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Friday, 10 April 2009

Good Friday and the pain of oppression

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” is a black spiritual which has its fitting place in the worship of Good Friday. The black congregations in the US respond wholeheartedly with a yes. Yes we were there. But there is more to this yes than the congregation placing themselves again imaginatively at Calvary. They affirm that what happened then in the crucifixion of Jesus has and has being lived out in their experience of suffering first as slaves and then in daily discrimination.

In the passage in the prophet Isaiah where the servant confesses his trust in God and willingness to absorb the violence of his enemies, we can sense the connection with Jesus as the suffering Messiah.

The story of Jesus in its turn opens up and has shaped the witness to the redemptive power of suffering by a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King, or numberless others in oppressed communities across the globe who have sought not only justice for, and the transformation of their own people but the moral healing of their oppressors and enemies.

Isaiah did not know when he penned his oracle how it would be taken up by later generations. But once we hear the story of Jesus in his passion we can see and affirm the connection between what was done and said then by the prophet, what was lived out by Jesus on the cross on Good Friday and we recognise this pattern whenever we see it lived out in our own time.

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