What’s So Good about Good Friday?

Today is what the Christian calendar calls Good Friday.

Image by Mahleu Summer. CC.

Image by Mahleu Summer. CC.

Now, I have graduated with my Master of Divinity. I have been granted preliminary fellowship as a Unitarian Universalist minister (pending completion of my internship). I have just spent the evening conducting worship focused on the seven last “words” (really, phrases) of Jesus on the cross.

All this is true and still I am confused why this day is called good.

Perhaps it’s aspirational, like a kind of wishful thinking. Something along the lines of “we wish we had good news, but, in fact, …”.

I’m afraid it’s like what superstar social worker Brene Brown calls “silver-lining it,” turning a noun into a verb to describe what empathy is NOT. “Yes, what is going on in your life is bad, but at least it’s not ________________________ [fill-in-the-blank].” As both a clinical social worker and as a pastor, whenever I begin to feel those words – “at least” – try to slip past my tongue, I know its time to shut up and listen.  So that is not necessarily a good thing.

It makes me think of this poem, by Jan Richardson, called, “A Blessing for the Brokenhearted.”

Image by Nevit Dilmen

Image by Nevit Dilmen

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—

as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it

as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still

as if it trusts
that its own stubborn
and persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom
but will save us

So what’s so good about Good Friday?!?

I do not know the official answer (and no doubt, there are various Christian denominations who have official answers to this very question).  Here is a non-official answer that seems to have been well-considered.

I do know an answer: I know my answer.

This Good Friday, the one I experienced tonight in church, was good because it allowed me to sit in sharchurchfront-4ed stillness with my beloved people.

This Good Friday, the one I experienced tonight in church, was good because it demanded that I make time for darkness (both real and metaphorical), for grief (both personal and communal), for the troubling hard feelings I attempt to place in neat containers, though they often end up in messy heaps on the various floors of my life.

This Good Friday, the one I experienced tonight in church, was good because I got to hug someone who not only hugged me back, but who wept in my arms – the sweetest gift, I tell you.

This Good Friday, the one I experienced tonight in church, was good because instead of tending to the holy space along the outside edges, I joined in worship with my beloved people as we co-created together – through words, music, and silence – sacred time and space.

This Good Friday, the one I experienced tonight in church, was good because it wasn’t a justification of suffering or a prelude to a convoluted story of vicarious atonement for sin. It was stepping into the liminal space between Jesus’ death on the cross and the resurrection of hope. It was doing so with the intention to linger and learn to appreciate this inbetween space, even as we are pained and troubled within it.

So let the people not only say, “Amen,” but let them say, “and it was Good.”


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4 Responses to What’s So Good about Good Friday?

  1. Steve Boczenowski says:

    … and it was Good … especially the part where you added the poems.


  2. Tom Nalesnik says:

    Beautifully said!

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