Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Living Friday

In two days, I will lead our church in a "Good" Friday service. It's the day that we remember the death of Jesus. We remember the suffering of Jesus. We remember the love that led Jesus to die that death--and the Father to allow that death. It's a dark day. The cloth on the cross is black. The sanctuary is normally dark--or almost dark. "Good" is an interesting adjective for the day. It's the Friday of death that precedes the Sunday of resurrection. 

For the first time in my life, I feel like I am living that Friday--three funerals in 10 days, with the first being my father, the second a sweet woman from the church, and the third a close friend and ministry partner who died at 51 years old, not to mention my "second mama" losing her brother three weeks ago, my cousin losing her husband of 46 years in February, and a best friend whose father is dying of cancer. 

Last week, in an email to a friend, I quoted Theoden, from "Lord of the Rings," who felt despair deep in Helm's Deep and moaned painfully, "So       much         death!" Then I remembered Aragorn, who encouraged Theoden, "Ride out with me." We all need Aragorns in times like this--friends to encourage us to keep putting one foot in front of another! 

I also happen to be teaching Psalms right now, and the subject of the past three weeks has been the lament psalms. These psalms contain statements like these (all from The Voice):

  • My soul is drowning in darkness. How long can You, the Eternal, let things go on like this? (Ps. 6:3)
  • How long must I agonize, grieving Your absence in my heart every day? How long will You let my enemies win? (Ps. 13:2)
  • My God, my God, why have You turned Your back on me? Your ears are deaf to my groans. O my God, I cry all day and You are silent; my tears in the night bring no relief. (Ps. 22:1-2)
  • Do not allow my enemies to boast over me. Do not allow them to gloat over me, “Aha, we have won! We got what we wanted!” Do not allow them to brag, “We chewed him up and spit him out.” (Ps. 35:24-25)
  • The waters have risen to my neck; I am going down! My feet are swallowed in this murky bog; I am sinking—there is no sturdy ground. I am in the deep; the floods are crashing in! I am weary of howling; my throat is scratched dry. (Ps. 69:1-3)

And, yet, if you read these psalms in their entirety, you will find in them also statements of faith in God--statements of trust that God has heard in the past and will hear in the future. These psalms talk of God as "My Lord" and "My God," speaking of a relationship between psalmist and God. There is hope, even in deep darkness. However, there is one exception. Psalm 88 offers no word of hope, no word of trust, no word of faithfulness. The psalmist is forsaken and forgotten, "in the lowest pits of the earth, in the darkest canyons of the ocean" (v. 6). 

This brings me back to Friday. There is no suggestion in the gospel texts that the friends and followers of Jesus were hoping for a miracle. They had watched Jesus die--and he was dead! Friday, and Psalm 88, should remind us that there are times when we feel hopeless. There are times when the darkness overwhelms us and we see no glimmer of light. Death does this to us. And Friday is a day to think of death. Yes, we know that Sunday is coming, but I do not think that the disciples on Saturday were looking forward to Sunday. So, I suggest that on "Good" Friday, we consider the darkness of that night, and the darkness of some of our own days. 

I do have one word of hope here, however. I am so glad that Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. Jesus understood grief. He understood Friday. I have listened to a song by the artist Eli several times in the past few weeks. The song is entitled, "God Weeps, Too." It give me comfort and hope. It includes this line, "This is for the widow, who now must sleep alone, when the memory of a kiss will have to do. Every night when she lay down, you can almost hear, when God weeps, too." (You can hear the song here.) I believe that God wept on Friday. I think I will, too, as I long for Sunday!