Through Death to Life
Whenever I’m asked the question, “Why do we call Good Friday, GOOD Friday?”, I begin with this story.
It was Good Friday afternoon. I was all of 12 years old when I was sitting in the pew next to my devout Aunt Marie. It was our traditional, solemn three hour service put on by the Lutherans from our area. The service was always held each Good Friday and was based on the Seven Last Words of Christ. Each word was accompanied by a prayer, psalm, sermon and hymn lasting about twenty minutes. Between words parishioners could come and go from the service. Aunt Marie always went for the full three hours and I had decided on a dare that I would stick it out for all three hours, too. Somewhere between the second and fifth word my Aunt Gretchen arrived from Cleveland and joined us. As the sixth word was about to begin, Aunt Marie let out an audible gasp. My Cleveland aunt leaned over to ask what was wrong and Aunt Marie gestured with her head toward the entrance to the nave. There in all her splendor was Emma, a flamboyant woman known for her coordinated outfits. She was dressed in flamingo pink from head to foot: dress and coat, complete with matching hat, shoes and handbag! As we turned back toward Aunt Marie she muttered through clenched teeth, “Doesn’t she know this is a funeral?” To which my Aunt Gretchen replied, “I never thought of it that way!”
Well, the same question, “Why GOOD Friday?” could help us understand the variety of ways in which we observe the whole Lenten season.
During Lent are we preparing for a funeral or a celebration?
The answer of course is both:
- a funeral where we will come face to face with the enormity of what it means for the Son of God to be rejected, tortured and killed by the world he came to save; and
- a celebration of the new life that is ours because of the height, depth and breadth of God’s love that persevered and defeated sin, death and the devil through the sacrifice of his Son.
I have found that this season of our church year speaks to us where we are. If we have become complacent or self-satisfied, we can find ourselves staring our sin and mortality right in the face and coming to the realization we can’t handle the situation on our own. Lent speaks a word of comfort and hope even as we are confronted with our own desperate need for what Jesus accomplished for us and we experience a profound appreciation for the price he paid to accomplish our salvation. It is a time to mourn our plight and to seek comfort from our God “who did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 2:17)
If we find ourselves weighed down by cares and problems, depressed and despairing over the state of our world, alone and grieving, then it is the victory Jesus won for us on the cross that speaks most profoundly and the new life that is ours right now, as we rely on the transforming empowerment of the Spirit in our live. Since nothing “can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39), we celebrate the Good News with thanksgiving and praise!
The story of our Lord’s journey to the cross and beyond speaks to us wherever we are, whatever our life situation. May this time of preparation speak a Word of challenge, comfort, joy, hope and/or peace, whatever Word you need to hear that will draw you closer to God, this Lenten season.
Grace and peace,
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600