You can plainly hear someone screaming in the background. Someone is screaming, begging for help. The voice is terrified, the cries urgent. The dispatcher says "911, do you need police, the fire department or an ambulance" and the caller responds "someone outside needs help." In the background you can hear him screaming, shouting "help me, help me!"
Is it Trayvon Martin screaming or George Zimmerman? We don't know for sure, although several experts have said the voice is not that of Zimmerman, who shot and killed Martin in what he claims was self-defense. Questions about that claim remain.
I listened to the you-tube tape of the 911 call. The first time I didn't even notice the sounds in the background; I was hearing what the operator and the caller were saying. But the second time I heard it - a voice screaming, then crying "help me! help me!" It was chilling. We know that senseless killings happen every day throughout America. What is it about this case that has so captured the attention and roused the sympathies of our people? I think it's the details that get to us - the iced tea and skittles, that he was 17, the hoodie, that an African-American youth was regarded as suspicious in a gated community. All those things trouble our minds and hurt our hearts, but especially the screaming, the calls for help.
It is Holy Week in the Church, a week when we focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus. Already on Sunday many of us read the passion account from Mark and sang the somber hymns: "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" "O Sacred Head Now Wounded." Each year we remember and mourn the tragic death of Jesus, the Son of God. We confront, again, our own complicity in Jesus' death. Though it happened long ago, his dying continues wherever there is hatred, careless suspicion of others, killing, cruelty, blaming and scape-goating, prejudice, unconcern for those in need. During Holy Week we confess our guilt because we participate in those things.
I keep thinking about the screams, and yes, I assume they came from Trayvon Martin. Did Jesus scream in pain as he hung on the cross; did the Creator scream while watching the Son die? I haven't ever screamed aloud when someone I love dies or is near death; but those screams live within me. As the church moves toward Good Friday where Jesus will be nailed to a cross and left to die, the screams from the 911 tape sound in my head. Thinking of the crowd shouting for Jesus' death "crucify, crucify him," the soldiers whipping Jesus, the guards taunting and spitting on him, I hear in the background those screams.
I know Easter is coming - the resurrection, the bright promise, new life. I know that my Redeemer lives, that the Redeemer of the whole world lives. This Sunday will be filled with beautiful flowers, smiling faces, great good news, joyous singing, the sense that all is well. But I can't move too quickly from the dying, from the loss, the pointlessness of killing one another. Even when Easter is on the horizon, the crucifixion lasts a long, long time - minutes like hours, hours like days. Today there is sorrow. Today there is questioning, hurting, listening to the screaming. While we ultimately rejoice in life-everlasting, there is a time to wrestle with death, a time to ask 'why?,' a time to seek answers and resolution. For me, now is that time.
I pray God hears the screaming. I pray we hear and respond to the screaming and to this culture of death.
Remembering the Crucified One,
Pastor Kris Franke Hill, STM