I love Easter. On the church calendar, it is my favorite holiday. Chances are that you know the basics of the Easter story- Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, died, was buried in a tomb, and rose from the dead on the 3rd day. We celebrate that day as Easter Sunday.
It carries a lot of reasons to celebrate and be joyful!
However, there is a church service, a recognition that happens prior to Easter. Holy Week is filled with recognition of things that happened in that last week of Christ's life. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
I haven't attended Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services in several years. I don't have anything against them.
It's too emotional for me.
As a teen, when I really began to understand the events that lead up to and the crucifixion of Jesus, it became a very emotional story for me. Learning about the whipping, the struggle of carrying the cross, the hatred of the people, the cruelty of crucifixion as a death sentence... the darkness of all of it has been hard for me to think about.
In 2004, I attended a Good Friday service at my church (The Promise United Methodist Church). It was my first time visiting the church but I went because a friend was singing at the service and I wanted to support him.
5 days later, I miscarried my first pregnancy.
Somehow, all of the emotion of Good Friday tied in with that miscarriage experience and I have avoided Good Friday ever since.
Until this year.
Over the past year or so, I've been blessed to find myself in some leadership roles in my church. I have given the sermon, I'm leading a ministry, I teach Sunday School, I'm helping to lead worship on our Praise Team, and more. If there is something I really can't do, I say no. Most of the time, I feel like a quick prayer lets me know if this is an important opportunity that God is bringing to me.
Early last week, our Associate Pastor (and my friend) called to ask if I would participate in the Scripture readings in the Good Friday Tenebrae service. *gulp*
It's a beautiful service. We sing "Were You There," our pastor gives a meditation/message, and then 4 of us read parts of Scripture that told the story of Good Friday. There is a brief singing response after each reading as a candle on the alter is extinguished.
My last reading was the second to last passage to be read. It is after Jesus has died and the soldiers come to break the legs of those hanging in order to speed up their death. When it is discovered that he is already dead, they pierce his side.
I was nervous about reading this passage. It's pretty emotional. That's some crazy brutality, you know? They aren't dying fast enough as they slowly suffocate on a cross where they are hanging by their hands and feet so let's break their legs so they die faster. Oh- he's already dead so let's put a gash in his side so that he bleeds.
I stepped up to read. And I cried as I read it.
When service was over, I left quickly.
I wasn't embarrassed. But I wanted to be alone in that grief. Selfishly, I wanted privacy in the pain I felt as I looked back on the incredible sacrifice made for me.
As I drove home, I contemplated my emotional display. My hope is that the honesty of what I feel on Good Friday will come through to someone in a different way. Perhaps they hadn't thought of the humanity of the story. Perhaps it had always been just a story.
But what I took from it was that God called on me to do something outside of my comfort zone, to step outside of my self. I know it seems like I'm great at talking in front of people, being confident, willing to do anything. But the things I do for and with my church family are very serious to me. This was a big step- to take something I've held as very intimate and personal, something that has been my own private mourning and grief- and share it with my church family. I was nervous. But there was a reason that I was asked and a reason why the emotion poured out. I may not know the reason- maybe it was for me, maybe it was for someone else.
And Sunday? When Jesus conquered death and returned to life? My celebration, my joy was easy to share!