By David Jolley
An oversight by the church office left the weekly notices, and the quarterly plan with no mention of Good Friday. There was a service and it was advertised on a notice outside the church. I went to a service in the Church of England tradition but which welcomed our local Methodist people.
It set me thinking about Easter without Good Friday, Easter being a celebration of new life – Jesus raised from the dead, having been crucified three days earlier. That is a very specific celebration within Christian beliefs and teachings. The timing is linked to the Jewish Passover, but also to the lunar calendar.
This places it at a time when trees and plants are showing wonderful greens and some are in blossom. Birds sing and hurry about their business of nest building and feeding. This is the season of lambs and baby chickens. All these are celebrated just for themselves. I am not sure, but I would guess there have always been celebrations of spring before these days became adopted for our Easter. So many people now live their lives with no reference to a faith, but special days such as Easter remain important to their personal and family calendars.
The point about Easter though for Christians is the return to life, all-be-it briefly in human flesh, of Jesus who had died by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans, but at the behest of the Jewish community of which he was a member. The belief is that his spirit continues as a force and a means of communication and support. This is a belief which gave rise to a powerful religion, adopted and spread by the Romans and still filling lives in almost every part of the earth.
The joy and strength which came on that Third Day were released from the anguish and sorrow which the painful government execution had wrought upon Jesus, and those who cared for him and the messages which he taught.
In the muddle of it all, as we progressed through readings, I held especially tight to the business of crucifixion as a means of punishment, humiliation and legalised murder which was used for centuries and is said to have been applied to thousands of people. The reality of the commonness and squalid nature of the practice is a surprise to me – Specialness and glory attached to the three crosses on the hill is what I have known. The true context has a power of its own: this was sharing something dreadful with many others who had experienced it and would experience it in future.
Somewhere in this I was reflecting on the experiences of people I know very well, who have been struggling with dementia or other illnesses which bring an end to their lives – Firstly by changes which mean they can no longer do all the things that they have been used to doing. They are not dead, but they are no longer the person they were. For the individual this is a great challenge – having to receive when they have been used to giving: this requires growth into grace. For those who have lived with them and love them still, the task is even more difficult. It goes on, is remembered, and will continue after death. There are new beginnings: finding a friend or professional carer who brings peace and maybe humour, finding a service which breaks up the week or the day and is enjoyed by the individual who is unwell, accepting that life in this care home is OK – better than OK – and better than I was doing. New lives. The joy is extracted from the struggle.
Easter without Good Friday? I don’t think so.
I hope all this does not amount to sacrilege.