Good Friday

by Jane M. Gardner

In German, today is called Karfreitag or “Sorrowful Friday.” This resonates with me as a description closely tied to the events of Jesus’ last Friday on earth. It was a day of betrayal, violence, and suffering.

There was much about which to be sorrowful. So, why in English do we use “Good Friday”? The origin of the use of “Good” is not clear. Some say it came from an older English name, “God’s Friday” – used to describe Jesus’ faithful response to the mission God called him to perform.

Others link the use of “Good” with the coming dawn of Easter. It is a day that found Jesus trusting and true to God’s purposes. There would be no Easter without the events of Friday, making it a good, essential day.

Regardless of the origin, using “Good” as a descriptor for this Friday is not meant to be an attempt to avoid difficulty and sorrow. Rather, the dramatic events on the last day of Jesus’ life lead purposefully to suffering and, for the good of humanity, to resurrection hope.

Might we be able to find ourselves in this Good Friday story? Can we name our suffering? Think about the women at the foot of the cross. They came face-to-face with Jesus’ suffering and didn’t run away. They stood firm in their sorrow. Perhaps our place is with them. To follow Jesus on Good Friday means to be near the cross and witness, like the women. We follow Jesus by standing still and taking it all in. We follow Jesus by acknowledging that hurt and sorrow are part of life. We purposefully stand still and don’t rush away from the pain. Today we stand at the cross and find God in the stillness and the suffering.

We knowingly enter into Good Friday every year. It is a sacred story and a sacred time. As we choose the discomfort, grief, and sadness of this day, may it bring to mind the suffering that is around us and in us. Find the stillness of this day and through it discern your mission to stand purposefully with those who are suffering and in pain. Take it in. And let the Spirit guide you to be a faithful disciple, even in the moments that are difficult. After all, it is God’s Friday, not ours.

Holy Week: To Enter the Suffering

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Who would willingly come to this threshold? With all society’s promises of happiness and fulfillment beckoning at every bend, who would choose to enter this week of suffering? Who would sit at the table of bread being broken, feeling the horrible tension of a body almost broken too? Who would be a witness at the cross of injustice, suffering, and grief? Who would go to the tomb to revisit the despair and dread, to face what can happen even to you who dare to challenge the systems of power?

We come to this Holy Week threshold precisely because most suffering in our lives and in our world is not what we would choose. We do not want to lie in a hospital bed, or sit beside one. We do not want to witness chronic poverty, or the impact of war, or the rubble of another natural disaster. We do not welcome the loss of a broken relationship, a miscarriage, the death of a loved one, or a layoff. It does not ease the pain to remind us how part of being human is to experience suffering; how loss is an inevitable part of life.

Most of the time we avoid pain at all costs. I take Tylenol at the first sign of a headache. I avoid the risks that could cause disruption. In moments of intensity, it is sometimes easier to become emotionally numb than to sustain the feeling. As much as I can control my away around suffering, I will try.

Yet, Holy Week does not offer an invitation to ease the pain, but to enter it. We are invited to enter the heart of suffering and pray our own agonizing Gethsemane prayers: Where are you, God? And, why God? And, how could this happen? Can’t it be another way? What possible spiritual wisdom could reside in the yearly journey into this uncomfortable place?

We have spent the season of Lent practicing restraint in the desert, stripping ourselves of unnecessary baggage, assessing our idols and illusions. Holy Week is the culminating moment of this wilderness season of the spiritual life. It is the time for whatever is false that remains in us to show its face before what is most true. In An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor asserts that even pain and suffering can be a spiritual practice because they force us to confront what isn’t real. “Pain strips away all the illusions required to maintain the status quo… Pain is so real that less-real things like who you thought you were and how you meant to act vanish like drops of water flung on a hot stove.”

