Good Friday at Vine Street

In many ways, Good Friday is just another Friday. For most of us it's a regular work day; for many students, it's part of Spring break. If you're one of the working people, perhaps you'll have a chance to go to a church during lunch break (Vine Street participates in a community Good Friday service every year; this year it is at 12noon at Hillwood Presbyterian Church); prayer is still the best way to enter the somber reality of a day when we remember the execution of Jesus by Roman authorities, and we wonder why in the world we call that day good.

I think we should wonder a long time before we adopt that name too readily, so eager to wash away with quick answers the horror at what we human beings are capable of doing to each other. The depth of human rebellion against a merciful God is what I see in the cross, and there's nothing good about that. Institutions of government and religion that were established to uphold justice and practice righteousness, exposed as systems of brutal power, that is what I see in the cross. Perhaps we call that Friday good because it helps us see the truth about ourselves?

Out of the depth of that death, God called forth new life, a new creation, a world in which Christ is alive and the mercy and love of God are known and proclaimed to the ends of the earth.
This year, we will have our baptism retreat on Good Friday. The candidates who wish to be baptized on Easter morning, gather at 2pm for an evening of fellowship, study, and worship. Since in baptism we are immersed in Christ's death and resurrection so that we might live in newness of life as members of his church, Good Friday offers itself as a day to reflect on the endings and beginnings we associate with our baptism.

The conclusion of our baptism preparation is a worship pilgrimage modeled after the stations of the cross. We walk in the way of Christ as those who have been called to follow and sent to serve, and our pilgrimage through the rooms and halls of the church is a symbol of our life of discipleship. In past years, that worship was attended only by the baptismal candidates, their parents, the Elders, and the ministerial staff. This year, we open it to the entire congregation as part our Good Friday observance. The way of the cross begins at 7pm in the fellowship hall, we travel in groups, and we all arrive in the sanctuary shortly after 8pm for a time of prayer. I believe this will be very meaningful to our baptismal candidates as they conclude their preparation for baptism and church membership, and I know that it will be equally meaningful for the rest of us who seek to know the depth from which the joy of Easter rises.