Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

I just finished John Garvey's cheery little book, Death and the Rest of our Life.  This is not a book filled with laughs (or any laughs for that matter), but I had been carrying it around in my trunk (along with my golf shoes, a flashlight, a blanket and some Halloween decorations, in case you're curious what pastors have in their trunks) for some time and decided that Good Friday was as good as any other day to read it.

  It's not a bad little (89 pages) book.  It reflects on the ways we encounter death and asks how we deal with it.  Do we console ourselves with empty (and sometimes non-Christian) platitudes, refusing to confront the reality that everyone will eventually die?  Or do we accept the reality of our death and place our faith in resurrection?  Garvey urges us to take seriously the tragedy of death, but also not to avoid its coming.  While the unknown is natural to fear, in death we find something that promises more than we can ever have now.  In death we find the fullness of God.

It's a tough book to wrap your mind around, especially if you're reading it curled up on a couch with a cat stretched across your stomach, enveloped in the fullness of the blessings of life on a beautiful day, but death is an impending reality, whether I want to embrace it or not.

On Good Friday it becomes more real and yet less fearful.  On Good Friday we remember the death of a Savior, yet we see it through the lens of Easter Sunday.  Where, O Death, where is your victory?  Where, O Death, is your sting?  (1 Cor. 15:55)  We still fear death because of the unknown, because it is the ultimate moment where our faith is put to the test, when we discover the answer to all of our deepest questions.  Yet in our fear we find comfort, because our Savior has done what we cannot do--He has gone to the depths of hell, experienced the pain of death, and returned to promise that death's power over us has been vanquished by God's love.  In this promise we find hope and life and wonder and joy, that through the veil of our tears on this sorrowful day we can rest assured that death is merely a shadow through which we pass before we are bathed in the full light of God.

So on Good Friday we remember with gratitude all that God has done.  We weep for sinful humanity, who has invented torturous deaths and was sinful enough to slay our Savior, but in the midst of our mourning we must remember that God was there in the middle of it, weeping for our sins while redeeming us all the while.  Thanks be to God who did not remain in the heavens but came down to dwell with us, that we might know God and share in God's triumph and glory over all created things.

Thanks be to God!

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