To Grieve on Good Friday

We have come to Good Friday. If you are anything like me, Good Friday is often overlooked in the midst of Easter preparations. Good Friday more marks the beginning of Easter weekend than a day dedicated unto itself. I did not grow up noticing Good Friday much; my church did not have a Good Friday service, my parents did not have the day off, and we spent the day stuffing eggs for the Sunday hunt.

Austin and I have been working intentionally over the last year to consider what traditions we want to incorporate into our own lives. It’s a bit of melding two sets of family traditions, while also thinking creatively about establishing our own. We thought through Christmas and the New Year, we considered birthdays and Easter. But here we are at Good Friday, and we are without ceremony or tradition to mark this day.

We are not readily comfortable with grief. Grief unsettles us, rattles us, makes us shift in our seats. And I’m beginning to suspect that this is why we have not embraced Good Friday. Because Good Friday is a day set aside for grieving. It is a day for corporate mourning. It is 24-hours committed to letting the darkness of death – the lost all around us, the pain of an unredeemed world, the sickness running through the very veins of creation – sink into our bones.

Good Friday is a day of darkness, and we are a people much more ready to celebrate the dawn. As a people and as a Church, our best intentions want to embrace the sorrow of this day, but our impatience betrays us. We close our eyes for a moment, considering the suffering of the Son of God, and then quickly move onto the “alleluias” of Easter morning. We sit with one eye open, hoping the grieving will soon end and we can move onto the baptisms. We shake off the sinking despair that Good Friday carries and breathe a sigh of relief that we can rejoice again.

But there is no Easter without Good Friday. There is no joy in an empty tomb if the bloody body of our God was not laid there first. There is no resurrection if death did not swallow up Life. There is no morning rush to the tomb if darkness did not enshroud the Light of the World. There is no grave-side, “He is not here,” if, “It is finished,” was never uttered.

We need Good Friday. We need to learn the patience of grief, to give time and language and space for the weight of this day. We need to wade through the sorrow and shame of Good Friday before we hurry along to the joyful celebration of Easter morning. We need to be a people who learn to grieve together, who learn to embody this mourning in our church spaces. We need to learn to preach the death-riddled sermon on this Friday night without offering the immediate relief of resurrection, to sit in our sanctuaries and pews with sobriety and darkness without the relief of turning the lights on when we say “amen.” And in doing so, to teach our people the vernacular of grief and the liturgies of mourning.

We need to recite with rhythmic resonance:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead…
…and allow the phrase to pause on our lips. We need need the grace to not finish the creed. Not today, not yet. We need to sit in the deathly hour between the grave and the resurrection. We need to learn to grieve.

And, we have a lot to grieve, do we not?

We have family pictures spread out in memory books, with stickers and shapes holding them all in place. But our memories know the pain of the child not pictured, the tension between two loved ones, and the secrets kept within the confines of the word “family.” We have friendships that have been broken, and the rending of relationship has left us bruised and uncertain. We see their lives carry on through the screens that connect us, but the pain of what was lost seems it was never be abated. We have spouses and mothers and fathers who are hurting, who are doubting, who are wounded. And we fear that, despite all our attention and efforts, they will fall further and further from us and from our God. We have wars and rumors of wars, and we are afraid and confused and burdened, but we do not know what else to do.

Death is all around us. And, today, we embrace the death of the Son of God that ultimately afforded to us His Life.

Let this day be an invitation to you. Let today serve as a space for you to grieve and to learn to grieve. Let this Friday be dark, allow it to be shrouded in sorrow, give it the weight of an unfinished phrase. Let’s work towards this, you and I. Let’s learn this in our communities, in our churches, in our relational circles. Let’s learn this together, until this Friday is made “good” again.

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  1. Thank you for sharing! We Lutherans agree! Historically we have services scheduled on Maundy Thursday with Holy communion and foot-washing, Good Friday service of shadows, some have Easter vigils on Saturday, and then the celebration of the resurrection Sunday morning! You can’t have the resurrection without the death!

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