Today, we remember the journey to the cross. We remember that Jesus was tortured and beaten and rejected. We know that the stone was rolled in front of the tomb and we are left to wait. During our Good Friday service tonight, the room was filled with candlelight. As the story of Christ’s last day was read, little by little, the room grew darker. Only one candle remained, a single candle next to the cross. As the final words were read, Jesus was placed in the tomb and the room went black. In that moment, a very real darkness was present. A familiar one that I know. It was the darkness of depression and hopelessness and grief. I have helped plan this service for 3 years. I have read the text countless times. This is not my first Good Friday. I knew what was coming. Yet in that moment, when the finality of it hit, it was a fresh and raw wound.
I know that Good Friday is hard. I know that the service is dark. I also know that it is so very necessary to walk through the pain and feel the hopelessness so that the announcement that ‘He Is Risen’ means so much more. I think Good Friday is especially poignant for those that have been through crisis – of faith, of health, of any kind – in the past liturgical year. It’s almost as if God is reminding us that God chooses to talk about the darkness and the mourning and the hopelessness. It makes me sad to think about the millions of people around the world that will be ready to talk resurrection but just don’t want to think about the road that it takes to get to the NEED for resurrection.
We have been conditioned to think that when you jump in the Jesus boat, you will always have people and happy and joy. Sometimes, that’s just not true. Sometimes your voice is prophetic and painful. Sometimes your honesty is more than people are comfortable with. Sometimes you choose to step out in a new way and those that have been walking beside you stop mid-step and watch you walk away. Sometimes the destruction and heartbreak is so profound that the most people can do is say “I’ll pray for you” which feels like an empty notion if you have ever faced the kind of darkness that envelopes even your belief in prayer. This hurts. This hurts in ways and places that you didn’t even know it could hurt.
If you find yourself in a space of dark and still and depressing, Jesus knows about that, and so do I. I have stood on the darkest hills in painful struggle, all while others were doubting my motives and heart. I have wept from feelings of abandonment, from painful decisions and from loneliness. And I like to think I am in good company. The company of the mother of Jesus who stood next to him as he died. The disciples of Jesus who turned him over for execution. The crowd who witnessed the beating and murder. The children that sat at the feet of a loving rabbi just days ago and yet now watched him die. These are my Good Friday people. We sit in pain together. We weep and ache together.
What I want to do in this next sentence is to tell you Sunday is coming. But I can’t. It’s not time for that. There will be a resurrection, but it’s only Friday and for now, our job is to recognize that we have to be smack in the middle of that pain. There is not an instant fix. The first disciples did not have a countdown clock for Sunday because they didn’t know it was coming. And for some of us, we don’t either.