We do not seek out suffering, but it happens. There is no neat theological explanation for the Good Friday moments of life that can satisfy my deepest questions. And yet, we can see how it is often through enduring what we would never choose that we find ourselves transformed into who we really are. When asked to draw a map of my spiritual life, the relationship between the lowest points and the most growth becomes abundantly clear. In our aching Gethsemane prayers we dare to utter what is most real in us. There is no time for fancy wording or even right theology. What was once abstract becomes sharp immediacy. And it is here, in this journey to the cross, right in the middle of what we’ve tried to avoid, that we discover the presence of the One who is truly in all things even in the places we’d rather not be.

And it is here, in our dying, that the seed of resurrection breaks open, shedding even its own seed-identity to become fullest life beyond what we can imagine or hope.

This is the threshold we dare to cross.

This is the promise we dare to hold.

 

A Place of Confrontation

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Turn off the radio, TV, phone, or computer, and simply work or rest in silence. As you hear the sounds of life around you, allow yourself to be filled with awe and gratitude at the presence of God’s Spirit in diverse ways.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

Today’s post is a reflection on the practice of silence written by Dustin Davis, a member of the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Team. May your Good Friday be holy confrontational and blessed!

A Place of Confrontation
by Dustin Davis

In my experience there are two levels of silence. The first level is a more superficial type of silence. It’s characterized by the relief that comes when a loud noise passes. Living in a city as big as Los Angeles I experience noise followed by this type of silence all the time when a circling helicopter finally flies into the distance, when screaming sirens continue down the street out of earshot or when a honking car alarm mercifully halts. Indeed, whenever I travel back to Missouri I’m struck by the silence, particularly at night. It’s restful, and it’s peaceful.

The other, and deeper, level of silence doesn’t happen spontaneously. In fact, I have to be rather intentional about it. I have to purposefully turn off the radio and tv, remove my cell phone to another room and attempt the often impossible task of quieting my own thoughts. I have to make space for this type of silence, and it’s in this place that I do my best to listen to the still small voice that is God. This kind of silence, although it may bring me peace, isn’t peaceful at all. It’s a place of confrontation.

During Lent this year I’ve been reading The Last Week by Marcus Borg. In it he examines each day, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, of Jesus’s life as narrated in the gospel of Mark. It’s been a fascinating journey, and one of the points that Borg makes abundantly clear is that the last week of Jesus’s life, what we experience this week as Holy Week, is a time of extreme confrontation with the unjust systems of the Roman empire and with those who collude and are complicit within those systems. Borg says, “As Mark tells the story, was Jesus guilty of nonviolent resistance to imperial Roman oppression and local Jewish collaboration? Oh, yes. Mark’s story of Jesus’s final week is a sequence of public demonstrations against and confrontations with the domination system. And, as all know, it killed him.”

Silence, real and deep silence, can be a scary thing. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be so difficult to achieve. We wouldn’t have the countless options for distraction that we do today. It’s only in this place where we can sense God truly calling us that we are confronted with our own unjust actions and complicity in the status quo. When we put away the phones and the music and the other noise that fills our lives, our fears and insecurities and vulnerabilities raise to the top, and we hear God’s loving voice nudging us to reconciliation, to love deeper, risk greater, to seek the kingdom. This requires within us to change and to die, and we don’t often do so willingly. However, as Jesus shows us time and time again, this is the path of the disciple that we must all take.

So often we confuse the peace we seek with the simple absence of unwanted or loud noises. It’s giving up chocolate for Lent and making it to the end without cheating only to binge the next day. It feels good, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. But we have to stop fooling ourselves and recognize that there is so much more.

The good news is that we know death is not the end. Even as Jerusalem was a place of confrontation and death for Jesus, it was also a place of resurrection. We cling to the Easter promise of new life beyond our imaginings, which is good and hopeful, but it’s only once we die and live again that it stops being just a promise or a story. Our suffering is transformed into new life, into the reality we call God’s Kingdom. Only then can we call ourselves an Easter people and say we believe in the resurrection!