A Good Friday World

I just placed the metal bowl in the Sanctuary for tonight’s worship service. It’s the bowl that will eventually hold the 30 pieces of silver from each person who gathers tonight. It’s an action we’ll share as we remember what those 30 pieces of silver will do in the story that we’ll live out this weekend.

I placed the bowl there and then paused — to wonder about my own betrayal. And then, just as quickly, I swept that thought away because I don’t like it. I don’t like to think that I’ve done anything wrong — but that doesn’t mean it’s true. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t betrayed myself or betrayed my God in some way. But, like so many, I shirk away from this feeling. I don’t want to admit that I live in a Good Friday world.

Several years ago NPR did a story in which Anne Lamott said: “We are Easter people living in a Good Friday world.” She was quoting the author Barbara Johnson. They were not her own words. But, she doesn’t let those words stand alone. As poignant as they are, Lamott goes on to explain:

“I think that every year the world seems more of a Good Friday world. And it’s excruciating, whether it’s Japan, or Libya, or whether its your own best friends and their children who are sick, which is something that makes no sense when you think about a loving God. But it’s a time when we get to remember that all the stuff that we think makes us of such value, all the time we spend burnishing our surfaces, is really not what God sees. God, he or she, loves us absolutely unconditionally, as is.”

As Christians, those that choose to live in the hope of the resurrection, we claim a loving God. We claim that God has the power to redeem and restore. We believe as Frederick Buechner says: the worst isn’t the last thing about the world. There is something else. There is something beyond that horrible pain. There is something beyond that loss. There is something beyond that horror. We call it resurrection. But, as I try to write my Easter sermon, I’m finding this mysterious term really hard to describe — if that is ever possible. It’s hard to describe because we live in a Good Friday world. It’s not just Japan or Libya. It’s Ukraine and Janet’s cancer. Lamott is right. It’s excruciating. So, how do we talk about these things with each other?

Because we know what suffering does. We can talk about that — most of the time. But, when pushed, we hesitate to answer the question: what pain are you willing to sustain? We’d rather skip that question and get to whatever is beyond that. But, it doesn’t seem to work that way. It seems we have to go through the pain to get to the other side. I wish that were not true. Man, do I ever. But, resurrection doesn’t come until something dies. Something has to kick the bucket before that mysterious renewal can happen. And I guess I’m still trying to figure out what that is. As the real work of Holy Week begins, I’m wondering where I’ll find myself in the story again. What will die? What will I betray? What, in the end, will live?

It’s time to begin this holy work again.

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