Good Friday is a day unlike any other on the Christian calendar. It is perhaps the only holy day for which the proper observance is a recognition of the loss of all hope.
Think about it--Jesus is dead. In the tomb. Executed by the state.
The disciples, who have followed Jesus around for a few years now, are suddenly scattered, and those who remain together are frightened for their lives.
Finito. End of story.
In the earliest manuscripts of Mark, the first gospel written, this really was the end of the story. The final words of Mark, written around the time of the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., are literally, "They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." Who knew that a gospel (think: "good news") could actually end in such darkness? Fear. Separation. Not even a real, official resurrection story. Just death and a suddenly--and mysteriously--empty tomb.
We don't like to observe or commemorate grief. Often, we push it as far from us as we can; when was the last time you heard a true sermon of lament in church? How often does your family get together to have an observance on the anniversary of the death of a loved one?
I know a pastor who hates even the thought of slow, hymnic worship, preferring instead the pop-rock overtones of contemporary worship music. "Worship is a celebration!" he says, "When I go to a worship service, I don't want to feel like I'm at a funeral. Worship isn't a funeral!"
Well, on Good Friday, that's exactly what it is.
It's also about coming to the realization that we're on our own; there comes a time when every child has to leave their parents' home to live their own lives and make their own decisions. That's the reality of life.
And as for the disciples, they don't even have the guidance of the Holy Spirit with them yet. They are utterly alone.
However, the man in the tomb in this story gives the disciples directions, supposedly from Christ himself, to meet Jesus in Galilee. Obviously Jesus trusted them enough to make do on their own for a while and to follow his instructions without him hovering over their every move. Sometimes we fail to recognize that God has given us all the tools we need to be a force for good in the world. He has given us instructions, it's up to us to follow.
But for now, we rest in the quiet shadows of the tomb of our crucified Lord.
This morning, as per tradition in the church where I was raised--and for the last few years, at the Baptist Student Center--some friends of ours will join Alyssa and myself for a small breakfast of home made hot cross buns and coffee, resting and reflecting on the life and death of the man we have all devoted our lives to following. We wish you could join us. However, if you cannot, here for your own meditation is the short litany and prayer we will be reading from. I have also posted two little hymns that I have found to be very meaningful and appropriate. Grace and peace be with you, and may you find the value in giving yourself over fully to grief, even if only one day a year.
*****A Good Friday Litany
Leader: When the tomb looms large before our eyes, remind us, Lord, who we are:
People: We are the children of the resurrection; the place of death will not hold us.
Leader: We are the painters of rainbows; the shadow of death will not daunt us.
People: We are the breakers of loaves and fishes; the taste of death will not defile us.
Leader: We are the raisers of the dead; the power of death will not defy us.
People: We are the people of the Pentecost; the spirit of death will not destroy us.
All: God is our refuge and our strength. We gather in the power and sure promise of resurrection.
Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that justice and peace may increase, until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love. Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer, hear the cry of those in misery and need. In their afflictions show them your mercy, and give us, we pray, the strength to serve them for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
"He Never Said a Mumblin' Word," by The Welcome Wagon
"It is Finished," by Trent Dabbs, Kate York, Leigh Nash, and Kevin Bevil