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My God, My God, Why have You Forsaken Me?
based on
Psalm 22
by Rev. Frank Schaefer

For many theologians this is the single, most difficult verse in the New Testament. C. Ryerson of Princeton Theological Seminary once remarked: 'if there is one verse of which we know is an authentic saying of Jesus, it is Jesus crying on the cross: 'my God, my God, why have you forsaken me!' Why? Because it is such a heretical statement, nobody would have made it up."

It is almost astounding that Christ's exclamation on the cross was not eliminated from or softened over the centuries. Christians have struggled with it. Why would Jesus, of all people, have said such a thing? We would like to think that Jesus must have known that this could not be possible true that God forsook him on the cross.

There seems to be a deep inborn human desire for life to make sense, for life to have purpose, for a happy ending. I recently grew aware of this even in my six and ten year old boys. We have a story time together every night in which we make up stories, and sometimes I end a story on a sad note. It never fails; immediately when I do that, they will inevitably say: "come on, dad, that’s not how the story ends. How does it really end?"

One time I remember telling them: "no, really, that’s how it ends!" And curiously they started to come up with their own, happy ending to MY story. They changed the script on me; they had my story character dream this terrible thing up. My boys urged me to admit that the story character had just had a bad dream.

I think a lot of Christians, especially, like happy endings. We are the ones who always look for meaning in everything. And if there doesn’t seem to be some sense, some purpose, we like to dig deeper for a possible meaning. If we can't have a happy ending, we make one up, we imagine a happy ending.

This is what many theologians have done with Jesus exclamation: "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" They have said, now wait.....(pause) cannot be. Jesus was probably reciting Psalm 22. That's how Psalm 22 begins: "my God, my God why have you forsaken me!" And they have a pretty good argument, because in ancient Israel that's how you identified a psalm, by reciting the first line. They didn't have the Scriptures numbered and versed then. That came much later, during the time of the Reformation.

So, Jesus, the argument goes, was probably reciting the entire Psalm 22. And Psalm 22 ends on a good note. And everything is fine again. We have found a way to make Jesus on the cross a little more bearable. In the end, it's going to be fine! Look, Easter Sunday is already looming on the horizon! Victory is near! Another happy ending! If you’re not convinced that this is what’s going on, just consider what we have named this darkest day in history on which Jesus died on a cross? GOOD Friday, not black Friday (that is reserved for the historic stock market crash), but GOOD Friday.

Unfortunately for this rather impressive theory, it doesn't say in the text that Jesus was quoting the entire Psalm 22.  Jesus most probably yelled these shocking words, because he really did feel forsaken by God. And the havens were silent as he suffered agony and pain and defeat.  There was no answer resounding from the sky: "I'm here, my Son, I am here."  Nothing but silence.  It frightens me to think this through to its logical conclusion, because if this was true for Jesus then there must be moments in our lives when the heavens are silent for us, too.

Let us be realistic, sometimes God really is silent; sometimes we cannot rely on help from up high; sometimes there are no answers.

Sometimes, God is silent, and our pain, our confusion, our anger, our sadness, our disappointment, and our tears are great. Sometimes life just is not fair; and, sometimes, there is nothing left but . . . our faith!

Sometimes, all we have left is our faith to which we must cling. Faith . . . that God has not forgotten us; faith that God is weeping with us. Faith, that life, somehow, will go on and that wounds will be healed. Faith, that even if we don’t sense it and feel it, our lives are in God’s hands.

Back in Germany, I remember hearing the story of a house in which a Jewish family was hiding from the Nazis during WW II. There was an inscription on one of the walls in the dark, windowless cellar which read:

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining
I believe in love, even when feeling it not.
I believe in God, even when God is silent.

On this Good Friday let us listen with ears of faith to Jesus cry of agony: 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' without fast-forwarding to Easter Sunday. Perhaps, then, we may also able to hear the cry of those less fortunate around us or those in far-away parts of the world -- the voices of fellow human beings who may be starving, homeless, victims of crime, poverty-stricken, suffering from terminal illness, or experience a terrible loss.  Let us listen with ears of faith...not find answers...just listen!  Amen.