Posts Tagged ‘Good Friday’

Tonight, the small Christian community in which I participate observed a hybrid service, a blending of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. We sang Passion hymns, received the offering of special music, read responsive prayers, shared the Lord’s Supper, and heard the Passion story from Luke’s Gospel. A multi-sensory service, we tied red and black ribbons on a cross covered with chicken wire. And of course, our Pastor shared a brief meditation.

She made a provocative choice, one I appreciate not only for the courage it took to make it at all but the connections it made for the gathered body. She summarized portions of James Cone’s now classic book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Cone paralleled the Roman state-sponsored terror of mass crucifixions with the state-tolerated plague of lynchings in white supremacist America. Both used violence and threats of violence to control the masses.

Every soul in the church came face to face with the ways that the cross of suffering continues to show up everywhere, and what’s more, the image of lynching turns around and back toward our Lord: Jesus had a public lynching.

The cross does continue to show up and God’s people are hauled up upon it today. Elie Wiesel’s haunting recounting of the hanging of a young man in a concentration camp, legs kicking, struggling for life, includes muted questions from those forced to watch:

“Where is God now? Where is God now?”

From the same crowd comes an answer: “There – there on that gallows.”

God is always on the gallows just as Jesus was. God hangs by a noose, swinging from a lynching tree. Because wherever suffering is present, there is God. Wherever the weak and vulnerable are exploited and abused, there is God. Wherever the state uses violence as a form of control, there is God. Wherever humanity is so broken that only pure, unconditional, self-giving love can possibly set us free from ourselves, there is God.

At the end of the service we followed the cross in silent procession outside to the front lawn of the church and posted it in the ground. Immediately across the street from the church are bars, restaurants and hotels, and they were full of Friday night revelers. We forget that Christians in our present American culture comprise an extreme minority. On Good Friday that percentage is even smaller. The people across the street paused to look up at the strange assemblage. They wordlessly considered the ribbon decked cross and people standing around it. What could this public witness possibly mean, this spectacle?

Soon enough they returned to their fun, and like the people walking near Jesus’ cross in his time, became distracted with more pressing and interesting matters.


The community gathers

The community gathers

Our open-space worship environment continued through Good Friday as the community gathered, looked, listened, contemplated and prayed.

The Chancel Choir sang the haunting Reproaches by

Chancel Choir

Chancel Choir

Victoria, the cycle of questions from the divine lover to the beloved asking why they have rejected and scorned the lover. They began in “flash mob” style, scattered throughout the sanctuary, a few beginning to sing and move joined by others until all were assembled in the loft.

art stationThe prayer stations included the passion cycle lessons and the work of the late French artist, Georges Rouault. His sacred art, especially his well-known Miserere series, focused on the Divine love present in the suffering of humanity as shown in Christ’s suffering.

The printed prayer guide included Rouault’s story, how when he



was about thirty years old he had an awakening and united him with the sacred source of things and the humanity loved by that sacred presence. His art was derided by other artists and held in suspicion by the religious. Almost forgotten in his own time he has been embraced in the present moment as one of the greatest sacred modernist artists of the last century.

BCC Good Friday 2014 Panorama

We gathered like usual on Maundy Thursday, remembering how he washed their feet, shared a supper that was infused with new meaning, and trogged out to sweat blood in a garden called Gethsemane. It’s a somber meal with words about bread and body, wine and blood. There is covenant-making in the works. And dipping bread in the same bowl as one who will betray.

Our supper had already traveled out to the city, making appearances in public places: Same supper, different contexts. And some people wondered what in the world is going on. Others knew, recognizing the familiar DaVinci pose. But now those images came crashing back home, back to the place where we always break bread. This time, though, the portable supper took on new meaning, the lines between sacred and secular air brushed away.

When you leave Maundy Thursday its only a short hop to Good Friday, the dark day, the day of trials, denial, torture, death, entombment. We want to avert our eyes. And avert eyes for more than one reason. It’s gruesome, of course. But more than that the sacred mirror has been held up before us and we don’t like what we see. It was I who crucified you, Lord. My humanity did it.

And then in a passing, fleeting moment, there out in the darkness of crosses, we see it: A young man, one of his followers, almost caught because he’s hovering near the cross, looses his clothes as he runs naked into the night. The nameless naked.

We don’t know who he is, but we can guess he is one of his now scattered followers. He’s terrified and impotent. He’s running for his life, stripped of everything he thought he had, all the protections peeled away. And of all the characters in the story maybe he is most our stand in because we find ourselves fleeing without anything, at least before all this we do.

Somewhere in the darkness where the nakedness intersects with flight, there is a veiled grace that is about to catch him, enfold him, clothe him, and bring warmth and light. But not now. Soon, but not now. Weeping tarries with the night but joy comes with the morning. And it surely does.

I remember an interview with the phenomenal jazz maven, Lena Horn, as she talked about the seasons of her life. She especially spent time talking about the long expanse of mid-life that contained a persistent state of depression. She called those years “the dead years” because that’s how she felt. She said, “I was dead for several years of my life, and then I came back to life in the second half.”

I think crucifixion, in part, is about exactly that, the dead years. And I think that resurrection, in part, is about coming back to life. There is running naked into the dark and there is awakening to the morning light. We talk about it over and over without naming that Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is shared by us, when we share in it. It names us and gives us hope at the same time.

Behold, the old is gone and the new is come. Thanks be to God, it’s so.