It’s Good Friday… A day that I have a very strange relationship with. The truth is, I have never really known how to act on this day. Sad? Happy? Somber? What does Jesus want me to feel? Am I allowed to laugh, work, or play? Images from my childhood of walking into dark church buildings, flickering candle lights, dark clothing, and sad faces plague my memory, leaving me feeling a variety of emotions, none of which can possibly be the intended purpose of our Savior on this day.
So what am I supposed to feel today? What am I supposed to do today?
Here is a hint… the answer has nothing to do with going to church.
Several years ago, my family experienced the pain of unexpected death. My cousin Abe died of a brain aneurism way too young, and left those closest to him feeling confused, angry, sad and lonely. It had been a long time since I had spent significant time with him, but he had always held a special place in my heart. Abe was quite a bit older than me, but growing up, he always treated me as if I was his equal. He made me feel like I mattered. When Abe’s wife asked me to sing at the memorial service I was more than honored to play a role in remembering his life. At this point I had played and sang at numerous events in front of lots of people, but this was different, and I wasn’t prepared for the feelings I would feel that day. As I began to sing “Only a Paper Moon,” by Harold Arlen, a song that Abe sang to his boys at bed time, memories of his life rushed to the surface. I remembered the things that he stood for, and the things that he had told me. I remembered the way he smiled at me, and the way he laughed. I remembered the things he believed in strong enough to give his life and heart for. Before I knew it, I was crying, and simply couldn’t sing anymore. Luckily my brother who was singing with me, was able to hold it together long enough to get through the song. The emotion I remember feeling strongest that day as I stood in front of his friends and family, was a strong desire to honor him, the way he deserved to be honored. I remember wanting to rip the tags out of all my t-shirts, because that’s what Abe did. I remember wanting to dress like him and talk like him. I remember wanting to love what he loved. Not because he was perfect, but because I wanted to honor him, and that felt like the best way to do that.
I have spent this entire week reflecting on the historic events we refer to in human religion as, “Holy Week.” What have I discovered? It truly was a Holy Week. The presence of God in the events leading to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus were not accidental, and they were anything but typical. Jesus journey to the cross is the most inspiring story ever told, and it was more than a story.
As I come to Good Friday in my reflection, I find myself in the same struggle over the events of this day I have felt my entire life… yet I am sensing more clarity in it than I ever have before.
So what does Jesus want from me today? How am I supposed to act, and feel? What would bring him the most honor on a day I am remembering the incredible sacrifice he made on my behalf?
Love what He loves, live like He lived, cherish who He cherishes.
The best way to honor my cousin Abe was to uphold the things he valued and cared about, and the same thing is true about Jesus.
So today, instead of drooping your face during a dark candle lit service, wearing dark clothes, or praying somber prayers in an attempt to feel worthy of the sacrifice made for you, choose to honor Jesus, and His death by living, loving and serving like He did.
Today, honor Jesus by extending grace to those who deserve it least, serve those who are seeking to take advantage of you, and give to those who are seeking to take. Pick up a child, look into their eyes, and tell them they matter. Search out the poor, abused, outcast and overlooked for the sake of showing them the incredible worth they have in the eyes of their creator. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, pray for those who persecute you. What if today, Christians everywhere, instead of going to a church service followed by dinner and drinks, chose to acknowledge the memory of our Savior’s death by aligning our hearts, and hands with His? What if today, we chose to truly live like Jesus. Nothing would bring more pleasure to our Savior today than for us, His followers, to lay down our lives to see what He died for become a reality. Friends… today, let’s bring the kingdom to earth, in memory of the one who gave it all.
Then, it would truly be a “Good Friday.”