Good Friday Again

I’ve heard it said by people I respect and adore that we can’t have Easter without Good Friday. It’s the same logic that we only know what is truly good by knowing its opposite. We are able to understand the world by its contrast. However, this has never made sense to me. I’ve never been able to internalize this wisdom as something that is true for me. I can’t fully believe it. I want to believe that we know goodness without knowing the depth of its opposite.

And yet, today is the day Christians are invited into the drama of this opposite realm. We’re invited to feel the horrors of life. We’re allowed to touch the depths of sorrow. We go with Christ to feel that pain. I’ve never been able to do this. In the first church I served as a Pastoral Associate, the tradition was to lug the huge wooden cross into the chancel. On this night, the congregation was invited to hammer nails into the cross. We were invited to mark those wounds, but I couldn’t do that. I knew it the minute I heard about this tradition which began my long discourse on substitutionary atonement with the Senior Pastor. We compromised. We would offer ribbons and nails. I wouldn’t have to repeat the unjust violence I felt in this awful story of my Savior. Instead, I could try to tie together those fragments. 

Years later, I still feel like I’m trying to tie together those fragments. I know what my tradition says about this story. I know what liturgical meaning is found in this narrative but I don’t want to experience this extreme opposite. I want to know that I can experience Easter without such brutal violence, but I know that’s not a popular perspective among my Christian sisters and brothers. So, I typically hide on this day. I try to contain my grief. I try to be aware of the injustice that still occurs in this world. On this day, I keep vigil hoping that there will be no more days like this. I pray that we will cease to perpetrate violence on the earth, on each other and on ourselves. I pray that Easter will finally come without this horror, but every year it feels the same. Perhaps it always will. Perhaps this is the reality of human experience — but every year, I hope it will be different. I hope that the world will hear and embody Jesus’ call to love.

Until that day, I don’t want to continue any violence. I don’t want to act it out in the story. I don’t want to hammer the faith of another. I just want to be a bystander. I want to be at the foot of the cross with however many Marys there were. I will weep and wail, but I don’t want to be on the cross. There are enough crosses in our world. I want to try to imagine another way — even on this day.

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