The Grapevine



April 2, 2021

Aloha Friends in Faith


     It has been over a year since we began dealing with the COVID-19 global pandemic. Our island has been very fortunate in a way that we have had very few cases and managed to avoid the healthcare crisis felt in many parts of the world and mainland USA.  In March 2020 we didn’t quite know how long the restrictions and safety measures were going to last, and now we can honestly say that moving towards the other side of the virus pandemic: more places are opening up for business, vaccinations are in progress and there’s much more life (and traffic) on our roads and highways. Even though we’ve made it so far on Kaua’i, the truth is that we all have been deeply affected by the health crises and none of us remained unscathed: isolation and hopelessness, loss of income and economic uncertainty, despair and depression- those are just some of the things many of us have experienced. We know that the future is good because it is in God’s hands yet we cannot forget the pain and the darkness of the past and the present. We very much look forward to the times of celebration and joy, yet for now we still live under the weight of guidelines, protocols and restrictions.

     In our churches and communities of faith we are ready to experience the joy, positive energy and exuberance of the Day of Resurrection, but Easter is still two days away, and today is Good (or, Holy) Friday. Even though we call this day “good”, from our human perspective, it is no less than dark and terrible. We read in the Gospels that Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and taken to stand trial before the High Priests and the Sanhedrin Court. He is questioned in hope of discovering false evidence. When asked, if he is the Son of God, he is accused of blasphemy and condemned to death.  Soon after, Jesus is subjected to mockery and humiliation. One of his most prominent followers denies that he even knows him. Jesus is bound and led to face Pontius Pilate, the governor of the Roman province of Judaea. Then the soldiers strip him, mock and repeatedly strike him with a whip.  Assisted by Simon of Cyrene, Jesus is then forced to carry his cross to the place of his death. In the third hour, around 9:00 o’clock in the morning, Jesus is crucified. At the ninth hour, at 3:00 in the afternoon, he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Then Jesus exclaims “It is finished!” and gives up his spirit. His death is real and confirmed by the soldiers; the entrance to the tomb where his body is laid, is sealed with a huge round stone… And this, my friends, is the story of Good Friday, the day of agony, suffering, abandonment, humiliation and excruciating death on the Cross.

     As we hear the gruesome account of pain and agony Jesus experienced, we can’t help but wonder about the reason this Friday is called “good” and “holy”. Even though physical and emotional suffering are a part of life, how torture and death be considered even remotely “good” or positive?

     In the gospel of John, Jesus speaks about the utmost importance and significance of his suffering, sacrifice and death this way, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:4). When moments before his death on the Cross, Jesus exclaims “It is finished”, he points to the monumental life and death task he has completed for us all: his mission on earth is fulfilled and his sacrifice is accepted by God. The price for the sin of humanity is paid in full, our debt is cancelled. We have been rescued and set free from our bondage to death and darkness. The bridge between fallen people and God is finally rebuilt by the power of God’s sacrificial love, our damaged by sin and rebellion relationship with Him is fully restored and we are reconciled with God. The doors of salvation and the gates of eternity are now wide open and within our reach! We read in the book of Isaiah, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on him and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

     Good Friday is all about the power of God’s relentless love that flows from the Cross and reaches out to every wounded heart that needs to be healed, rescued from the world of dark shadows and saved from destruction. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior” (John 3:16,17) In the midst of Jesus’ suffering and death on the Cross, today new life, eternal life is born. As we conclude the Holy Week,  may God bless our journey towards the Light and Love of Christ’s Resurrection!

Pastor Alex Tychkin, Lihue United Church