So tonight we left for a service in Palm Springs that had been advertised as a Tenebrae service, which is what I wanted for Good Friday. The word Tenebrae means shadows in Latin. A traditional service takes you through the events of the crucifixion with the light in the worship center progressively growing darker and darker until at the moment of Christ's death, the congregation sits in total darkness, mimicking what happened on Calvary when Christ was crucified. The service ends abruptly, unfinished in a sense. While some of Christ's last words from the cross are, "It is Finished" we know that Christ's story doesn't end on the cross. But Good Friday is intended to help us live with Christ's death for just a bit and not rush to finish the story in a rush.
Well, tonight's service was a disappointment. The Presbyterian church we attended was scantily attended and the readings were all together too short. The hymn choices were good and I was grateful for that, but someone sang How Great Thou Art as a solo and that seemed utterly inappropriate and the final reading was from John 1, how the light of Christ shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it, which is a hopeful and necessary message, but not for Good Friday. It's OK to leave us hanging one day a year. It's OK to mention that it was our sins and our transgressions that led to the events of Good Friday. We weren't sorry we went but we were a little sorry that it was such an unfulfilling worship service.
And so again, my mind wandered to Immanuel where we had shared in so many meaningful worship services.
My point is not to judge. We were glad to join with others in walking through the passion, however abbreviated it was. At least it did finally end in total darkness. But I would've enjoyed a bit more substance.
And so I came home and read the sermon that I had written last year. I remember extinguishing the black candles and the solitary red rose on the altar. And so today, as Good Friday is coming to a close, I offer my thoughts from last year, to myself perhaps, but to others still needing to connect with the events of Good Friday as we now wait for a glorious Easter to emerge. But let's just sit tight for a little while longer with the betrayal, denial, and death of Christ. Let's sit at the foot of the cross and understand who we are in that place.
Good Friday: 2014