Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Two ecumenical ways to have a good Good Friday

I remember dreading Good Friday when I was a kid. Such a heavy, heavy day, with that long story of Jesus' ordeal before he died, and that sad song asking, "Were you there?" To me, it was overwhelmingly sad that a good man had to die, supposedly to atone for my sins. I think it was the guilt complex that came with Good Friday that made it so difficult. I mean, was the fact that I fought with my sisters really why Jesus had to die?

But I was missing the point. Jesus came to show us how to live, even in the most impossible circumstances. He was all about love and forgiveness, right to his death, when he said, Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). 

Even so, I'm still not a huge fan of the traditional three o'clock Good Friday service. That's why I offer alternative possibilities for Good Friday observance in these moodlings every year -- ones that are focused less on the reading of the Gospel narrative of the passion, and more on the hope that Jesus gives all people by the way he surrenders himself to God. His deep trust in God and his solidarity with us in the most difficult of human struggles is meant to give us hope and courage. So for the last several years, I have been attending two different Good Friday events that offer slightly different slants on Christ's death. If you've been following my moodlings for a while, you know where I'm going with this...

No automatic alt text available.The first event is the Edmonton Outdoor Way of the Cross. It's an ecumenical event that begins at 10 am outside of Immigration Hall on the corner of 100th Street and 105th Ave. If the weather holds (the present forecast indicates snow and cool weather, so it's important to dress for it), we will walk an easy two-kilometer route, ending a block from where we began. There will be several stations where the crowd will gather to listen to reflections on the theme of "Speaking Truth to Power." As we follow the cross through the inner city, we are challenged to become Christ's hands and feet on the day we remember that his were nailed to the cross -- we are all called to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly like he did.

The second event is Ecumenical Prayer Around the Cross in the style of Taizé at the beautiful main chapel in Providence Renewal Centre (3005 119 Street) at 7 p.m. It's a little longer than an hour of meditative reflection with silence, a short passage from the Gospel, prayers of the gathered community, and a lot of beautiful music that calms and quiets the soul so that God can be heard.

Both events are free, though donations to Hope Mission are welcomed after the Way of the Cross. The free-will offering collected at the evening Ecumenical Prayer will be divided between Wings of Providence Women's Shelter and the Anawim Food Bank -- two charities associated with the Sisters of Providence, who are hosting the evening prayer.

However you choose to observe Good Friday, I hope it is a deeply meaningful day for you, one that is sad, yes, but also hopeful, motivating us all toward justice and peace.


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