It’s interesting when you look at the life of Jesus how it was the religious establishment in general and the Pharisees in particular who didn’t get it. I’m not sure that things are any different today.
I can write what I’m about to say knowing that 99% of my readers live outside my local area, but somewhat temper my remarks in light of the 1% who do. Here it is: Evangelicals don’t know how to do Good Friday, and the local church pastors are probably most to blame for that situation.
Good Friday is a big deal here. All the churches come together for two morning services that are now held at the local hotel and convention center. Right there, I think the thing has become somewhat unmanageable. Each church’s pastor has a role to play, one introduces the service, another prays, another takes the offering, yet another reads the scripture, one preaches the sermon and so on. It’s all rather random and uncoordinated. They need a producer. Can someone coax Willow Creek’s Nancy Beach out of retirement?
In Evangelicalism, nothing is really planned. I love extemporaneous prayers, as long as some thought went into them, but the tendency is to just “wing it.” Like the pastor a few years ago who opened the Good Friday service by talking at length about what a beautiful spring day it was; “…And I think I saw a robin.”
This is Good Friday, the day we remember Christ’s suffering, bleeding, dying. Evangelicals don’t understand lament. We don’t know how to do it, we don’t know what to say.
My wife says we tend to ‘skip ahead” to Easter Sunday. We give away the plot and lose the plot all at the same time. We place the giant spoiler in the middle of the part of the story to which we haven’t yet arrived; diminishing the part where we are supposed to be contemplating the full impact of what Jesus did for us. We rush to the resurrection like a bad writer who doesn’t take the time to develop his story, and then wonders why the impact of the ending is not as great.
I learned this year that in a number of traditions, once the season of Lent begins, you are not supposed to say or sing ‘Hallelujah.’ Then, on that day that recalls that triumphant day, the Hallelujahs can gush force with tremendous energy. But we Evangelicals spoil that by missing the moment of Good Friday entirely. Can’t have church making us feel sad, can we?
To make matters worse, this morning our service contained a large advertisement for a local Christian radio station. However, having said that, the guy who made the presentation seemed to get the meaning of the day more than some of the clergy establishment in charge. In fact, throughout the morning, it almost seemed like the further away one moved from the ‘clergy class,’ the more you would find people in tune with what this holy day is intended to symbolize.
The worship team did what appeared to be an admirable job, until you consider the songs that got left out. It was the second time in as many weeks that I’ve been part of an Evangelical gathering in that same convention center where I felt those responsible for choosing the worship songs had misunderstood the opportunity and trust that was being given to them. This is an occasion that calls for the A-list of music materials, not the C-list or D-list.
The speaker, I must say, redeemed the morning for us, speaking about the imagery of Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God.’ At the outset, he admitted he is only 29 years old, yet he stuck to the theme of the morning more than any of the pastors there.
Perhaps he hasn’t had enough time to lose his way, or whatever it is that has the rest of the clergymen in our town going completely off message, year after year.
Jesus Christ bore in his earthly body the worst torture and punishment that humanity is capable of inventing. He did this willingly, as a once-and-for-all sacrifice to cover your sins and mine. This is the height and depth and width of His love.