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“It. Is. Finished.”
The final set of lights in the sanctuary went black. The Book slammed shut. The congregation filed out of the sanctuary and left the church in complete silence.
This is how my childhood church participated in Good Friday.
I’m sure this is how they participate in it still.
The Good Friday service was unlike any other in our church’s calendar. Because we attended a liturgical Lutheran church, it was also the same every year. The altar and cross were adorned in same black cloths. The service followed the same liturgy, the same Scripture readings, and the same pattern of lights going dim after each reading; those recounting Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Even the hymns sung—a considerable amount less than a normal service—were often the same.
And yet, for all this sameness, I never grew tired of the Good Friday service. It was one of three services in the year (the other two being Christmas Eve and Easter Sunrise), I held close with anticipation. But, unlike Christmas Eve and Easter morning–full of warmth and feel-goodness, Good Friday service was a mixed bag. The storytelling was so powerful, its presentation so dramatic, I found myself drawn into the middle of its action. And then, it sliced me through.
Every single time.
Even when I knew the readings by heart. Even when I knew when each set of lights would go dim. Even as I anticipated book about to be slammed. Every year as the blackness and sound ripped through the hollows of the sanctuary, I stood there—even as a child–shattered by it all.
I wonder now, at this kind of soul piercing I experienced every Good Friday in my otherwise staunch and uber-structured church community. What was it about this peculiarly structured service that worked on my soul the way other services could not? Was it the storytelling aspect to the Scripture readings? Was it the powerful darkness of seeing the altar and cross draped in black? Certainly, the lights going out a little at a time until we were engulfed by darkness, and then the slamming of the Bible at the end left powerful impressions.
I’m sure it was all of it. It was the carefully considered weaving of word and flesh, light and darkness, truth and hearing. And by its nature—this full sensory way it presented itself—I was drawn into its very existence.
Still, all these years later, I am drawn into it.
I become a participant in that first Good Friday.
I witness his flogging. The ring of thorns pressed hard upon his head.
I join the chanting: “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Yet, I also cry with the women as he stumbles under the weight of his own crucifixion stake.
I stand on Golgotha. I watch his mother mourn. She never moves from her position at the foot of his cross.
I watch the blood keep oozing from where the nails are pierced through. I hear his gurgled breathing.
He cries out his anguished why! to the Father.
Then he says it.
‘It is Finished!’
All goes black. Thunder cracks.
I am there. Fully alive and fully pierced through.
Participating in this terrible, holy, beautiful day.
This Good Friday.
Copyright 2019 by Shari L. Dragovich