Doxology in the Darkness

Meditations on Good Friday, Stanislaus Rapotec
04 Oct 1913 – 18 Nov 1997

Good Friday, which remembers the crucifixion of Jesus, has been given a number of titles over the centuries. Some construe “Good Friday” evolved from a mistranslation of the German phrase “God’s Friday” or “Guttes Freitag.” 1290 is the earliest known use of “Goude Friday” found in a South English dictionary.

It has been called Holy Friday, Great Friday, Mourning Friday, Silent Friday, and even Long Friday.

Good Friday is good because it is so bad.

On Good Friday foundations were shaken, hopes were crushed, and the inconceivable became reality. Good Friday pulls the vaporous veil of life aside and reveals things often don’t go the way we want. Incongruence is the norm. The daily bits and pieces of living have been turned upside down.

It’s called “Good” because Jesus absorbed all the bad, dark, injustice, evil and sin of the past, present, and future into His own body, nailing it all to the cross so that we could be forgiven and freed.

It’s called “Holy” because the love demonstrated by Jesus at this moment causes a holy hush to blanket the world; we remove our shoes entering holy space. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

It’s called “Mourning” because our hearts break when confronted with the brutality that accosted Love. The emptiness we feel in the immediate aftermath of so great a tragedy bores deeper and deeper into our soul.

It’s called “Long” because Jesus’ friends didn’t know Resurrection Sunday would actually happen. They entered the silence of a long Friday night…a long Saturday…and a long Saturday night of despair and devastation. They cried out the opening word of Lamentations, “Echah” which means “How?”

How could this have happened?
How could you allow this God?
How will I ever find joy again?

But this is the journey of Good Friday. This is the journey of life. We must learn to sing songs in the night. We must learn to trust God has something better beyond the dark night. Brennan Manning said it this way:

“To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.”
~Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust

I am still learning this lesson, the lesson of whispering a doxology in darkness. In some moments I am surprisingly able, yet in other charcoal moments, the darkness overwhelms me… until I remember.

There is nothing about Good Friday that seems right, and that is the point.

On Good Friday, God dealt death, darkness, and devastation so fierce a blow that the upturned tables of life started to turn right side up.

The dominion of death was changed from a finality to a fermata.

The darkness of injustice was pierced with the Light of Love.

The dungeon of sin was given the keys to freedom.

We live in the “now and not yet” period where Love has pierced the darkness bringing about the capacity for heaven to invade earth. However, heaven and earth will not be united into the Oneness of God’s presence until Jesus returns again (Maranatha).

So, in the meantime, through faith, trust, and love, we push back the darkness as we learn to whisper doxologies in the dark.

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
~Psalms 30:5

Things are not as they seem…

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Have you ever wondered what the mother of Barabbas thought, felt or wondered when her son was released and Jesus was condemned? If there is a universal character that represents all of us in the Good Friday story it is Barabbas…we have all been acquitted, set free from our sentence of death because Jesus went to the cross in our place…

Good Friday is the day we remember that life often has dark encounters where we are left wondering if God is real, kind, involved or aware.

Good Friday dares to combat our need to have life tied up in neat little bows…to always have happy endings…to ride off into the sunset…instead, it creates the sacred art of waiting….the holy transformation of not knowing…the necessity for all who follow Jesus to embrace the dark night of the soul where we learn the divine language of silence.

Jesus reminds us that in this world we will have trouble…He doesn’t say, “But if you believe in me I will make sure you experience zero troubles or pain!” No…he simply says ‘don’t be afraid of what you will face…trust me.’

But trusting God is hard when you are experiencing a Good Friday…”where are you God? Don’t you know what’s going on? Don’t you care?”

Like Pilate, sometimes we make choices that are pressured and forced. While we want to wash our hands of painful outcomes, we know deep inside that there is blood on them no matter how hard we try to justify our decisions…we are experiencing Good Friday.

Like Mary Magdalene…perhaps we have been helped, healed and transformed. Our life has been pulled from the gutter. Grace has invaded our world and for the first time we feel that we were valuable, needed even wanted. Our life is changing, our choices are evolving in healthier ways, our existence is becoming significant which is no small thing…and then we run into Good Friday…all seems lost…all seems hopeless…was it all a joke? Just another religious thing? The divine silence is so loud you could cut it with a knife…where are you God?…we are experiencing Good Friday.

