What's so good about Good Friday? This afternoon as I was on my way home from visiting a friend in a Buffalo hospital, in hopes of hearing something of the solemn sacrifice of Jesus, I turned on Christian radio. That was a mistake. Normally, I like contemporary Christian music, but what seems to me the forced emotion of some of the artists combined with the often vapid lyrics took me to the edge. And when the announcer intoned that although this day was solemn, we shouldn't be sad or mournful, for it is the day celebrating (yes, he actually used that word!) our salvation, I turned it off.
Today is "Good" Friday, but it is goodness at a horrific price. The time for celebration is not yet. This is a time for reflection, for repentance, for humble gratitude. This evening at Park church's Tenebrae ("Darkness") service, the music and lighting was sombre, the readings thoughtful. Just before we received communion we were encouraged to write down sins on cards provided to us, and at the conclusion of the service, we nailed them to the cross. My mind was flooded with Scripture: "While we were yet sinners God proved his love for us in that Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8). So often I've wanted God to prove his love by more experiential means, imagining that if somehow I felt more loved, I would be more loved. Not believing God's plain word is a sin I've had to confess repeatedly. In Colossians 2:4, St. Paul tells us that God "canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands, nailing it to the cross." I have to decide whether or not I believe it, not whether or not I feel it.
It's an old problem. I've often used the illustration of an old fashioned steam locomotive to describe how it works. The engine is the fact of what Christ did for us on the cross. The coal car is our faith. The passenger cars are the feelings we have. If I put the fuel of my faith in my feelings, the train comes to a halt. Only when I shovel the fuel of my faith into the engine of the facts of Christ's death on the cross for my sins does the train begin to move, and the feelings follow. Sadly, I've too often been guilty of shoveling the fuel into the passenger cars. Tonight was a needed realignment for me through a well planned and starkly simple service of Tenebrae for which I am very thankful.
And for the record, one of the drawbacks to a public journaling such as I've been doing is when I screw up, it's there for everyone to see, and it's not very pretty. I must apologize for some of yesterday's words. Actually, not the words as much as the actions behind them. I've already apologized to Linda and been forgiven. I mentioned my bidding on a bass without Linda's knowledge because I knew she wouldn't like it. It's never permissible to be secretive and underhanded. Linda doesn't deserve it, and I shouldn't have done it. The good news is I am married to a woman who has done more to help me understand and experience God's grace than any other human being. I am grateful for the Cross and the forgiveness that comes through it, and I am thankful for Linda and the grace she continually shows me when I least deserve it.