Good Friday is my beloved.

Today is Good Friday.

It is the day in which we publicly and communally explore the story of the day Jesus died. In worship services for Good Friday, chapters 18-19 of John are often read. You can read it here. 

Good Friday and I have a tenuous...if not tumultuous...relationship. 

Easter, I love (who doesn't, right?). I'm all about it. Easter is my jam. My favorite jam. I can play it on repeat all day, every day.  

Good Friday, though. Not so much. Primarily because I worry about the implications of many of our Good Friday rituals and prayers. Certainly, I recognize that good can come through bad...that hope and come through sorrow...that life can come through death. 

But I hear so much sacrificial atonement theology on Good Friday; it makes me cautious and uncomfortable. I am concerned about ANY hint of the public church saying that violence is redemptive. That the shedding of innocent blood is redemptive. That oppression is redemptive. 

I don't believe any of that was God's intent.

I believe that perspective is inherently dangerous to the health and well-being of society. 

If we say that it is through Jesus' blood that we are saved, are we honestly implying that the shedding of Jesus' blood was the only system God could come up with to reconcile the world back to Godself? God is God. Certainly God could come up with any system God wanted to come up with to create a space for reconciliation. It doesn't make sense to me that Jesus' innocent blood was the only way. That would be pretty violent and abusive on God's part...and a really strange use of power for a being that is eternal and all-encompassing. 

I understand the Old Testament - the blood of the lamb that saved the Israelites during the Passover - I understand those stories. And I understand that Gospel writers and New Testament letter writers were trying to make sense of something terrible (the death of Jesus) by using the theological landscape they'd inherited.

But I am concerned about the way we talk about these stories today. We need to be thoughtful. Really, really thoughtful. When your child or grandchild or parent or friend sees a picture of the crucifixion and asks, "Why did they kill him?" - it's okay to pause in that moment and think before responding because how we talk about Jesus' death matters. It matters very much. 

I pray that on this Good Friday - and every other day - Christians can be especially intentional about how we talk about Jesus' blood - and about what the shedding of his blood means. 

(As a side note, as a person with a bleeding disorder - who has seen and felt what it's like when blood pours out and won't stop - I have an extremely hard time believing that God finds the shedding of blood redemptive. I think that's something we say because we inherited that language and we can find references like it in the Bible. Let me just say this....whoever came up with that theology definitely didn't have a bleeding disorder.)

I don't feel persuaded to say that Jesus' death = our forgiveness. I think God's love = our forgiveness. God can come up with any system God wants to come up with in order to forgive humans for being humans and doing the kinds of things humans do.

Jesus didn't have to get killed in a tortuous way in the fight against systems of oppression in order for me to be forgiven. I have enough guilt and shame in my life - I don't think God would create a system where I (and everyone else) need to feel guilty and ashamed that I somehow caused Jesus' death 2,000 years before my own birth. 

That being said: I do believe forgiveness is necessary and healing - and that in receiving forgiveness, we are made new. I believe in my own need for forgiveness, and I do believe God forgives. In many and various ways. All the time for all of time.

But what if Jesus' death is about a lot more than sin and how to be made right with God?  

Today is a day when we get to explore the meaning of Jesus' death. Every year my thoughts about it shift and move - like a night of fitful sleep - tossing and turning. 

More than anything, I think this year I am zeroing in on the reality of Jesus' lived experience in the days before he was crucified. Jesus followed God with his whole heart and life - and he suffered nevertheless. He suffered so deeply that in his last breath, he felt forsaken by God. 

Good Friday highlights the a story of a man who prayed with all this might that there could be a different way and a different path. It's the story of man who was grieved. Jesus didn't skip and jump and cartwheel his way to the cross. 

The night before his arrest, he felt utterly broken and alone. 

That's the story of life. For many. Every single day. 

Good Friday is the recognition that in this life there is immense, indescribable suffering, and God is there nevertheless. 

But Good Friday takes it another step. Good Friday makes space for the acknowledgement that there are times when God's presence does not feel true. There are times - in the depths of profound suffering - when it doesn't feel like God is there.

On Easter we'll celebrate the resurrection. We'll honor the joy that God was there all along. God was with Jesus on the cross. God was there in the tomb. God makes all things new for Jesus and for us. We'll get there on Easter. That will be great. There will be lilacs and lilies and communion and brunch. Easter will be lovely. 

But first we get this day to communally proclaim reality: sometimes life is a terrifying nightmare from which we cannot awaken. Injustice, violence, greed, pain, hunger, poverty, fear, abuse, insecurity. Sometimes everything we work for and promote and live out explodes into tiny fragments and we're left with nothing. That really happens. All the time. It doesn't matter whether you are kind and loving or mean and fearful - in this life, we all get screwed sometimes. The world isn't fair. 

In fact, sometimes this life is so hellishly lonely and unjust - that we feel utterly forsaken by God. 

Good Friday is ugly.

Good Friday services often take place in the evening. Then by Saturday evening and early Sunday, we're having vigils and sunrise services, and we're celebrating the resurrection. It's the best. So good. So glorious. 

But on Good Friday, we get to acknowledge that the depths of despair sometimes last longer than one or two or three days.  In our individual and family lives - here and around the globe - there are periods when the journey from Good Friday to Easter morning lasts weeks. Or months. Or years. Or lifetimes. 

I hate Good Friday. 

And I love Good Friday. 

Good Friday is my beloved. 

I feel an eternal kinship with Good Friday because it's honest. It's unconcerned with what's presentable and palatable. It forgoes adornment and leaves reality uncovered and stripped bare. 

Today is a collective reality check: life is sometimes painful beyond words. Jesus lived it. We live it. And yes - Easter will be here soon. Yes - life is more than pain.  

But if we skip over this raw, tender space from now through Easter morning, we miss out. 

We miss a chance to collectively acknowledge that terrible pain and suffering are real, and there are times we feel forsaken by God.

The church needs this day. The world needs this day. You and I need this day. 

The depth and truth of Good Friday connects us all on a profound, elemental level. It reminds us that we're on the same team as human beings. 

Our healing, as individuals and as a society, will stem from these Good Friday roots. The story of the tomb is our story. We know the cold dampness of the ground. We are well-acquainted with the ache of complete hopelessness.

To be alive is to know the darkness of the tomb. 

To be free is to stand with Jesus and all creation - and roll the stone away.