|Justin - today|
In our house, the Friday before Easter isn't called Good Friday – in our house, it’s Bad Friday.
Seven years ago, I was a seminary student serving Apple River United Methodist Church near Galena, Illinois. Our youngest, Justin, was playing tag in the park when a friend threw a stick at him that tore open the side of his mouth. I heard his screams and raced to find my 8-year-old son. We met on the front steps, and he was bloodied and tears were streaming down his face.
We drove the 6 miles to Doc Cleary’s office in record time, but he said there wasn't anything he could do other than numb him up and send us on to a plastic surgeon 30 some miles away.
Justin's one request was that he be put to sleep while the doctor stitched him up, but the doctor explained he couldn’t do so in his office. Justin agreed to stay awake. We cried silently through the 45 minutes and over 30 stitches it took to put his mouth and cheek back together.
We returned home exhausted. It was then that I thought about the community Good Friday service. I had just spent the day with MY son, MY precious son as he bled and screamed out in pain. I didn’t think I could keep it together enough to talk about another mother bearing witness to the brutal torture and crucifixion of her precious son, Jesus.
The congregation was very understanding as I stayed home. The next day, I struggled to make sense of it all as I put the finishing touches on my Easter sermon. The words that had brought joy and hope to me in the past rang hollow. Justin would be scarred for life because of this, he was unable to eat, his face was swollen and he still cried out in pain. How is this fair?
Somehow, by the grace of God, we made it through the Easter Sunday Service.
As I tried to focus on the work that I had ahead of me, I realized that I was in a deep funk. I emailed my professors to request an extension on some course work. One of my professors, Dr. Les Longden, then taught me an important lesson. He wrote back; 'Deb, sometimes we need to spend more time in the tomb. And that’s ok.'
It would have been within God's power to resurrect Jesus any time after his death on the cross. But the time spent in the tomb was not in vain. It was the Sabbath, the 7th day of creation, the day of rest. Christ's resurrection on Easter Sunday signified the ushering in of the New Creation. Because of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost we are all new creations!
Some of us are ready to embrace this gift now. Some of us need some more time in the tomb before we are able to say with peace, hope, and joy - Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, indeed!
Until then, time in the tomb is not wasted time - it is time to work things out by the grace of God. Regardless of our Bad Fridays (or Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays…) Jesus promises to always, always, always be with us. Always.
As we approach Holy Week it is my prayer that you are richly blessed by the worship experiences that are offered in our various faith communities. I hope that you will lean into the telling of the story, our Story; that unfolds from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and triumphantly Easter Sunday morning.
And if you need some more time in the tomb I pray that you don't try to go it alone...I pray that you have a brother or sister in Christ to be present with you to remind you that God is ALWAYS present even on bad Friday.
“I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” (The words of Jesus. John 16:33)