“We are an Easter people!”
So many of us proclaim these words, placing God’s triumphant victory over death at the center of our faith. This is as it should be. The problem is, we tend to rush through or ignore altogether the “gloom and doom” of Holy Week on our way to Easter Sunday which has become the “must attend” event. How would our Easter celebration change, how would our post- Easter lives change if we suddenly declared: “Hallelujah! We are Good Friday people?”
But Good Friday is such a downer. Who wants to hear about such horrible pain and suffering? Why should I focus on something that is so painful, when the healing and teaching of Jesus are much more applicable to my life today? It’s too harsh. The whole thing is just too depressing.
While most of us would agree that some form of gathering SHOULD be held to commemorate those long ago events, actually PARTICIPATING in them is a whole other story. We tend to soft-pedal their importance, focusing more of our worship energy on the joy of Palm Sunday and Easter. It’s commonly accepted that attendance will be significantly lower than normal at Holy Week services as many of us will simply opt-out.
As we finish our Lenten journeys, it would be good for us to consider this: There is no need for Easter without the pain and suffering that leads to Good Friday. If Jesus Christ was just a good guy, showing us how we should live, if the crucifixion is simply one political execution in the midst of many hundreds, then the resurrection can also be seen as a nearly insignificant event, limited in relevance to a particular set of circumstances. If Christ’s death and resurrection are so contextualized, so limited in scope; if they are just myths without universal and eternal impact, then there really isn’t a compelling reason to gather at all – not on Easter Sunday, not on any Sunday. We can do good deeds at work, at home and in our community with relative ease and without the guilt we feel when we have to choose how we will fit one more church thing into our already busy lives.
If we truly want to live into the claim that we are Easter People, if we want to enjoy the benefits of renewal, restoration and resurrection, we must journey with Christ through Good Friday. Our world is still broken. We have known suffering. We have seen struggles. We have hurt others and been hurt. Good Friday helps us acknowledge the truth that we need the kind of healing hope that only resurrection to new life can bring.
Remembering Christ’s suffering connects us to suffering around the world and around the corner. Christ’s brutal torture points out that our harsh, unforgiving words are just as tortuous. Christ’s three day journey of abandonment and isolation in the valley of death reminds us of the alienation and isolation that many people experience every day.
If we want to be Easter People, we must first be Good Friday People. We need to see and understand the suffering and death of Christ through the eyes of all who suffer today. We must stand in solidarity in worship and prayer with God’s beloved who suffer, crying out with them and with Christ: “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken us!” Then and only then can the meaning of resurrection become truly relevant for us today. Only then is our Easter hope for life in the midst of death worth celebrating.
Hallelujah! Lord have mercy!