When I was in high school my best friend’s parents were the pastors of our church. I spent a lot of time at their house, and they never turned me away (bless ‘em!). There was, however, one day that we avoided: Good Friday. “Good Friday is a hard day for my mom,” Pam would say. And it was true. Mrs. Cole, with the gentle heart of a true saint, found Good Friday hard. She would grieve on Good Friday. We didn’t hang out at her house on Good Friday for the same reason we didn’t hang out at the house of anyone who had just lost a loved one. The heart-broken sometimes need a little space. On Good Friday she embraced her broken heart.
I remember Good Friday 2013. We woke and prepared ourselves for our annual Good Friday service. I donned, as I always do, black clothing. I went to the service a little early. I was actually not leading the service that day, but I was going to be singing a duet and I had to practice. During communion, my friend Kathleen and I were slated to sing “Abide With Me.”
I had chosen the song a few weeks before, and, although I don’t sing often in church, I knew I wanted to sing it. I didn’t know that it would mean so much by that Good Friday service. We practiced before the service and I did feel ready to sing. I wanted to sing it. As the service neared its end and people came forward to receive and to remember, we sang each of the verses, and I meant them.
We got to the last verse:
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
I was fine until the very last line. Then my voice caught. “In life, in death” hit pretty close to home on that Good Friday. I have a very distinct memory of that moment. I looked out and saw a man from our congregation, who I much admire, with tears in his eyes. As the song ended, he nodded. “In life, in death -”and he nodded. I can still see that tearful, knowing, nod..
Just a few weeks later I sat at my sister’s deathbed. The nurses had called us in and told us it wouldn’t be long. The night was dark and quiet. We turned the lights down. We smoothed her quilt. We sat and waited.
The hockey game was on the TV. My sister’s breath grew more laboured. My brother turned off the hockey game. We held her hands. “We love you.” “We’re here.” “It’s okay.” And a final breath. We waited a few moments and called for a nurse. She came in.
And she nodded.
In life, in death.
That was it. Sometimes we just have to sit with the story, the story of death. That is Good Friday. “In life, in death, abide with me. “
We just sit with the story. 20 year later, I get it Mrs. Cole.
Will you sit with me?
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of nazareth, the king of the Jews. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled that said,
“They divided my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.”
So this is what the soldiers did.
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.