Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Don't give away the ending

I had an encounter with some of the kids from the Affirmation Group right after the Good Friday service at our church. This service was very dark and quiet. Four readers read the scripture for each of the stations of the cross. The choir sang the song "Calvary," throughout, which is a mournful lament. A soloist gave us "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child," -- gave it to us from some deep place of hurt inside of her. At the end everyone there walked around the sanctuary and in silence contemplated the artwork that people from the church had created for each of the 12 stations. Some photography, some oil paintings, mixed media, each of them powerful statements made on a 12x12 inch canvas.

Down in the fellowship hall below the sanctuary after the service I ran into some of the Affirmation kids. There was something about this service--its simple telling of the story--the power of the story itself--something that had definitely gotten their attention, captured their imagination. I knew this because they were talking about it, asking questions about it. Why did the crowd turn on Jesus and want him crucified? Why would they have them release a murderer like Barrabas instead of Jesus? Is it Cavalry or Calvary? One of the kids said, "I kept wondering what the Cavalry had to do with it. Did they even have a Cavalry back then?" Once I straightened out the whole Cavalry vs. Calvary question they asked, "So what was Golgotha? Sounds like the name of a goth band..."

As we were leaving, Hannah, my 14 year old said to me, "It would be better if there wasn't an Easter."

"What do you mean," I asked.

"It would be better if we didn’t know the ending. If we didn’t know he was going to come back to life," she told me. The story would be more powerful for us all, she explained, if we didn't know there was going to be a happy ending. She cited examples from some of her favorite novels. It's better, she told me, if you have to sit with the feeling that it's all over, that all hope is lost. It's more true to life. And it makes the surprise ending even better.

Good Friday is the night darkness wins. Shame wins. All that is broken and falling apart doesn’t get put back together. The wounds are not healed. Death wins. That feeling, that all is lost, that nothing is going to work out, that it's all over and hope is gone, that's a feeling we're all too familiar with. And that's where we sit, without knowing for sure that Easter is coming, much of our lives. We don't get to race past that to the happy ending. Perhaps recognizing that Jesus and the disciples didn't get to do that either, that they thought on Friday night that it was all over, that their dreams had died, their possibilities of a different sort of life had been crucified...perhaps knowing that can help us. We are not alone in our Good Friday lives.

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