Opening Music “Burnt Over District”, Hem, from the album Funnel Cloud
When I was a young man I heard a sermon from a famous old preacher called Tony Campolo. He told the story of a black Baptist pastor of his acquaintance who when preaching about Good Friday, riffed off of the one line “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.”
On Friday, he said, my Jesus was dead on the cross, but that’s because it was Friday….Sunday’s coming. On and on for an hour he preached looping round and around this central idea, It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming.
I’ve never forgotten it and have thought about it countless times over the years.
It is a reminder to me that there are times in life when we must persevere, but that perseverance is made a little easier, if there is hope.
Opening Music Continued
Christians call it ‘the cry of dereliction’. That terrifying question from the mouth of the crucified Jesus on that first Good Friday. ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me’.
It’s a cry which has echoed down the centuries from the mouths of people and nations who are enduring that unique form of abandonment where even God himself seems absent. It is heard today in places like Syria, and Yemen, in South Sudan and Somalia. It is heard even closer to home, in the mouths of those who feel excluded by their neighbours, abandoned by their church, or marginalised by those with power to make decisions on their behalf.
Later, in his experience of the cross Jesus cries again. This time we are startled by what he says but for other reasons. ‘Into your hands I commit my Spirit’ he says to his father. The same one who had so recently forsaken him. What’s this? Has the depth of sin been plumbed and a reconciliation worked between father and son? I don’t think so. The forsakenness is still real.
But Jesus commits everything to him, even his death, in faith that God would deal fairly with him. Here, in a colossal act of trust, Jesus commits his future to the one who had turned his back. By this cry we now know that God knows what it is to have faith. What it is to take a risk with those who have rejected us or turned their back on us, or take a different stance to us.
This courageous act of daring is costly. It’s Friday costly. But Sunday’s coming. It’s Friday, and I choose the risky, painful path in anticipation of Sunday’s freedom. There can be no certainty that my generous act will be reciprocated. My enemy may throw it back in my face. And my friends may revile me. But Sunday’s coming. There is a freedom ahead and in its light my courage will be rewarded.
Music “We’ll Meet Along the Way,” Hem, from the album Funnel Cloud
Good Friday then is the day to consider these profound truths. The reality and depth of abandonment and the lived experience of so many in this world who can utter a cry of dereliction today. It is also an opportunity to resolve that though others turn their backs to injustice, we won’t. Because it’s Friday, and Sunday will come.
Good Friday is also the day to consider the risks for peace we must take. And the cost we will have to bear. And the faith required to step out into the uncertainty in anticipation of a new future. Its Friday, but Sunday is just over the horizon.
And because today is followed by the echoing cavern that is Holy Saturday, when nothing happens, and nothing is said, and we must simply wait and sit on our hands. Because tomorrow is Holy Saturday, we shouldn’t be in too much of a rush to give up, nor to judge the risk a failure, nor to celebrate a victory. It is only by enduring the emptiness and abandonment of Good Friday and the powerlessness and silence of Holy Saturday that we are prepared to receive the joy of Easter Sunday.
And we are eager for that joy of the third day. But it only comes after Friday and Saturday. Till then we must wait.
It’s Friday, but Sunday IS coming.
Closing Music “There is Hope for You,” William Elliott Whitmore, from the album Animals in the Dark
From Darkness to Dawn, broadcast on Radio Ulster on Good Friday, 14 April 2017
artwork by Chuck & Peg Hoffmann from Genesis Art Studio