Of Fridays Past & Future Joy

“It must have been sad when Jesus died,” I remember thinking, as I went through Good Friday services as a child. Even at a young age, I thought of Jesus’s friends and followers, of Mary Magdelene and Peter and doubting Thomas, of how Jesus told John to look after his mother, as he hung from the cross.

But Sunday always came swiftly, ever beautiful and painted with spring, making us all happy again.

I remember one Easter in particular, when I was quite young. It was the first time I’d discovered the Easter bunny and it was a glorious morning indeed. I couldn’t believe my eyes at the chocolate trail leading from my room to a pile of presents in the living room. It was a gold mine. My own gold mine. I was so excited that I picked up my sister’s chocolate, too!

And I recall these strange thoughts running through my head, as I contemplated my childish joy. I often spoke to myself aloud and I did then. I remember saying, “I’m not going to sing again,” “I’m not going to play dolls again,” and the like. I still don’t understand exactly why I said those words. But perhaps suddenly, as I was hit by that sweet five-year-old bliss, I thought I’d got it all, I thought I didn’t need to keep on trying, I thought my joy was complete at last.

That was a long, long time ago now.

Now I sit in church on Good Friday, watching a beautiful service unfold, much like the one it was last year. It’s one of five services happening around town and so various members of the church community gather in my own place of worship today. I enjoy the beauty, try to worship, and contemplate it all.

But I’m distracted, caught up in the memory of Fridays past. Of Easters gone by. My thoughts lead me far through life and back again to the present as the band starts up again and we take the communion cup.

I’m wearing black today. But I remember a Good Friday when I wore a light blue dress and greeted visitors at the door. I was just a baby then, in my faith, in my growth, in personhood. There were so many things then I had yet to do and know and learn. My immaturity, the poor decisions, the bitter disappointments of past days haunt me as I sit in the pew. Sometimes I hate to think of what and who I was. But I remember the fragrant joy with which I had towards life, and the love I was growing for God and church and people, the love that was only beginning, the love that still churns now.

“And if only I knew then…” So many things. So many words. So many problems.

Four years ago, I was fifteen, sitting perhaps in the same row, in a blue dress. I remember the older Dutch man who became a friend to me and my family that year and that day in particular, as he helped us greet folks at the door. But that was four years ago and a lot can change in time and now he’s not even here and he won’t be coming back.

“It must have been sad when Jesus died…” I think again. I’m sure it was, for his friends and followers. But then He rose again.

I remember that dear old Easter when a trail of chocolate made my little heart soar high. He came to make our joy complete.

I remember the person I was yesterday, last year, and four years ago. The pain, the mistakes, the strife. He came to change us, to set us free, to give us life.

I remember the ones who have died, the ones who will never sit in church pews again. I regret, I mourn, and I wonder. He came so that we might never die, so that we could live forever, so that we could find perfection with Him.

Good Friday reminds me of the strife of this world. It reminds me that there is something better, even than a living room full of chocolate. And with it all, I remember the joy past, and most of all, the joy that is yet to come.

Grace Like Rain

c. 1632

Image via Wikipedia

The following post is a re-told version of my experience of a production of the Passion Play during my trip to Mexico.

I sat there, eyes watery, heart pounding, holding a slip of paper with my worst sins written out in a letter to God. I had always known that what I did was bad and that I was a terrible person but writing them out had really shown me the magnitude of them and I was now overwhelmed.

A man in a long white robe came towards me, and lifted me from where I was standing. He took my slip of paper and with it my guilty feeling. I felt refreshed, and relieved. As the man left, I realized that it was none other than Jesus! I ran after him, hoping to speak to him, praying that he would not disappear.

He hadn’t been too far in front of me but for some reason, to my dismay, Jesus was gone when I arrived. I stopped, sighed, and leaned against a palm tree for strength. I had been running hard and I needed a rest. I was weary, disappointed, and guilty again.

Suddenly, out of no where I heard shouts and cries and a piercing scream. I turned around to face the worst sight of my life. Guards accompanied a man carrying a cross while women and children wept and walked behind him. This wasn’t any man though, it was Jesus, my Jesus and He carried my sins with Him. I wanted to scream but no sound could come from my lips. I was too stunned, too scared.

They nailed Him to that cross with haste. I stood there, watching in silence. Tears clouded my eyes. I had always known that this was coming but I did not know how very much it would impact me. The blood streamed down his body. Blood that should have been mine. Blood shed because of my nasty, sinful behaviour. Blood shed by the King of Kings for the wretch that I am.

 “I’m sorry God, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t know. Oh I am so sorry.” I uttered quietly. The tears kept flooding and the screams from the others grew louder. “I’m sorry!” I almost shouted, as if that would help. It didn’t. He still lay there on the cross, bleeding, in pain for my sins.

“I am so sorry…”

I felt awful. I was sweating and crying.

“Forgive me God!” 

The tears were pouring down my cheeks now.

Then, like a crash it was over. The crying died down and my tears stopped. Music sounded from the distance.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see so clearly. Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me. Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away, washed away.

And then I heard His voice, so strong and firm and lovely, despite the pain. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

His voice seized me and filled me with joy and hope and then, even though He was dead, even though He had shed blood and been tortured and had died for my undeserving soul, I felt fresh and new and I could sing. For grace like rain was falling down, and all my stains were washed away…I had been forgiven.

Lyrics: http://www.christianlyricsonline.com/artists/todd-agnew/grace-like-rain.html