “Crucify him! Crucify him!”  scream the “plants.” (Matt 27:15-23)   I can imagine people thinking, “He just got what he deserved.”

Most of us, not part of the “plants,” remain as silent as the stones.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

I consider how silent we have been in the face of the injustices which have been perpetrated around us?   I recall the seminar “Who is Jesus in Asia Today?” led recently here at Churches of Christ Theological College by Xiaoling Zhu, Global Ministries’ Executive for East Asia and the Pacific.  We can all ask ourselves, “Who is Jesus in my world today?  Who is suffering?  Who is oppressed?  Who risks their lives to oppose oppressive powers?”  We must also ask ourselves the tandem question, “Who am I anxious to see ‘get what they deserve'”?  How is my behavior oppressive to others?  What am I doing to oppose injustice in my world, or do I watch quietly from the sidelines with tears in my eyes and hope it will go away?

The tall Sudanese Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, is led to the top of the cement staircase on the edge of the shopping mall parking lot.  The guards tie and raise him on the enormous wooden cross now towering over us huddled around below.  Just a re-enactment of the old, old story, yet, tears of guilt, horror and shame sparkle in many eyes, some looking at the spectacle, others turning away. 

God is with us, suffering on the cross.  Christ is with us, dying for our selfishness and greed.  Do we see?  Do we watch?  Do we turn away?  Do we hide like the early disciples?  Do we weep like Mary?  Where are we as Christ – in the smallest of these – suffers and dies?

I reflect on the cross, once the feared instrument of a terrible way of death, yet today the cherished symbol of a wonderful way of life.   As we tremble in the shadow of the darkness of Good Friday, may we remember the courage and love that Jesus displayed for us, his perfect love that liberates us and casts out all fear.  May we not stand as silent as stones in the face of injustice and inhumanity no matter who the perpetrator, and certainly not for the reason of “Homeland Security.”  May we claim the courage to follow Jesus and live and love as he lived and loved.  Christ has died, and Christ has risen.  Let our security rest in him.  Alleluia!  Amen!

Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified the Lord?  Were you there?

God, empower us to stop the crucifixion!  Embolden us to protest against the cries of the crowd.  Create in us the determination to be builders of your kingdom of justice and peace, to oppose forces of fear and revenge even when they are in our neighbours and our nation. Encourage us to be defenders of the oppressed and despised, even the political “trouble-makers” who, like Jesus, speak out against governments and armies.  Convict us of your rightness even when the world scorns it.  God, you are with us!  Emmanuel!  Christ is risen and lives in our midst!  Amen.

(“Were you there?” Chalice Hymnal #198)

Tod and Ana Gobledale, Global Ministries missionaries, serve at Churches of Christ Theological College in Melbourne, Australia, as chaplains and lecturers.   They worship at Boronia Church of Christ.  They will return to the USA for deputation in early 2008.

The Gobledales serve the Common Global Ministries Board at Churches of Christ Theological College (Seminary) in Australia. Currently, their son, Mandla, attends Occidental College in Los Angeles, and their daughter, Thandiwe, is serving  a 2-year appointment with Global Ministries at the Family Village Farm near Vellore, India.