It may be “Easter Saturday” today, with beautiful sunshine, clear air, and Easter-egg hunts around the church campus, but I still can’t get Good Friday out of my head.
I have always felt the crucifixion more profoundly the day after Good Friday than the day itself. Maybe it’s because, like the disciples, it takes a little while for the weight of it to sink in.
If Friday is the shock and the horror of the cross, then Saturday is the reality, the resignation, the sinking in.
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:44-46)
TENEBRAE: At my faith community, First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, we mark Good Friday with an evening Tenebrae service. Surprisingly, even more people attended than Thursday evening’s deeply meaningful communion experience.
The service is simple but profound. Solemn, thoughtful organ music fills the sanctuary as we gather, and then there’s a brief welcome from the pastors. The message is a powerful dramatic reading from John’s account of Christ’s trial and crucifixion. There’s also a solo, a couple of meditative hymns, prayer, and meditation.
DARKENING: Then, one by one, 12 disciples (pastors, elders, youth, Stephen Ministers, choir members, etc.) lead the “Service of Shadows.”
Walk to the communion table. Read a sentence of confession. Extinguish a candle. Take one of the symbols. Exit the worship space. Pause. Meditate. Repeat.
Each time a candle is extinguished, one more set of lights is turned off, incrementally darkening the sanctuary by measurable degrees. And – one by one – the communion cup, the candlesticks, a leather whip, a piece of purple cloth, a rooster, the cross… are all removed from the front of the church until, finally, we sit in complete darkness, meditating in silent prayer.
And the last three sentences, uttered as the last three candles are snuffed out, are each the same:
- “And we denied him”
- “And we denied him”
- “And we denied him….”
Today it is Saturday. And all the world waits. We know that Sunday is coming; yet we wait all the same. There is eternal work being accomplished today. And yet the invitation to participate in Resurrection remains unanswered by so many….