hey, guys – just a quick note to say hi.
I will be delivering a message at a Good Friday worship service today, and I’ve included it below if you’d like to read.
whether you celebrate Easter or not, I wish you all a good friday and a blessed weekend.
Lent has always been my favorite season in the Christian calendar. That might sound weird, but I’ve always cherished this more somber time in the year. Unlike the frenzy and anticipation of Advent or the triumphant joy of Eastertide, Lent is quiet and melancholy, beginning with a solemn memento mori on Ash Wednesday. Last year, like every year, I approached Lent with the intention of preparing myself for a time of weighty introspection and careful examination. I had picked out what I was giving up, I had chosen a book to read and contemplate for the 40 days, and I had received my ashes. As odd as it may sound, I welcomed the inward shift in church life, and I saw the coming Lent as an opportunity to be still and become better acquainted with God again. And for the first 5 days of Lent, from Ash Wednesday to that first Sunday, Lent was turning out exactly as I had hoped. Until the next day, the day when James, my fiance of two months, came to my office in the middle of the day and told me that he had been laid off.
To be honest, I wasn’t overly worried in those early days. I had confidence in James’ ability to find a new job, tough economy or not – we just had to wait it out, tighten our belts, press forward, and trust God to see us through. Each day began with tens of applications sent out, and each day ended with a prayer for speedy re-employment. Days began to bleed together, turning into weeks, then weeks into a month. My prayers eventually turned from hopeful to desperate, my faith crumbling with every interview that led nowhere, every unanswered application an underscoring of our unanswered prayers, our dwindling savings account a ticking time bomb heralding the implosion of our post-college life.
I came to resent the same silence and introspection I had so been looking forward to just weeks before. The resentment was greatest at night when I lay awake in bed, my head filled with the thoughts I didn’t have the nerve to actually say in my prayers but were constantly on the tip of my tongue. Thoughts like, “How long is this going to last?”. Or, “When will this end?”. When I was scared and overwhelmed, my thoughts would run closer to “I don’t know what to do”, or “I don’t know how long I can keep it together”. When I was feeling more angry and hurt, they would be more along the lines of “Why don’t you care?” or “Why don’t you help us?”. And in my lowest moments, I would think over and over, “Why have you abandoned us?” until I would eventually drift off to sleep. And so it continued, day after day, all through that Lent.
Holy Week ultimately arrived. Anyone who has ever worked on the logistics of Holy Week knows that it is exhausting. By the time Friday came around, I was ready to throw in the towel and already looking forward to a long weekend. I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired to go to the Good Friday worship service, but in the end, I went, out of obligation. For most of the service, I was going through the motions, my attention drifting in and out, my heart immune to the achingly beautiful music and liturgy around me until the service arrived at the reading of the Crucifixion. And even though I had heard the story a hundred times before, even though I had read each line word for word more times than I cared to count, for the first time that evening I came to full attention. When I heard the words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, I started to cry. It started out as that telltale prickling behind the eyes, then my eyes started to water and fill, and by the time the antiphon started, I had a waterfall of tears flowing down my cheeks as I sang Kyrie eleison, Christe, eleison. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. I looked over to my left to see James, who had been sitting beside me the entire time. His face was as wet as mine. And in that moment, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel quite so lost and alone.
In that moment, I was overwhelmed – as I am overwhelmed now, reflecting on it all – by the comfort I found in Jesus’ words uttered on the cross. I found an acknowledgement of my fears and sorrows, an acceptance of my weaknesses and wounds, and an understanding of my own pain and anguish, that though in no way approximate his own pain and anguish on the cross, are excruciating all the same to me. In his words at death, I find the words of compassion that give me the strength to face the Calvaries of my own life and hold on to the promise that no matter how deep or dark the night, I am not alone, the morning will come, and joy along with it.
May it be so with you.