Reality TV is has nothing on Good Friday. Never mind that today in Ireland Guiness was considered to be more important and rugby the culturally dominant factor in a ruling for open pubs to facilitate a ‘very important game’ even though Good Friday is the most significant day in the Christian calender. But that’s not a criticism it’s merely the way it is. I don’t blame people for choosing rugby over church, beer before God – when what is witnessed in ‘church’, and believed about God leaves a distinctively empty feeling of irrelevance and a lingering foul aftertaste. Deception and political correctness are the gods of our age where gutless expediency, spin doctors, and sound bites churn out paper thin veneers of acceptable truth to cover the gaping chasms of no integrity ripping across our continents and cultures with the force and destructiveness of tsunamis and earthquakes.
In the paper this morning the Archbishop of Germany is calling for prayer and renewal on Good Friday as the Catholic Church comes to terms with an horrific week of accusations and disclosures about abuse and violence by priests. ‘Mr. Zollitsch urged all priests in his diocese to pray during Good Friday services for abuse victims whose bodies and souls were hurt within the church’s community, to whom “great injustice was done.” Stephan Ackermann, the bishops conference’s coordinator for all matters concerning sexual abuse, has asked his fellow bishops to pray for abuse victims on Good Friday.Mr. Zollitsch stressed Good Friday could become the “renewal that we all need so urgently.”
I’m not anti-Catholic at all – don’t see the value or the point in casting stones. But the sentiment of Mr. Zollitisch is noble pious and sweet – and exactly why Irishmen choose beer and rugby; I’m sorely tempted to convert as well. Why? Because Good Friday is about a God who was passionately committed to truth, integrity mattered so deeply he refused to merely pray, keep his distance, and shut up. Instead he did something very un-religious, decidedly out of the box for clerics, and alarmingly bold and brazen for those who equally hypocritically quaff alcohol and smugly jest about hypocrisy and their lack of need for religion. The church fails because it uses prayer as a blanket to hide under in order to avoid talking truth.
I have been part of such a church for forty years….. the most predictable thing about the church is that it will provide the ideal environment for abuse and all manner of dysfunction to flourish. Religious leaders/clergy seldom conduct honest inter-personal conversation capable of revealing personal struggles or encouraging personal growth. I have seldom if ever witnessed a group of people so skilled at keeping up appearances, avoiding hard issues, and using tradition and religion with the sophisticated silkiness of a magician to ‘make it look real’.
In stark contrast Good Friday is a brutal, bloody, angry, honest day…. when God discarded his gloves, had the clothes ripped from his bleeding body and said to a world that was absolutely out of control… “Give me your best shot…..”
So Jesus hangs naked on a cross, the soldiers gamble, one of them stabs him with a spear, the crowd goes wild lusting for more caught up in the demonic darkness of a day when love was murdered in the name of God, God was killed in the name of religion, evil triumphed… and a mother was comforted by a motley group of so-called disciples faced with their cowardice and disillusionment and the haunting, ‘now what?’
Good Friday is about truth – x-rated truth loudly and explicitly declaring the lengths to which God’s love will travel… and the depth to which human rebellion is capable of sinking when confronted or challenged with the choice of ‘who will be God’. There’s no-one who is guiltless, not one of us who couldn’t be provoked to lash out when cornered by the revelation of our mixed motives, our incompleteness, and even our utter pig-headed ambition, selfishness, or defiance. Good Friday is God’s answer to our cries for him to ‘do something, if you’re so loving, care about suffering, and have more to offer than Guinness and a night on the tiles.”
The revelation of Good Friday crystallizes ‘the morning after’ and then the next one. After the passion and heat of the moment, the rugby game is over and the Guinness barrels are dry… we walk the empty streets amidst the litter and the rolling bottles piled around an empty cross. “When’s the next match, whose hosting the party tonight, what are we going to do now…. God this headache!” The confusion and clean-up, the emptiness and unsettledness, the continual wandering – and like the clerics we all pretend ‘it’s fine’ and talk our funny-sad language of denial or self-righteous blame and finger-pointing. It seems so pathetically predictable and meaningless.
Except Good Friday, in the midst of all the blood and rubble is the end of a fractured beginning and the dawn of an entirely unexpected new day. As we recover from the party and the pain God quietly slips the dead and bleeding body of His Son out of the guarded grave(that’s unbelievable) and transforms bloody Friday into Good….. despair into hope, lost into found, irrelevant religion into the possibility of unbelievably relevant relationship.
The truth is that you and I are so loved by a Creator who is a Father…. that he was willing to endure all our crap, spilled Guiness, rugby jeers, violence, hypocrisy, and unbelief….. and when it was all uttered and spent….. He comes back into view, rises from the dead, and reaches out a hand….. “What more will it take for you to believe…. Your life is worth so much more….. Come to me you who are weak, tired, disillusioned, heavy-laden, abused, and lost…. I will give you rest….. Good Friday is the doorway to heaven, the gateway to forgiveness and hope…. For God’s sake don’t settle for Guiness, hot-cross buns, and chocolate bunnies…. and yes, the church is pretty screwed up as well….. Everyone needs a Savior!”