Like Peter…perhaps we have been rescued and loved over and over again…we have received grace after grace yet we still put our foot in our mouth. When it mattered most, as someone was asking about our faith in Jesus, we froze…afraid of what they might think of us…afraid of how His name might affect our reputation or status…and in that defining moment, we deny Him, divert the conversation, bail on the one who always bails us out…and we feel the darkness of Good Friday surrounding our heart…Jesus, I’m sorry…

In different ways, by our words and by our actions our voice has joined the ancient chorus shouting crucify, crucify, crucify.

While we long to quickly jump from Good Friday to resurrection Sunday and shout “He is Risen” at the top of our lungs…Jesus asks us to stay here a while, to linger and suffer with Him…it is our own Gethsemane…but will we stay awake with Him just for a little while?

I think the images of Good Friday are flowing from the heart of the Apostle Paul as he says “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”  (Phil 3:10)

The reason why Good Friday is so important is because we can never truly enter into the full Joy of Easter Sunday until we have embraced the absolute emptiness, and despair of Good Friday…We will never exude joy until we have encountered a necessary grace born on the dark night.

Good Friday centers me on the truth that things are never as they seem…it might be Friday…things might be confusing and dark…but God is always up to something, and Sunday is coming..

Here’s a great hymn to close out my thoughts…

Alas and Did My Savior Bleed

1. Alas! and did my Savior bleed,
and did my Sovereign die!
Would he devote that sacred head
for sinners such as I?

2. Was it for crimes that I have done,
he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

3. Well might the sun in darkness hide,
and shut its glories in,
when God, the mighty maker, died
for his own creature’s sin.

4. Thus might I hide my blushing face
while his dear cross appears;
dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
and melt mine eyes to tears.

5. But drops of tears can ne’er repay
the debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away;
’tis all that I can do.

Good Friday Meditation

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Many people have asked me, "In light of the events that happened to Jesus on this day in history, why do we call it Good?" A standard response is that it is called Good because of what Christ accomplished through the willing sacrifice of His life for ours. Good Friday then sets us up for Resurrection Sunday! So we don't get the resurrection without the pain of Friday's crucifixion.

That does make sense, and it is a "good" answer, but there have also been other names given to this day. Some of the names it has been called are; "Holy Friday" – "Black Friday" – "Great Friday" – "God's Friday." It truly is a powerful day. This is the day that we are reminded that in Christ, God had turned the entire religious system on it's head.

Through all the ages, God has been viewed as someone who dwelt above/beyond the earth. This is the realm where all that sustains life comes from. The sun, the moon, the rain, even the weather patterns. Humanity then began to "look up" and devised ways of trying to get God, or "the gods" to give them the things they needed, from a good harvest to favor in business.

Until the moment Jesus arrived,(an unfortunately still to this day) the religions of the world really moved in the same direction. If you wanted to be in a good spot with God, you had to do whatever it took to appease Him/them… if you did it right, then He would send the sun and the rain at the right times on your crops. If you did it right, you would have many children, if you did it right, good things would happen to you. However, If you didn't appease Him/them, bad things would happen to you. So life was/is spent trying to figure out what side-of-the-bed God got up on today, and where a person stood with God/gods.

It is easy to see how a religious system of "works" and "appeasement" so naturally came into being. Life was lived trying to make the invisible god(s) happy, and it seemed that not many were making much headway.

Then comes Jesus. Jesus reverses the order. In Christ it is not about appeasing God, trying to do things down here that would favorably get His attention…rather Jesus reveals the true heart of the Father. He initiates and completes everything necessary for us to be in relationship with God apart from a religious appeasement system.

Instead of trying to work our way up to God…

He loved His way down to us.

Jesus' sacrifice reminds us that He has done everything necessary for us to reconnect with the Living God. There is nothing for us to add to what Christ has done. His death and resurrection secure our hope. When we think there are things we must do, we are falling under the old system of appeasement again…there is no gift greater than Christ's life…there is nothing more powerful that we can do beyond Jesus raised from the dead…

A life that is following the Rabbi (Jesus) will change as a by-product of the renewed relationship available with God…but it is important to remember that the by-product of a transformed life is not the basis for your acceptance before God…Jesus is, and He is good.

So today is a day to be thankful for God's plan to equalize the playing field through grace. For turning upside-down the religious view that God is always angry, and we are never good enough. For God choosing to enter our skin and His willingness to substitute His life as a ransom for ours…

When you finish meditating on all that God has done…it is hard not to think…this is "Good."

Here is a great meditation piece for you from pray as you go…click on it, listen and enjoy

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Dei Gratia,

Monty