[Pastor’s Note: Holy Week and Easter are busy times for pastors, so I’m taking a little break this week and handing over the reins of the e-pistle to Suzanne. Remember that I always welcome submissions from any of you in our community who would like to offer your thoughts. See you in church, Michael]
I love Easter.
What’s not to love? A joyous message of rebirth, forgiveness and hope tied up in a beautiful package with spring blossoms, colorful eggs and fun fashions. And chocolate.
But here’s a little secret… I love the maudlin mystery of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday too. As much as I love the joy of Easter, my soul revels in the profound message of the last days of Lent: the story of an innocent man bearing the cost for the suffering of the world.
Worshiping on either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday gives me license to really enjoy Easter. On the occasions when I’ve missed worshiping on both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday due to travel or family obligations, I feel a little decadent when I show up at church on Easter, sort of like the feeling you get when you eat dessert before supper, or go to an afternoon movie in the middle of the work week. It’s not sinful or immoral, just not quite right.
In fact, Easter as a family holiday usually catches me off guard. Unlike Christmas, which I happily prepare for weeks in advance, I find it difficult to do the secular preparations for Easter until after Good Friday. Usually that means that the Saturday arrives with very little in our house ready for the next day… no dyed eggs, no Easter baskets, no food prepared.
This year, the evening Good Friday service at Old First fulfilled all my inner longings for the perfect lead in to Easter. The set up was simple—the service focused on Seven Last Words that Jesus is said to have spoken from the cross. For each “word” (phrase, really), an individual in our community gave a brief reflection on the meaning and message for him or her. Between each reflection was a short musical interlude, again offered by members of our community.
For those of you who didn’t make it to church last Friday evening, I wish you could have been there for what was Old First as its best. A remarkably diverse mix of “ages, tongues and races.”
We heard from new folks in our community—Jonathan A., Madelyn, Bastian and Mike B.—as well as some who’ve been around a while—Greta and Marta. The seven reflections highlighted that Old First as a church community is one body comprised of individuals who bring a variety of experiences, theologies and philosophies to our shared life.
Musical selections included Bruce C. on jazz piano and Lorena on cello with Faure’s Requiem. Tim H’s selection “Sing” urged us to respond to suffering in our world with peaceful activism. Chris M’s rendition of Benjamin Britten on guitar and Adam G’s drum improvisation provided moments for meditation.
Griffin provided the final musical selection, a synthesizer reflection on the last words of Jesus: “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.” The drone music was challenging for some, but isn’t that the point of Good Friday? To be challenged and lifted out of ourselves? To think of how we as individuals contribute to the suffering of the world?
If you’re curious, you can hear Griffin’s selection here.
I hope that we’ll continue to hear from those who led us in worship that evening, perhaps more often on Sunday morning. Wouldn’t it be exciting to have some of that innovative spirit rise up from our pews during a “regular” service? I wonder if there’s some way to provide more structured opportunities for our talented musicians to offer their gifts. And to more regularly hear reflections from the voices in our community.
When next Good Friday rolls around, I recommend coming out to Old First for the evening service. I guarantee it will make that Easter candy taste even better.
See you in church,
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