If you asked my seminary self if I would substitute Good Friday worship for anything, I am confident I would have said I would never skip such an important day. It is the day of solemnity in the Christian faith—the day we remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is the day of grief and heartbreak.
But this year at Grace we decided to do something different on Good Friday. We turned that grief into a day of honoring with a day of service that we called “Doing Good Friday.” We gathered at 9:00am in the Fellowship Hall and I shared instructions about where each group was heading and reflections about how this is an extension of the Maundy Thursday commandment to love one another. In the face of Jesus’ hardest day, we go out to honor him with our whole day by serving others.
And that we did. There were 65 people who served today in all sorts of ways: yard work for some incredible widows in our community; baking cookies for the teachers and staff of our neighborhood school, Irving Elementary; working on our Playscape at Grace, the natural playground; striping the parking lot; painting the steps; visiting senior members of the church; picking up trash at the trails at Southwestern College; and more.
I was amazed at how different this Good Friday felt for me—not because there wasn’t worship. But because there was a fullness about the day I haven’t felt before. Let’s face it, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services are the least attended services of the year, and it is hard a pastor not to get down about that—no matter how good worship is or how impactful reflecting on the cross seems. Today having 65 people come together to give up their Good Fridays for the sake of serving others’ in Jesus’s name, felt like it was honoring the sacrifice Jesus made more intentionally than we have before. Perhaps part of that comes because on Palm Passion Sunday we had already heard the story of Jesus’ last day. We had already sang “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” with tears in our eyes. So five days later, we were ready to do something in the shadow of the cross.
There was not self-interest. There was not sitting behind a screen looking at Facebook posts of our political enemies. There was not apathy. There was not isolation.
Instead, there was a chance to get to know the person working alongside of us. There was a chance to see Christ in the ones we served. There were neighbors stepping in and asking if they, too, could help. There was a chance to reflect on the cross in a way that propels us into a deep longing for Easter—not through our grief today, but rather through living out the faith the cross brought into being.
Does it still feel weird to be Doing Good Friday differently this year? Yes. But the 18,536 steps my FitBit registered today working remind me that understanding the cross takes some work. It takes community. And it takes receiving the grace of Jesus Christ and finding a way to share it with others.
Thanks be to God for Doing Good Friday.