Today is Good Friday. Today is also Day 26 of my family’s self-quarantine during the Coronavirus pandemic. My thoughts have been leaping back and forth between these two things all morning…
Outside, the wind is gusting. Blowing in from the west. Howling under the eaves. It whistles across the chimney cap and rattles the hood above the kitchen stove. The day is bright, cloudless, but also cold and blustery. It is a day that might invite sun-bathing or a leisurely stroll, if not for the relentless wind.
The kids are inside, sitting at the counter working on a time capsule specifically for the pandemic, which right now is gusting across our country and throughout the world with an unprecedented tenacity. Trying to gain control of its spread has been like trying to control this westerly wind.
I’m at the kitchen table, feeling powerless, scattered, unmoored despite being stuck at home. I’m thinking of the significance of the day – Good Friday – and wishing I could be in a sanctuary somewhere, listening to the readings of Christ’s last hours, singing the words of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” Perhaps, as a pastor, I could have put together yet another online engagement for this very purpose, but the effort involved in crafting Sunday’s service has already dominated my time. (Like most of my work these days, I can only write this in fits and starts, between homeschool responsibilities, cleaning up perpetual messes, and taking the puppy out to pee.)
There is so much I want to do on this day. It’s been almost twenty years since I have not attended some sort of Good Friday service or prayer vigil – when I’ve not gathered somewhere to, as the song goes, “cast my mind to Calvary where Jesus bled and died for me.”
It occurs to me that over the last two decades I have been conditioned to a certain way of worshipping and observing holy days. I have had the great privilege of gathering freely to worship who I want in the way I want. In the past, I have actually evaluated Good Friday vigils and services like them based on how creative and insightful they were!
Now, I’d give anything for a chapel and an altar, for one measly upright piano and someone who knew their way around it.
I want a normal Good Friday, I think, and the preposterousness of the notion settles in my gut like a brick. What, after all, is a “normal” Good Friday, Bo? Is this day not a representation of the most abnormal thing ever to befall the world – the Creator God, who spoke the earth into existence, submitting himself to the lashes of whips, the spittle of soldiers, the agonizing weight of the olive wood upon his lacerated back, being impaled on spikes and asphyxiating before a crowd of mostly indifferent onlookers?
Good Friday is a reminder of the darkest day of our humanity, when both faith and reason were set aside in the name of fear and for the sake of personal convenience. It is a moment in our history in which we proved our innate self-centeredness, our refusal to surrender our own neatly cultivated personal preferences. It is a day to remember that, on our own, we are lost. That when we think we’re in control, when we think we have it all figured out, when we think our opinions are correct and justified and will ultimately be found in the right, God once again opens our eyes to our finitude and frailty.
Good Friday is a day of mourning – mourning for our selfishness, and for the Savior our selfishness executed.
And yet, we call it “Good.” Good Friday.
Good because, despite what our selfishness would have us believe, we do not control the world. We do not have it all figured out. But God does, and he can turn into good even the darkest hours of our lives. As Augustine of Hippo summed up Romans 8, all things work together for good – even sin. This day is a good one because it belongs to God, not to us.
So let this westerly wind blow. Let it howl and whistle and rattle this little house of mine. Let it remind me of my frailty and my lack of control. I will look to the sun. I will trust in its warmth. And I will praise its Maker, who works all things for good.