We live in a religious culture of immediate gratification. We rarely feel hunger without grabbing a Snickers bar or driving through a McDonalds. We avoid books for television. 30-minute programs, cut up into 7-minute segments with 1-minute distractions to keep us from getting bored. Our gospel can be like that too. We want to reflect on grace and the victory of Christ without feeling the effects of a world with sin, suffering and death...without feeling the world we currently live in. We don't recognize Good Friday, we run to Easter. Yet the world maintains its journey in a perpetual Friday, a world in a journey to decay, of the aging of our bodies that are “born towards death” as Neuhaus said. Often, our shouts of praise and victory in the church are heard as feats of self-delusion by a world that itself has sought sex and mind altering substances to escape. Yet, when the world awakes to deal with the night before, it looks to the church and sees another self-delusion. Our gospel can sometimes morph into a denial of effects of sin, an avoidance of suffering, and an ignoring of death.
The true gospel, however, does not deny sin (or that we are sinners), avoid suffering and ignore death. The true gospel begins with the acknowledgement that such things are real, are terrible and are the bane of the existence of man in his time on earth. The true gospel must be longed for through sin, suffering and death. The true gospel will never be sweet to the one who denies he is a sinner. The true gospel will not be relief to the woman who avoids relationships to avoid suffering. The true gospel will not be deliverance to the one who avoids funerals and pretends they will never die. The true gospel feels the fallen state of the world and first acknowledges its existence and disappointment and frustration before it runs to Easter, or it never would run to Easter. The true Gospel knows that the only way to Easter is through Good Friday. The true Gospel can sympathize and sit with Job as he cries out to God:
"Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not. And do you open your eyes on such a one and bring me into judgment with you? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one. Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass, look away from him and leave him alone, that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day.
"For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant. But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep.
"Oh that you would hide me in the grave, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come. You would call, and I would answer you; you would long for the work of your hands. For then you would number my steps; you would not keep watch over my sin; my transgression would be sealed up in a bag, and you would cover over my iniquity.
"But the mountain falls and crumbles away, and the rock is removed from its place; the waters wear away the stones; the torrents wash away the soil of the earth; so you destroy the hope of man. You prevail forever against him, and he passes; you change his countenance, and send him away.
"His sons come to honor, and he does not know it; they are brought low, and he perceives it not. He feels only the pain of his own body, and he mourns only for himself."