“What’s good about it?”
A little boy, about three years old, walked into the church with his mother on Good Friday. We don’t always know what our kids, especially such little ones, understand about church and things like the liturgical year. Three year old Will entered the church and said out loud, “uh, oh.” I think that our little ones have a very good idea that something is going on. Something dark. Something scary, and not at all good. And yet our language has turned the day into “Good Friday.” The church is stark, barren. Jesus is gone, hanging on a cross between two criminals. At the heart of the gospel story lies my deepest fear: I’m pretty sure that I put Jesus on that cross. Oh, not in a historical way – I wasn’t there, and neither were you, but…
… we know that we fail as Christians every day. Did I put Jesus on the cross? Maybe you did, too. We put Jesus on that cross. Who among us would know what to say about Jesus when we were very, very afraid? Who might not be swayed by a pile of silver coins, coins held by powerful military, armed and angry? There are those things we have done: the white lies, feelings we’ve hurt, things that we didn’t get done—darn it! I’m sorry, Jesus. A young man once said: deadly sins? Sign me up for gluttony. Jokes like that are funny until and maybe only when we realize their element of truth. What wrongs do we routinely sign up for and enjoy? And the prayer says something about sins that we don’t even know that we have committed … I’m sorry, Jesus, I think. Good Friday is depressing. We all lifted Jesus right onto that cross.
Yes, we did. And yet,
No, we didn’t. Humanity has failed and continues to fail. There is no doubt about that. God, however, does not fail,
And in fact, through Jesus,
“trampled down death by death.”
Trampled death … to permanent death … by showing us everlasting life.
At our worst, over and over again, God shows up. God sent Jesus. God sends him today. This is, in different words, God’s Friday. The day on which humanity failed Jesus and God was sort of in the middle of winning.
It is finished. What is finished is sin. What is finished is the separation of God and humankind; no longer does the tall Temple curtain separate us from God; the curtain has been torn in two. Nothing is left that separates us from the love of God. Nothing.
Today we sorrow, and we’re supposed to. In lives in which we fill ourselves with good things and abundance and excess … we need to take a breath and think on those things that separate us from God and from God’s love. Gluttony? Sign me up, or whatever it is that fits for you. Think on those things. Remember the love that Jesus has that allowed him, on the cross, to say:
Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do. Forgive them. And to be forgiven, we take some time and remember our sins, our separation, our temples that need to tumble, our barriers that need to be torn.
It is finished.
Jesus doesn’t stay on the cross. Jesus’ body is taken down and cared for, wrapped in linen and anointed and buried in a borrowed tomb. He won’t need it for long.
God’s Friday is good. We are joined with Jesus in a different way, giving ourselves time to grieve and mourn and let die those things that have to die. We can take the time to imagine our lives without Jesus, without Jesus on the cross, without the Christ who will come.
In a world of texting, instant messaging, drive thru fast food and constant “gotta have it now” messages, we wait. We’re uncomfortable. Bereft. Sorrowful. Those are good things in small measure. Wait with Jesus. One hour, one day, … and just a little longer.
It is finished.
And the beginning is near.