GOOD FRIDAY: A HOLY NIGHTMARE
I hesitate to write this, because some of my church friends read my blog and I’m trying to be hyper-pastoral during Lent. (Not really, that’s a lost cause.) But I’ll just say that for me, Good Friday is not fun. It produces anxiety nightmares.
The past few years, I’ve been asked to put together the Good Friday service at our church, and — not being a natural fit for me — this is super stressful. It involves lots of logistics like wooden bowls and hammers and fake swords and costumes and scripts and lights and microphones. And people. Lots of people who are volunteers (like me) with busy lives and broken computers and small children. They are creating skits and writing songs and sewing soldier’s costumes and building wooden crosses.
I’m sure this can be exciting for some personality types, but not mine. I like adrenaline as much as the next person, but it’s less trouble just to have an extra cup of caffeinated tea.
Worst of all, because of the time and emotional investment I put into this service, I tend to abandon my Lenten practices. I don’t have time for my walk. I get home late from rehearsal, so I eat dinner after my evening fast is supposed to have begun. I haven’t done my “daily” centering meditation but a handful of times this whole forty-day Lenten period. And don’t ask about my “healthy eating” pursuit.
You probably see right through this rant: I’m simply using preparations for the service as an excuse to drop my spiritual practices. So I’m disingenuous, too. On top of my self-pity, self-absorption, disorganization, procrastination, and ego-driven perfectionism.
And you know what? It’s all OK. It’s all taken care of — because of Good Friday.
All my foibles, short-comings, broken places — the ones I know about and the ones I don’t yet acknowledge. They are all set right by Good Friday.
A Horrific Story
Good Friday is a nightmare story, a horrific story of betrayal, abandonment, and murder.
Jesus’s friend Judas betrayed him and turned him over to an angry mob — for money. Religious leaders wanted Jesus killed because he threatened their power base and money schemes. The governor Pontius Pilate abdicated responsibility for murdering Jesus, even though he knew him to be innocent. He blamed others. Three times, one of Jesus’s best buddies denied even knowing him, just hours after promising Jesus he would follow him to the grave. Soldiers and guards mocked and spit on Jesus when he was hanging on a cross, dying.
So, yes, Good Friday is a nightmare.
But it is a holy nightmare.
My pastor Matthew writes:
“On Good Friday Jesus took every dark thing we could possibly throw at him: hatred; violence; the corrupt, self-interest of religious and political power; all our falsehoods, prejudice, pride, arrogance and self-protection. Jesus bore all this, but it did not corrupt him. Rather than respond in kind, Jesus swallowed all this evil, overcame it and dis-empowered it. And it killed him.”
A good man, preaching love and peace and care for the poor and the oppressed, was murdered. But as he died, he overcame evil for all of us, and his sacrifice gave us the power to become whole and healthy — holy. That is the holy nightmare of Good Friday.
And can you believe it? Jesus came back to life three days later. (I know this sounds too good to be true, and choosing heart and hope over logic and skepticism is frowned upon these days.) But I have come to believe it. Jesus swallowed humanity’s darkness, he overcame it, and he lives!
On Easter Sunday, followers of Jesus will celebrate his resurrection and his living spirit that empowers every human to choose love over hate, peace over violence, and light over darkness. There is hope for the world, whether or not you believe in God. God still believes in us — every one of us. Our Creator believes in our goodness and dreams of a world where love wins.