What’s So Good about Good Friday?
Good Friday is always a difficult service. It’s, in my opinion, the most difficult and
emotional service of Holy Week.
Yesterday, I went to Christ Church, alone, and stripped the altar. I emptied the aumbry and placed a large cross at the front of the Church, against the altar.
The Good Friday gospel is long and difficult. It tells a very vivid story.
If we are all about symbolism in the Church, why do we wear dainty silver crosses
around our neck? Why don’t we wear gold-plated electric chairs or platinum syringes
used for lethal injection? It’s because the story doesn’t end there. We have to have Good Friday to truly appreciate the joy of Easter.
If you go into any Christian Church you will see crosses and I mean more than one cross. You’ll find them on the end of the pews, hanging behind the altar, on the holy table, in tapestries, quilts and hanging on walls. It’s because the empty cross brings us comfort and hope. We remember that which Christ gave up for us. Everything…including his life.
We walk through Good Friday and there is a devastating moment when Christ says “It is finished” and he dies. I cannot imagine how it would feel to be his friends watching in dismay and horror. Or how it would have felt to be his mother? This woman who birthed him in a stable is now watching, helplessly as he dies, nailed to a tree.
We have that worry of what happens next. When I was a child, of about 7, I asked my Parish Priest “What do we do now?” because we were told not to come back until Sunday. He was a crusty old priest and after some huffing and puffing said “You go home and pray”, and I did. We don’t know what the future hold for us now. We don’t know how long this Pandemic is going to last and how long we’ll be in isolation. So, this does feel, in many ways, like an extended Good Friday. But what we need to understand is that the story isn’t over yet.
The time will come when we can gather again. Likely in small groups to start.
The good about Good Friday is that the story doesn’t end there. Jesus was taken down from the cross. He descended into the dead and battled for the salvation of humanity so that every single one of us can know eternal life. That’s pretty good. That’s really good. And that is the “good” of Good Friday.
And so, as you walk through the day today…as you clean your house and meal plan for the weekend, lamenting that you cannot be with family, remember Good Friday. It is a horrible day. A day of fear and anger, of muck and mire, of loss and despair, and we have to sit there. We have to feel it. If we go from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday without spending time in the dark, in the garden, then the joy of the resurrection isn’t nearly as bright. The story doesn’t have the same meaning and impact if we don’t experience the agony, the dark and the disquiet.
And so my friends, be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with those that you encounter. We are all tired. We’re all sleepwalking through the days. We are not at our best. So as we are gentle with ourselves, I ask you to be gentle with all we encounter. For us in British Columbia, let us be gentle with those we see with red Alberta license plates this weekend. We need to come together at this time. We need to love one another at this time. We need to be excessively patient at this time.
Perhaps this is the day when you say “I’m not going to work this afternoon, instead I’m going to have a nap”, and then do so. Perhaps this is the day when you sweep the driveway or shovel snow (depending on where you live). Mother Nature seems kind of confused these days as well. And so as you walk through the darkness of this day, remember, the sun will rise again tomorrow. There will be a day of contemplation, of meditation and of lament. And then we will see the resurrection. It won’t be the joyful resurrection of the entire world, that we are hoping for. But it will be the resurrection of Jesus and that’s something we should always celebrate and for which to be thankful.
Today as we sit in the discomfort and dark, as we spend time in the quiet of the tomb,
don’t be afraid. Because even when Jesus is taken down from the cross, God and the
Holy Spirit continue to surround us, to walk with us, and above all else, to love us.
Have a blessed remainder of Holy Week.
There is no sermon in Saturday’s service, so I’ll preach again on Easter Day.
God’s blessings. Thanks be to God.