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REFLECTIONS: We try to avoid it, but Good Friday finds us all Bishop Woodie W. White, Mar 25, 2010
Bishop Woodie W. White
By Bishop Woodie W. White UMR Columnist
There is a certain “Good Friday” inevitability to life.
As we Christians mark the day of the crucifixion of our Lord and the agonizing last three hours recorded of his earthly life, we are reminded of that sad chapter of our history.
There will be re-enactments of those terrible hours, and special services and other events will be held to commemorate them.
In college, I was a member of the choir, and we presented each year on Good Friday the cantata The Seven Last Words of Christ. It was a powerful and dramatic offering of those final hours in music and in word.
The auditorium would be darkened and I recall the special lighting effects that were used to dramatize the lightning and thunder that accompanied the choir’s singing and the overpowering organ playing at the moment of the Lord’s death.
Good Friday has come to symbolize death and darkness. It is crucifixion and betrayal. It is suffering, especially undeserved suffering. It is mourning and loss.
Good Friday is not good!
In many Good Friday worship services, the congregation leaves the church in silence. No fellowship or conversation takes place following the service. Worship is never more somber than on Good Friday. Nor is one left with a greater sense of lost hope. The service ends in utter defeat.
There is an inevitable Good Friday element to life itself. If we could, we would certainly have it otherwise! Who wants darkness, betrayal and pain, even death? Indeed, we spend a lifetime trying to avoid such realities.
But the book of Ecclesiastes seems to make peace with such realities, reminding us all that, “For everything there is a season.”
At some point in our lives, Good Friday finds all of us! Some people have known crucifixion, having been punished for deeds they didn’t commit but for which they were charged. They were punished for deeds that did not deserve punishment.
And some have been betrayed by those they trusted most—a loved one, a colleague or a friend. The pain of such betrayal is often indescribable. For some, betrayal is not even a surprise; indeed, it is often expected. Betrayal inflicts a different kind of pain.
Physical pain comes to us all of us at some point along the journey. For some it is excruciating and nearly unbearable, causing them to cry out for mercy and deliverance. I have heard the cries.
And death. Each of us knows it in some measure. And all of us will experience it one day. I am at that season of life where death is more prominent than birth, where obituaries are more prevalent than birth announcements.
But death comes to all. It is no respecter of person or position. Some know it more intimately than others—but only for now.
No one gets through life without experiencing Good Friday, whether it’s a situation that seems hopeless or a set of circumstances that appear to be unredeemable. And then there’s death, which is always final.
It sometimes appears that evil has won out over good. The nightly newscast seems to remind me that this is so: Evil 50, Good 15. Every night! Good Friday seems to be winning, both in the world and in too many of our lives.
So we leave the hospital or the cemetery. We shake our heads with each headline, or weep when it hits so close to home. The reality of Good Friday finds us.
Good Friday is real, inescapable and remarkably democratic. In the words of the old spiritual, “There’s no hidin’ place” to avoid it.
Good Friday could be utterly devastating, utterly dark and utterly hopeless. The Christian, however, knows The Rest of the Story. And Easter is coming.
Retired Bishop White is the denomination’s Endorsing Agent for Chaplain Ministries and bishop-in-residence at Candler School of Theology.