This week I read some words on the subject of Holy Week that I’d like to share with you now because I think they’re both beautiful and meaningful.
They come from a woman called Sarah Bessey, a Canadian Christian writer, blogger and speaker.
She says this:
If you ever wonder if Jesus knows what it is to suffer, to be betrayed, to be heartbroken, this is the week when you hear your answer.
If you question how Jesus can be near to you when you are grieving and hurting, this week is your answer.
Make some room for the confusion, the lament, the grief, the sorrow this week.
Walk with the disciples during this week, see the world through their eyes, remember how miraculous this interruption was, to fully understand the power of the Resurrection.
Because I’ll be honest with you – I don’t think the world is longing for another Easter egg hunt or free chocolate, more bunnies and baskets.
I mean, those are nice and I’ll do the whole dog and pony show for my kids but I think we know – if we have lived for longer than a hot second – that the longing of our hearts isn’t for a bigger and better stage performance or more stuff or the pretense that life is one big parade and party.
We’re yearning for Jesus, still, all of us, always.
Be present to your own grief and know the presence of the Spirit there.
Fill a basin with water and wash someone’s feet.
Tear apart the simple bread, pour a glass of wine or grape juice, and remember.
Set up an outpost for the Kingdom of God, right in the teeth of suffering and death and greed, and practice it:
We were loved right to the end.
Even now, we are loved, right to the end.
Leave a little room on the edges, don’t fill it all up, Church, with consumerism and performances or with hermeneutical gymnastics and atonement theories:
leave a little room for the interruption, let God interrupt you, for the remembering and suffering, for the grieving and the longing, and the Holy stirring.
Joy comes in the morning, but you’ll miss it if you walk from the story during the night.
What Sarah says is true for the whole of Holy Week but I think it’s especially true for Good Friday.
HOW MUCH GOD CARES
For it’s on this day that we really see how much God cares.
On this day Jesus experiences injustice, pain and fear as he dies slowly over hours under a hot sun – not for any fault of his own but because he loves us.
Jesus undergoes heartbreak and loneliness as the voice of his Father, which has always been with him, falls mysteriously silent.
Jesus sees the grief of his friends and family and weeps with and for them in their confusion and fear.
Jesus shows us loud and clear that he knows what it is to suffer.
And I think, in the face of such love, it’s only right that silence is a traditional part of Good Friday services.
What else can we do in the face of a God who suffers and dies for us but stop and wonder and stare?
What else can we do but let God interrupt us in our busy round of work and shopping, family and entertainment?
And I don’t think we should shy away from that interruption either, in fear of thinking about death or in a desperate desire to get to eggs and fun without bothering with the difficult stuff.
Good Friday is an important day, a dark day, but it’s also a day of hope.
It’s a day that says to us that God will take the worst we can throw at him and still love us, that God takes human sin and suffering and need seriously and will stop at nothing to rescue us.
It’s a day that says God cares.
And it’s a day of great mystery for us to ponder.
Sarah mentioned hermeneutical gymnastics and atonement theories, referring to how theologians and church leaders can tie themselves into knots trying to explain exactly what happened on the Cross, precisely how Jesus dying saves us and the exact shades of meaning in the words and phrases of biblical accounts.
In case you’re interested, there are 7 atonement theories on the subject of how Jesus saves us, and I suspect that none of them has the whole truth.
Now, at its best theology is all about trying to increase our understanding of God, faith and the Bible, and that’s clearly a good thing.
But sometimes we just have to accept the limits of human understanding.
Sometimes we just have to look at what God is doing and fall down in worship and wonder, even if it’s mysterious, difficult or hard.
And we must look at what God is doing on Good Friday if we don’t want to miss out on the true joy of Easter Day when it comes.
For it’s when we know what true darkness looks like, when we’ve looked into the face the darkness of suffering and sin, and entered into the experience of hope apparently lost, that we can truly appreciate it and rejoice when God turns everything around and joy comes in the morning.
So let us all walk through the story today, knowing that Jesus is with us always.