Today we choose
to take our place beneath the cross of Jesus next to his mother and her sister,
next to his friends Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Clopas, and John, next to
saints and sinners from all the ages. With friends and strangers in our own
day, we look up into his dying eyes and glimpse the heartbreak of God. We behold
once more as God’s goodness and love seem to be overwhelmed by injustice and
oppression, as darkness shrouds light, and death seems to reign.

It takes more
than a good bit of courage to celebrate Good Friday. To keep watch with the
dying Christ is to confront all the shadows of our lives and all the darkness
of our world. For many of us, the themes of the day are all too familiar. The
sting of betrayal may be a present reality. We may know firsthand the ache of
abandonment. We may feel the agonizing way wounds wear down the soul. We may fear
that goodness and love will always be overwhelmed by injustice and oppression. To
come to Calvary and face the brokenness of our world and our lives takes
courage. We hardly need reminding that most of Jesus’ first disciples skipped
the ordeal, paralyzed and isolated as they were by their own fear.


But to dwell in the
darkness of Good Friday as people who live on the other side of Easter is also an
act of defiance. To keep vigil, to feel the Passion as fully as possible, and to
know that God suffers for us and with us is to protest suffering of every kind.
It is to proclaim that the powers of this world may have a day but that they
will not always get their way. It is to say with confidence that all our years
of tears do not go unnoticed but are precious to and redeemed by God. It is to
declare that God will go to any and all lengths necessary to heal the hurts of
our hearts and the wounds of our world. It is to preach, with Paul, that God
was in Christ reconciling the world to Godself.

It is
theologically irresponsible to mark Good Friday as if the future of the world still
hangs in the balance. It is pastoral malpractice to commemorate Good Friday in
such a way as to make suffering sound like the final reality – real, yes; the
final reality, no. The One who died is the One who is raised. Redemption comes.
Resurrection happens. And to celebrate Good Friday is to shout into the
darkness, “I have seen the Light, and I am no longer afraid.”

Rev. Nathan E. Kirkpatrick

Rev. Nathan E. Kirkpatrick is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He served the Asbury-Longtown charge in Hamptonville, N.C., before joining the staff at Duke Divinity School. Kirkpatrick directs the Duke Course of Study in partnership with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church, as well as leading Courage to Serve, the Institute of Preaching and other learning events for pastoral leaders. Kirkpatrick is a graduate of Wake Forest University and Duke Divinity School.

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