Good Friday Meditation
April 14, 2017
First Presbyterian Church Norman, OK
What is so Good about this night? Etymologically there are two explanations of how we came to call this day ‘Good Friday’ the lesser one is that it is a corruption of God Friday the most commonly believed explanation is that it is meant to be synonymous with ‘holy friday’. But whether tonight is the worship and storytelling of ‘good’ or ‘holy’ I have always found the name and implications of the name to be a struggle.
What could be good about the public execution of God? I know there are plenty of ways to answer that, but taken on its own merit, without regard for the resurrection, I find very little that makes me comfortable saying that the death of Jesus was good or holy, other than that Jesus himself was good and holy. And we killed him for it.
This Lent has been one of the hardest I have lived personally. My dear friend Deirdre died on Thursday March 23, 22 days after Lent began and following a heart attack that happened the evening of Sunday March 5, just 4 days after Ash Wednesday. So I have walked nearly all of Lent knowing that this night would come and that tonight’s story would be different this time, it's walk and details would be closer this year, its poignancy and horror more real for me this time. And I walked toward tonight hoping that in the story I might find peace and recognition.
Because that is the paradox of being a follower of Christ- knowing that in a real way there is still brokenness, sadness, and even horror in death- That is why we tell tonight’s story. Jesus’ death, the death of those we love with all that we are, or the horrors of the deaths of people across the world when our nation bombs other countries...it’s all horrible, every lost life, lost to malnutrition, unclean water, epidemic, or warfare, to old age, cancer, AIDS, by gunshot or bombing, by suicide, or public execution. Every single one is a tragedy, a scandal, is worthy of our mourning. But we don’t mourn them all. We largely only mourn the ones whose names and faces we knew or the ones that include so many souls we can no longer ignore them. And in this I can find goodness and holiness in the death of Jesus. In that he lived life like us, as we know, but he also died, and died in such a shameful, public, undeniable way that there is no question that he did it. If he had died at home, or been executed in a way that was not so public, or had lived to an old age, we might not be able to find solidarity with God in his death.
The horror of this experience is shame on all of us, all who follow him, for we in small ways and systematic ones, behave just like Judas and Pontius Pilate, and the soldiers, and the crowd shouting ‘Crucify him’, the fear and shame filled Disciples. But so is the holiness, for we also, as his people, catch glimpses of solidarity with God in the holy moments of life and of death, we see what is True past our own fears and misconceptions and perspectives, we join with God in mourning when life is lost. And in those ways we see the holy, we know the Truth and we are convicted again that the work of the cross that is done for us is not about a sacrifice made, wholly separate from us, to give us all freedom from sin, but to free us from bondage to sin, to give us the freedom to act a different way, because he acted differently.
We will celebrate the miraculous and the Godly part of this story on Sunday. But tonight we dwell with the final and most human act of Jesus the man. In death Jesus was the ultimate human- his frail human body died, and left behind its physical brokenness. And we don’t know what it is like after that, we don’t know the experience of death except in the holes it leaves for those of us who remain here.
Jesus tonight leaves that hole in us, that space where we miss him in everyday conversations and in big ‘help me’ moments, and in spaces of quiet when we are alone and think of him- just like the holes left by those we love now when they die. And we know he will be the one, because he is God, who returns and fills that hole on Sunday. But for now, for tonight and for tomorrow, we are left in the midst of the story- the story of our lives, and the end of his….to sit in the darkness and feel the hole in our spirit left by his absence in these good and holy days. And its ok, because feeling those holes, we remember...we find solidarity in knowing that Jesus, just like everyone we have loved and lost, loves us, wants goodness and holiness for us, and keeps us with him even in death.