Good Friday: three things

frozen grassFirst: a link to a piece on The Well Blog (a blog produced by InterVarsity specifically for women) titled “My Sacrilege, Our Sacrilege” by Ashley Van Dragt. Here’s an excerpt to tempt you to click the link and read the whole thing–which, if you want to know the “moment” she refers to in the first sentence, you will have to do.

Over the course of Lent, I’ve kept coming back to that moment. I keep going back to it because I came to realize that there are words for it.

“Crucify him.”

And these are the words that get at the significance of Lent, of Good Friday. It’s the time of year when we remember Jesus on the cross. And at the end of it, on one horrible night we carry ourselves and our preoccupations and our snotty-nosed children to church to mentally put Jesus on the cross and into the grave. And we say together the most hellish sounding words: 

“Crucify him!”

And it’s profane and terrible…and important.

Because — my God, my God — we have indeed done something wrong.

Here’s the link again–so you don’t even have to scroll up!

Second: Today I went to our church’s Stations of the Cross service. I wrote a post about what emerged for me from this service last year. This year two things were fresh and new:

1. Jesus’ heart for US–WHILE while enduring SO much pain and suffering. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do,” he said, and then he interacted with the thief on the cross. “I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Oh, the heart of God revealed in these moments! Forgiveness beyond what we can imagine!

2.  This prayer–so simple, yet coupled with the heart of God, so powerful: O blessed Lord Jesus, be gracious to us and all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring us home again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith; who now live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Third, this is a link to “Good Friday Blues,” a piece published at Christianity Today. It’s about Texas gospel bluesman Blind Willie Johnson’s recording of “Dark Was the Night—Cold Was the Ground” with Columbia Records in 1927. Though the song has no lyrics, it is about Good Friday, with the title borrowed from an 18th century English hymn by Thomas Haweis:

Dark was the night, cold was the ground
on which the Lord was laid;
His sweat, like drops of blood, ran down;
In agony he prayed.

The article about Blind Willie Johnson tells part of his story and contains a link to a recording of this song. Both are wonderful.

 

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Catechesis

I took this picture when I was at Westminster Abbey in January--this is etched on the outside of the entrance.

I took this picture when I was at Westminster Abbey in January–this is etched on the outside of the entrance.

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: To glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

When one of my Bible teachers at the small Christian school I attended as a child introduced me and my classmates to the Westminster shorter catechism, I knew none of its history. I remember, even then, being a little surprised. I thought of catechism as a “Catholic thing,” something from my father’s Italian, Bogota, New Jersey childhood, and it was unexpected at my fundamental, non-denominational school in the deep South in the late 70s.

But there it was.

I don’t remember how long we studied it, but that first question-and-answer set stuck with me. “What is the chief end of man? To glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” I don’t know that I thought much about its meaning in childhood, but when I was an adult, and the phrases jumped into my head one day, I was shocked by the second part of the answer. My upbringing completely supported the idea that my supreme goal in life should be to glorify God…

But to enjoy Him?!

I didn’t have the first idea how to go about that, but still–memorized in youth–the phrase stayed and popped up again in surprising moments.

That’s what catechism and liturgy are supposed to do (well, one of the things); they’re supposed to stick. Even when they have become rote, they do not lose their power; they are just hidden, waiting for the time when you are ready to receive the meaning and the Lord’s work.

Several years ago, while working for the marketing department at a small college, I wrote a news release about one of the Bible professor’s recent publications, an article on the Puritan pastor Richard Baxter’s use of catechism to ground young people in the faith. I thought it was fascinating, and I remembered that article when I recently ran across an archived piece at Christianity Today by J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett titled “The Lost Art of Catechesis,” It gives a great history of catechesis and some wonderful arguments for using it more intentionally now.

So, if you are interested in exploring some catechisms for yourself, I’ve included some options below.

To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism

A Baptist Catechism

Westminster Shorter Catechism

New City Catechism (adapted by Tim Keller and Sam Shammas from the Reformation Catechisms

No true risk

“Jesus is greater than we have yet learned, more able than we have yet seen, more willing than we have yet dreamed, and infinitely worthier than we have yet risked.”

The above quote is from “Unrolling the Scroll of Freedom” by Beth Moore, published in the March 2015 issue of Christianity Today. (The entire article is a valuable read; the link above is to the one-page, reader-friendly version of it).

One particular part of that quote is leaping, arms waving, for my attention. “Jesus…is infinitely worthier than we have yet risked.” It makes me ask myself, What areas of comfort or safety or self-control am I holding onto because I’m not willing to completely trust that Jesus is worthy and great and able and willing?

Isaiah 30 is a message to the people of Israel about their trust in Egypt. They consulted and counseled each other and made a plan, but God tells them their plans are not His. They looked to Egypt to be their strength and protection and didn’t listen to the Spirit of God. In verse 20, God tells them they have experienced adversity and trouble because they have not trusted in Him, but He longs to reveal Himself to them.

Verse 21 reads, “…your Teacher will not hide Himself any more, but your eyes will constantly behold your Teacher. And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left.'”

And what is the result of this close listening, this devoted obedience?

“Then you will defile your carved images overlaid with silver and your molten images plated with gold; you will cast them away as a filthy bloodstained cloth, and you will say to them, ‘Be gone!'”

The Israelites would see the comfort, safety, security, and self-control as worthless compared to intimate relationship with their Teacher.

“Jesus is greater than we have yet learned, more able than we have yet seen, more willing than we have yet dreamed, and infinitely worthier than we have yet risked.”

Holy Spirit, be my Teacher. I want to learn more of the greatness of Jesus; I want to see His ability more clearly; I want to understand and dream about His willingness to work in and through me; I want to know He is infinitely worthy, and I want to throw away all else I am holding onto for security, comfort, or safety. I want to walk, wholeheartedly, in His ways. 

There is no true risk in trusting Jesus.