Friday, April 2, 2010

A Brief History of Good Friday

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter, commemmorating Jesus' death on the cross. If you're going to have just a few days marked on your Christian calendar, you definitely need Christmas (Incarnation/Birth), Good Friday (Atonement/death), and Easter (Resurrection). You should probably add Pentecost, remembering the giving of the Holy Spirit--not like a gift once given that we have some old pictures of, but more like the celebration of our wedding day which inaugurated a relationship we still enjoy to this day. We are still waiting on the exact date of Jesus' return, otherwise that would probably be the next most important.

Or, you can be like Charles Spurgeon (I think it was him) who had two days marked--"Today and that day." Or Luther, who intended to live "like Jesus was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is returning tomorrow."

Back to Good Friday. When I was growing up, Good Friday was a big huge deal. Services were always at noon, since this is when Jesus died. Of course, this was no problem since obviously people were off work and stores would close at least for the noon hour. I remember one year there were multiple services in the afternoon that corresponded to Jesus' seven words from the cross.

When I moved to San Diego as a young adult, I attended a megachurch that also had a Good Friday service at noon. It was held outdoors, in Balboa Park, and was very evangelistic. The cross was preached, it was just sunnier than the inside of the Lutehran church (and the music was less somber).

When I began attending Reformed churches in San Diego, I found that they did something very unusual. They had a Good Frida service in the evening. That was odd. But I was still able to find noontime services... I drove up the coast one time to a relatively evangelical PC(USA) church who knew the proper starting time.

A few moves later, and I'm in Virginia Beach. And I've been surprised because more than one Reformed church, including my own, have a tradition of celebrating Maundy Thursday instead (not that it's an either/or). And some churches have neither!

It's very strange...

But I will say this. I'm hearing the cross preached and Christ exalted on a weekly basis, probably more than any other time in my life. By God's grace I'm understanding the cross more deeply. And that is, after all, what makes Good Friday good.

"And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

1 comment:

Ken said...

Talked to my father-in-law today who is visiting Lancaster. He said there was a traffic jam of buggies and horses there because of Good Friday services!