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For Good Friday:
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
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St. Mark's Episcopal Church
Paw Paw, MI
BY: Fr. Joseph Clayton Neiman
"Why do bad things happen to good people?" That's the title of a recent and popular book by Rabbi Harold Kushner. And it's a good question, for it is one each of us has been tempted to raise when suffering has come into our lives or into the lives of people we know or love.
It is a question we ask when we look at the thousands of People dying of starvation at this moment in Eastern Africa - 900,000 alone have died in Ethiopia this Year according to United Nations statistics.
Suffering brings out those kinds of questions. It makes us move from the day to day activities and discussions to the more profound questions about the meaning of life. We ask "Why?" when something bad happens, and we begin to formulate answers that have a lot to do with our own self concept and our concept or understanding of God, and especially our understanding of why Jesus died on the Cross on that Friday evening in Jerusalem so many centuries ago.
Rabbi Kushner has this to say at the end of his book about the question of why God allows suffering to happen today:
"God does not cause our misfortunes. Some are caused by bad luck some are caused by bad people, and some are simply an inevitable consequence of our being human and being mortal, living in a world of inflexible natural laws. The painful things that happen to us are not punishments for our misbehavior, nor are they in any way part of some grand design on God's part. Because the tragedy is not God's will, we need not feel hurt or betrayed by God when tragedy strikes. We can turn to Him for help in overcoming it, precisely because we can tell ourselves that God is as outraged by it as we are." (P. 134)
This conclusion, this outlook stated so well by Rabbi Kushner is the profound conclusion that can be drawn by a person of faith out of the Law and the Prophets, out of what we Christians call "The Old Testament." It is a profound and deeply religious outlook, a statement of deep and abiding faith, but it is not the teaching of Jesus. It is not the conclusion which we as Christians should reach for we know that Jesus has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.
And we know as well the message of Good Friday: that Jesus died so He might bring us healing and the fullness of life in a way that our ancestors in faith, such as Moses, Elijah, David, Solomon, and even Isaiah, could not conceive of or even hope for.
But first let's see how Rabbi Kushner comes to his conclusion. Let's understand a bit of the Law and the Prophets before probing briefly the teachings of Jesus and the meaning of His death on the Cross.
[Book Sale: Joseph has some 250 books for sale on Amazon. Check at www.amazon.com/shops/kairosnews ]
[Photobooks published by Fr. Joseph Clayton Neiman. To see some pages or to order copies, click on picture which will take you to www.blurb.com.]