Friday, April 22, 2011

It Should Always Rain

I was in college, I can't remember which year. I was walking past the B.A.building with my polka dot umbrella, it was raining. I remember side-stepping the large puddles that always formed there in front of the B.A. building and breathing in the clean wet air. I've always loved rain, but this rain felt special. This rain promised life. This was a Good Friday rain. As I considered the rain, I decided that it should always rain on Good Friday. I remember the next year it didn't rain and I felt indignant. It should always rain on Good Friday.

It is as if the world, the atmosphere, the earth is aware of what happened on this day, and mourns again. We humans, as intelligent as we are, forget and take for granted the sacrifice of Easter. We gloss over it or ignore it completely in favor of Chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chickens. But the earth cannot. It won't. When we don't acknowledge the great love of God expressed in this all encompassing sacrifice, the earth still does. This isn't personification, this is scriptural.We're told that the very rocks will cry out if we don't praise Him. The Earth sings and rejoices in praise for Him; wwouldn't it also cry out in mourning for His death?

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.” 
Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.
The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”

The gospels tell that on the day of His death the sky grew dark, the earth quaked. The earth was reacting to the death of Son of God. The One who had been there at its creation nailed to a cross, crying out in agony. The sky grew dark in the middle of the day, the earth shook violently. The people may have been mocking the death of the Lord, but the earth was trembling. This is how the mockers knew what they had done; that when they jeered Him as the King of the Jews they'd been wrong, because He was truly the King of Kings.

I've never been in a real earthquake, just the slight tremors we feel time to time here in Ohio. But once, in college, I saw the sky grow nearly dark as night in the middle of the day. I was leaving the Eppler Center with a friend of mine from class. The Eppler Center doesn't have windows in many of the classrooms so we had no idea the sky was growing midnight blue while we were inside arguing about American Literature. We came out from the class, expecting to squint from the sun but were met with darkness in the middle of the day. It felt ominous and foreboding, like what happens in the movies when it is the end of the world. Obviously, it only rained, I'm sure it stormed and the wind blew very badly because that's what happens out here. But I know how unsettling it is to experience near darkness in the middle of the day, and an inkling of how frightening the darkness experienced on that day must have been.

The scriptures indicate the darkness experienced on Good Friday was complete, that it was as night from noon to three. Could the stars and moon be seen? Were they visible witness to the atrocity happening on Earth? Did they watch what God could not?

Dark skies in the middle of the day, an earthquake violent enough to split open rocks and tombs. It seems to me that the Earth was mourning openly, perhaps because His followers mourned only in hiding, in fear. The Earth will do what we cannot, it is His creation, too. Not sentient, not by choice, but by reaction to the whole world being turned upside down. Sin was never supposed to enter our world, and the Son of God was never supposed to die. But because one did the other must also. And we need to mourn both deeply...the death of perfection twice; once bringing death; once bringing life.

Which is why we celebrate on Sunday. Life restored. An empty tomb, a resurrected Savior. The world in balance again. Did you ever stop to think that the before Mary ever reached the tomb, the Earth was already rejoicing in His life? Last year for Easter I sang a special which speaks to that very idea. Again, this isn't just romantic personification of the Earth, the Earth has no brain, no soul. I get that. But it is His, surely, it must know His touch and feel His presence. He told the sea to calm and it did. Wouldn't the Earth also obey the command to rejoice upon His resurrection?
Did the grass sing?
Did the Earth rejoice to feel you again?
Over and over like a trumpet underground,
Did the earth seem to pound 'He is Risen!'
Over and over in a never-ending round,
He is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!

For some reason this song conjures up images of Narnia. Maybe it's the talking animals or the dryads coming to life from trees, but when I think of a 'trumpet underground' I am reminded of Lewis' Narnia. I think of how spring came to Narnia, banishing winter and diminishing the power of the White Witch, as soon as Aslan arrived, even before the battle. I think of the faith of the Old Narnians in Prince Caspian. In Lewis' world the Earth and the creatures of the Earth knew their King, might it not also be so in our world?

If nothing else, the rain serves as a good reminder to reflect. Rainy days seem to always been good days for thinking. A rainy Good Friday turns the heart and the mind to Jesus. Perhaps that is why darkness fell that day, to turn the hearts and minds to Jesus so that their souls might be saved. Maybe I am just romantic and have spent a bit too much time in Narnia. Maybe I'm all wrong about the rain. But I do feel that it should always rain on Good Friday. And today is Good Friday, and in my little corner of the universe, it is raining.

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