If you didn’t know anything about religion, “Good Friday” would seem like the ultimate oxymoron. How could the day a man gets beaten, humiliated, crucified and killed be called “Good”? But for those of us who do believe, and paid attention in Sunday School, we realize that if Jesus had not died on the cross, we would all be headed for hell in the hereafter. Imagine if you were the Father of Jesus. Could you give up your son to save the life of others? Especially when you see the behavior of the people that are going to be saved! I know I couldn’t do it. You truly would have to be the Almighty God to even consider such a sacrifice.
Yesterday, we laid to rest a good friend and classmate. It was a private funeral, but the visitation with the family was held where he and his brother had their business. Hundreds of community people were their to pay their respects to the family. Though it was a solemn and sad occasion, it was also an opportunity to visit with some friends I had not seen in a very long time. Like most of us, we look a “little” different than we did 40 or 50 years ago. It was fun hugging my classmates (all of us were vaccinated, just in case you were wondering) and having them wonder who in the hell is this old man with his arms around me. However, it didn’t take long for them to remember the ornery, mouthy, classmate they used to roll their eyes at. Seeing old friends was the only glimmer of happiness at this otherwise tragic occasion. That is, until you remember, that if we never died we would never get to see what paradise is really like. If we all just hung around on earth, not only would it be very crowded, we would not get to experience the true meaning of happiness. Like I said in a previous post, I am one of those people who is closer to the end of the book than the beginning. Realizing that the inevitable is not that far away I have a tendency to think about that inevitably more often than before. The glimmer of hope about those thoughts is entirely related to “Good Friday”. What a reassuring feeling it is to know that our end on earth is not really our final destination.
One of the great things about seeing old friend is that once you get by the exterior, you remember the interior. Once you get over the shock of how we have all aged you remember what that person was like 50 years ago. I honestly believe that we all are still 16 or 17 years old on the inside and that the outside is just someone else’s vision of us. I find myself going back to the times when every building on Main Street had a business, and for all practical purposes you didn’t need to leave town to get what you needed. Every time I drive through town I think of all those places, the people that owned and worked in them, and the kindness everyone had for each other. There was no where in town where they didn’t know your name, who your parents were, and where you lived. Most were also willing to give you advise on how to stay out of trouble, or maybe that was just me?
I will never regret growing up in this small town. There are so many great memories of the people that made up our community. This blog could go on for pages and pages and not even scrape the surface of the wonderful people who lived in Fairfax, Missouri. Yesterday, though it was a very sad occasion, I realized that even today, the kind spirit and caring for one another in our community is still alive and well. I hope some of you get to visit this “wide spot in the road” someday. If you look past the buildings and the age, and look into the people, you will find the true heart of our great nation.
I hope you all have a wonderful Easter! The pastor at the community Good Friday Service shared the parable below. I liked it so well I included it.
Ragman by Walter Wangerin, Jr.
I saw a strange sight. I stumbled upon a story most strange, like nothing in my life, my street sense, my sly tongue had ever prepared me for. Hush, child. hush now, and I will tell it to you.
Even before the dawn one Friday morning I noticed a young man, handsome and strong, walking the alleys of our City. He was pulling an old cart filled with clothes both bright and new, and he was calling in a clear tenor voice: ‘Rags!’ Ah, the air was foul and the first light filthy to be crossed by such sweet music.
‘Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!’
‘Now this is a wonder,’ I thought to myself, for the man stood six-feet-four, and his arms were like tree limbs, hard and muscular, and his eyes flashed intelligence. Could he find no better job than this, to be a ragman in the inner city?
I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Soon the ragman saw a woman sitting on her back porch. She was sobbing into a handkerchief, signing, and shedding a thousand tears. Her knees and elbows made a sad X. Her shoulders shook. Her heart was breaking.
The Ragman stopped his cart. Quietly, he walked to the woman, stepping round tin cans, dead toys, and Pampers.
‘Give me your rag,’ he said gently. ‘and I’ll give you another.’
He slipped the handkerchief from her eyes. She looked up, and he laid across her palm a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined. She blinked from the gift to the giver.
Then, as he began to pull his cart again, the Ragman did a strange thing: he put her stained handkerchief to his own face; and then he began to weep, to sob as grievously as she had done, his shoulders shaking. Yet she was left without a tear.
‘This is a wonder,’ I breathed to myself, and I followed the sobbing Ragman like a child who cannot turn away from mystery.
‘Rags! Rags! New Rags for old!”
In a little while, when the sky showed grey behind the rooftops and I could see the shredded curtains hanging out black windows, the Ragman came upon a girl whose head was wrapped in a bandage, whose eyes were empty. Blood soaked her bandage. A single line of blood ran down her cheek.
Now the tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity, and he drew a lovely yellow bonnet from his cart.
‘Give me your rag,’ he said, tracing his own line on her cheek, ‘and I’ll give you mine.’
The child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage, removed it, and tied it to his own head. The bonnet he set on hers. And I gasped at what I saw: for with the bandage went the wound! Against his brow it ran a darker, more substantial blood — his own!
‘Rags! Rags! I take old rags!’ cried the sobbing, bleeding, strong, intelligent Ragman.
The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes; the Ragman seemed more and more to hurry.
‘Are you going to work?’ he asked a man who leaned against a telephone pole. The man shook his head. The Ragman pressed him: ‘Do you have a job?”
‘Are you crazy?’ sneered the other. He pulled away from the pole, revealing the right sleeve of his jacket — flat, the cuff stuffed into the pocket. He had no arm.
‘So,’ said the Ragman. ‘Give me your jacket, and I’ll give you mine.’
So much quiet authority in his voice!
The one-armed man took off his jacket. So did the Ragman — and I trembled at what I saw: for the Ragman’s arm stayed in its sleeve, and when the other put it on, he had two good arms, thick as tree limbs; but the Ragman had only one.
‘Go to work,’ he said.
After that he found a drunk, lying unconscious beneath an army blanket, an old man, hunched, wizened, and sick. He took that blanket and wrapped it round himself, but for the drunk he left new clothes.
And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably, and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness, falling again and again, exhausted, old, old, and sick, yet he went with terrible speed. On spider’s legs he skittered through the alleys of the City, this mile and the next, until he came to its limits, and then he rushed beyond.
I wept to see the change in this man. I hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I need to see where he was going in such haste, perhaps to know what drove him so.
The little old Ragman — he came to a landfill. He came to the garbage pits. And I waited to help him in what he did but I hung back, hiding. He climbed a hill. With tormented labor he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he signed. He lay down. He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket. He covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.
Oh how I cried to witness that death! I slumped in a junked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope — because I had come to love the Ragman. Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him; but he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.
I did not know — how could I know? — that I slept through Friday night and Saturday and its night too.
But then, on Sunday morning, I was wakened by a violence.
Light — pure, hard, demanding light — slammed against my sour face, and I blinked, and I looked, and I saw the first wonder of all. There was the Ragman, folding the blanket most carefully, a scar on his forehead, but alive! And, besides that, healthy! There was no sign of sorrow or age, and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.
Well, then I lowered my head and, trembling for all that I had seen, I myself walked up to the Ragman. I told him my name with shame, for I was a sorry figure next to him. Then I took off all my clothes in that place, and I said to him with dear yearning in my voice: ‘Dress me.”
He dressed me. My Lord, he put new rags on me, and I am a wonder beside him. The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!