It starts when 40 some days before we were marked with ashes, “You are from dust and to dust you shall return.”
This truth is a dark smear on my bright and optimistic attempts at staying young, fit, and alive. Somehow I find it so incredibly comforting because it is a message of liberation. While we fear death it is a certainty. When God sent Jesus to become truly human, she in that moment condemned Jesus to death. You are from dust and to dust you shall return.
Then it ends with Easter. Easter is a lot of good news. Creation will always be riddled with darkness that desperately needs resurrection. We all need to hear that no matter how dark life gets, God is there. God brings us resurrection. God brings life once again out of the dust.
Easter is also a lot of hard reminders. It is one thing to acknowledge our impending death. It’s another to celebrate a death brought on by torture, celebrated by the people standing around who joined the “bandwagon” of condemning the three on the crosses before them. Of course, fear played a part but I wonder how many times I’ve condemned something marked with Jesus’ finger prints because the bandwagon is louder, safer.
And torture. At this point in my faith journey I refuse to believe that Jesus needed to die on the cross to bring salvation to all of creation. Or heck, that God, Jesus’ parent was planning on subjecting him to it. (Read Proverbs of Ashes)
I’ve seen a large number of torture scenes in movies or on TV, and I’m sure most of you have too. Yet nothing could prepare me for the evening in Mexico when they showed a real clip of soldiers torturing a woman, illegal and a clear violation of human rights law. They continuously wrapped a plastic bag over her head, letting it off to try and extract information from her. I get sick to my stomach remembering it.
During April 10-16 Open Society Foundation, a human rights group, had a photographer in Mexico take over their Instagram. I would highly suggest people take a look. The torture and death brought on by our war on drugs and our addiction to drugs is something dreadful.
I’ve been learning more through stories and perspectives told by Chileans about the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990, supported by the US through the CIA). No matter the story told, it has strong currents of fear brought on by the forced disappearances, torture, and death.
On Good Friday many in the Lutheran Church joined an ecumenical Stations of the Cross (Vía Cruces) event. The event ends at Villa Grimaldi was a torture and extermination center during the dictatorship which is now a historical site and park. It was powerful for so many reasons, for the solidarity, the songs, the stories told, the prayers prayed. But for me, to link what seems a distant church tale to the recent past and the present completely changed Good Friday for me.
The people I went with noted the growing presence of the youth. Aren’t we the hope for the future, the ones to help the others with the task and pick up where they left off? At one station led by an ecumenical youth group (by youth I mean 17-35) they presented a poster depicting the seven virgins and their oil lamps keeping watch which said “no se duerman” or don’t fall asleep. Stay vigilant to the issues around us. Keep watch for both the bold acts of Jesus and for acts that we need to act against.
One station they held a map and prayed for human rights violations happening now throughout the world, but largely in Latin America. Syria. Environmental activists, human rights defenders and journalists being threatened and killed. Femicides and gender based violence. Environmental disasters like that of toxic waste in Brazil. It goes on and on. There are plenty of things we shouldn’t be sleeping through.
I know Easter is done and past for this Church calendar year but it’s always important to question the injustice in our world. What brings us fear? What brings fear to our neighbors? How can we find courage and live into that?
We are from dust and to dust we will return. Maybe in between we should focus more on ending the cycle of oppression, torture and injustice. Maybe the heaviness of Jesus’ death should be just that at some level, heavy, while we still look to resurrection as a bold act of hope and courage to restore peace. Maybe Good Friday isn’t so far removed.
Song from the Vía Cruces, translated below:
Nosotros venceremos, nosotros venceremos
sobre el odio con amor. Algún día será.
Cristo venció. Nosotros venceremos.
Y caminaremos, las manos en la mano,
alzada la frente hacia el amor.
Cristo es nuestra luz.
No tenemos miedo, no tenemos miedo,
alguien nos espera más allá,
de los aires y el mar.
Y seremos libres, y seremos libres;
no tiene cadenas el amor. Viviremos en paz.
We will overcome.
We will overcome, we will overcome
the hate with love. One day it will be.
Christ overcame. We will overcome.
And we will walk hands in the hand
raised up toward love.
Christ is our light.
We aren’t afraid, we aren’t afraid,
someone is waiting for us beyond
the air and the sea.
And we will be free, and we will be free:
love has no chains. We will live in peace.