Good Friday/Holy Saturday

Cloudy, with intermittent sunshine on Friday.
Fog wisping its way into crevices and canyons,
then wending its way back to sea.
Ideal weather for such a portentous day,
this day of subtexts, sadness and sober reflection.

We must, as the truism goes, walk through Friday,
before we can get to Sunday.
I know this, I believe this, I choose to live this.
But it is always difficult.
I am tired by the time we get to this day.
Every member of a church staff is tired at this end of this week.
and yet . . .

. . . there is a weightiness that cannot be denied,
that won’t be ignored or trivialized.
Though many around us are oblivious,
those who cling to the Jesus story,
on this day will find some way to acknowledge
the cross,
the terrible, wonderful cross.

This week marks the endpoint of six weeks of Lenten journeying;
the culmination of all the readings and the wanderings,
the fasting and the praying and the giving of alms.

Friday, Good Friday, commemorates the descent of darkness,
true darkness,
as it spread its paralyzing tentacles over the earth,
oozing outward from the center,
that stillpoint on  a lonely hilltop,
outside the city gates of Jerusalem.

Our Service of Darkness provided opportunity
for remembering,
for being quietly grateful
and intentionally aware of the extent of God’s great love.

 Seven words.
Seven layers.
Seven levels of increasing darkness,
seven scripture texts, seven written reflections, seven songs.
And a repeated response:
Leader: Lord Jesus, you gave your life for us.
People: You suffered and died that we might be made whole. 

 Musicians and readers sat in the balcony this night,
hidden behind a black drape.
There was nothing to distract from the cross,
or the candles,
each of which was extinguished at the close of a ‘word,’
until there was only one light left,
our Christ candle,
tall, central, sputtering.

And then, it, too, was blown out,
and darkness enveloped the room and our hearts.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there?

Oh, yes. I was there.
I am there, every single year,
and I remember that body,
that blessed body,
where all the brokenness, the wrongheadedness,
the outright evil I have embraced in this long life —
all of it is absorbed.

I don’t pretend to understand this.
The writers of scripture struggled with it, too,
giving us multiple word pictures of
what Jesus accomplished on the cross:
ransom, substitution, example, exchange, offering, sacrifice —
each and all of these providing one facet of the jewel,
one small slice of the gift.
This gift, too wondrous for the confines of human language,
too beautiful for words.

And today, Holy Saturday, it is quiet.
The fog has settled in, cushioning the sounds of traffic,
of birdsong, of daily life.
It is as if a silent shroud has settled on our landscape.

I welcome this space,
this silence,
because this is the day that death dies.
Really, and truly dead —
that’s what Jesus was.
That’s what we were.

But tomorrow?
Tomorrow, we rise with him.

And because of tomorrow,
we rise with him every day,
every moment of every day
right into every moment of tomorrow.
Because this week . . .
this Maundy Thursday,
this Good Friday,
this Holy Saturday,
this Easter Sunday . . .
this week makes all of life blessed,
even the broken, beat-up pieces of it.

This week marks the dawn of a new age,
a new creation, a new way of living life.
Because of God-become-man,
God choosing to fully embrace the fragility and beauty,
the brokenness and sadness,
the miracle and wonder of being human —
we, too, are invited into a fully-lived humanness.

We, too, are Easter people.

This is Kingdom come,
right here, right now, in the middle of the mess.
Today, the Son shines,
redeeming and transforming our dust,
our star-dust selves,
making of us what we could not fully become
by ourselves:
human persons, formed in the image of God.

Oh, yeah — Sunday’s comin’
and we’re going to shout and sing and everything!

My thanks to Jeanne Heckman for creating a starkly beautiful space for this service; to Pastor/Dr. Jon Lemmond and Student Ministries Intern Anna Cornell for leading us in worship; to Dr. Marianne Robins, Dr. Greg Spencer, Dr. John Sider and Dr. Paul Willis for joining me as readers, and to Bob Gross, Jon Martin, Janet Spencer and John Sider for adding so much musical depth to the evening.
We are truly a blessed community.

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  1. Diana,
    This recounting is so beautiful. This year I’ve been drawn to all the ways we come through this Holy Week, all the different traditions and new paths we tread through this long, hard, dark week that is bookended in triumph and glory.

    Thank you.

  2. Diana,
    I have seen your comments at many of the blogs I follow. I really love this reflection. I know ministers are exhausted at the end of holy week. I just want to say I have noticed what an encourager you are to others in ministry and that is a real gift. Blessings to you and a joyous, peaceful Easter. Alleluia! (Well technically I’m not supposed to say Alleluia until tomorrow, but it is Easter Sunday some places in the world right now…)

    • What a lovely, lovely note to leave, Emmie. Thank you so much! (And one of the songs we sang last night had an ‘alleluia’ in the last line and it fit perfectly.) May your Easter celebrations bring joy and hope to you and yours.

  3. “This week makes all life blessed.” Six simple words, and yet incredibly profound, Diana. I’m thinking: How dare I complain, give in to self-pity, or take God’s blessings for granted? All three Persons of the trinity suffered horrific agony during Holy Week, in order to make my life blessed. I want to live each day as a love gift back to my Heavenly Father, my Savior, my constant Companion and Comforter!

    Thank you again, Diana, for the power of your words. May you have a glorious Easter — HE IS RISEN!

    • Thank you, Nancy, for your wonderful consistency in stopping by here and leaving such encouragement. Glorious Easter to you as well!

  4. Dave Vander Laan says

    Diana, the way you described the progression of the Worship Service made me want to be there – to experience the gradual darkness in my own tension of ‘already/not yet.’

    And your invitation to live into my humanness made me all the more want to experience the Worship of Good Friday in your tradition.

    But I so appreciated how you took the focus of me even as you reminded me that I’m part of the group called ‘Easter People.’

    You made this about more than a description of a Good Friday Worship Service because I saw the power of a blood-stained cross and felt hope while anticipating the empty tomb.

    Thank you & I trust your Easter was rich with the great affection of God.

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Dave. It was a good evening – sobering, thoughtful, quiet. And this morning worship service was one of the most powerful I’ve ever experienced. When the pictures are edited, I’ll get a post put together as soon as I can.