Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday 2011

“Are You Alright?”

“Are you alright?” That’s the question that one of our ministers asked me this Good Friday evening as I left the nave.

NO! I am not all right!

Our liturgy encourages us to move deeply into the days and seasons of the year.

I got home on this Good Friday at about 5:00 p.m. I had a couple of hours to dwell with the meaning of this day.

Part of my Holy Week discipline is to pay attention to this man called Jesus. By the time I get to Good Friday, I love this man deeply. Love who and what he is.

I had time to think about that young man, Jesus, and what his life meant. How he cared for people who were sick or suffering. His courage in challenging the secular and religious authorities. How he was the gift that God gave to the world. And how the state and religious leaders executed them for their own reasons.

Then I went to the Good Friday liturgy tonight. I listened to the readings, the Scriptures. Including the very long reading (John 18:1-19:42) about how this Jesus loved his friends, then was betrayed, tortured, and executed by the state.

How can one hear that story and not weep?!

And on this night we call “Good Friday,” we listen to the story of how he is executed by the state.

We’ve attended to the many stories of this amazing man.

How could we not be devastated when he is led before the civil and religious authorities, betrayed by his friends, and executed?

So … yes … I was sobbing in the Good Friday liturgy.

I stayed in the nave trying to get it together. But still … by the time I reached our ministers in the narthex, I got the question: “Are you ok?” I suspect they asked that question because my face revealed that I had been weeping, sobbing.

NO! I am not ok! Our long-ago ancestors encountered the best human ever … and they executed him. I am not ok. I can not be ok. How can anyone be ok in the face of that realization?

Sitting there in the church, stripped of all the paraments … stripped of the altar linens … stripped of the reserve sacrament and sanctuary candle … stripped of virtually every sign that gives us hope, I was deeply mindful of the despair that Jesus and his followers must have felt on that long-ago night. The death of all hope. The utter desolation they must have experienced.

How in the world could anyone in the church be “all right”? How can any Christian be “all right” on this night? The night when God died … and hope died. On that long ago Friday … and through Saturday … there was surely nothing but despair. Our liturgy lets me share in it – lets me immerse my soul in it.

And I think that is an important experience – the experience of that utter despair. That deep grief. The desolation of a man who used to call God “Daddy” -- now crucified and asking, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

For me, it is difficult to experience true Easter joy without first descending into that utter place of desolation, that deep abyss of loss and despair on this Good Friday.

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