Good Friday 2020

It is Good Friday today, just as a reminder to anyone out there, like me, who is struggling to keep up with which day it is. It doesn’t feel like Good Friday, mostly because nothing feels the way it should right now. Hopefully, your church is finding a way to record or broadcast something. If not, feel free to check out mine – Roswell Church (a bonus is, you’ll get to hear Mrs. MMT sing). More specifically, nothing feels right because of the quarantine (I guess it is officially shelter in place), and the pain that comes from that is the separation; separation from friends, family, activities, some of us are even missing work. I’ve been thinking a good bit about separation as it relates to Good Friday, and wanted to offer a few thoughts. It is a sad, lonely, frustrating, and hard time, but with apologies to John Piper – don’t waste your separation.

Remember that the Son was separated from the Father. For all of eternity, before the creation of time, and before the universe as we know it existed, there was the Triune communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This was the perfect existence of God, lacking nothing. However, the Son would empty Himself (not of his Divinity, but of His willingness to exercise authority) and take the form of a man, the man Jesus. At the end of His ministry, He was crucified, which is what we remember on Good Friday. While on the cross, He took our sin on to Himself, and in the eyes of the Father replaced our sin with His righteousness. However, the Father could not look upon the Son with this sin, and the Son experienced separation from the Trinity and the wrath of God. Separation from God is the definition of Hell. So the Son, who had spent an infinite amount of time with the Father, gave that up to bear our sins, to take our punishment, to experience Hell, so that we would not. Think about that separation today.

Remember that we are now no longer separated from the presence God. There was even more that happened on the cross. We are told that the veil in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. In the temple, which already had requirements to enter, that was a veil that separated an area called the Holy of Holies, that only the High Priest could enter, and only once a year on the Day of Atonement to office a sacrifice. But now, the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus, was made. The veil (our separation from the presence) was taken away. We no longer need a High Priest, but through Christ, our Great High Priest, we can go directly to the Father. This is why we now have the opportunity to pray every day to God and ask forgiveness for our sins. We no longer need some intermediary, but can go directly to God. Think about the removal of that separation today.

Remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Thematically, you aren’t supposed to talk about the happy ending on Good Friday, that is supposed to wait until Easter (spoiler alert: Christ conquered death, rose again, that one day we shall do likewise), but I’m only pretend writer, so it is alright. But in remembering our current situation, our state of separation from society, it is important to remember that in some way it doesn’t matter. It is awful, but it is temporary. Thinking eternally,  we will be reunited with friends and family, and be in the perfect presence of God. For now, even as we wait, nothing can separate us from God’s love. Think about that today, and be reassured by these words from Romans 8:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is Still Lent

Believe it or not, it is still Lent. Everything seems to have gone to the wayside, due to Pandemic, but it is important to remember. Not necessarily Lent, as most people know it, but Good Friday next Friday and, of course, Easter Sunday. I’ve written some thoughts on Lent before, because it has always been a little odd to me. Some people hate it and don’t do it because the Bible doesn’t say we have to, others do it, because their Church says they have to. I don’t always participate, because I feel as if I am not ‘doing it right’. But it should at least be a reflective time. I time to think about our own brokenness and remember of what Christ experienced our punishment for us.

This included being separated from God. Right now, while we are all separated from most everyone and everything, and we are all too aware of the brokenness of the world, it is just that much more important to focus on the Cross and especially the Resurrection. It should point us to our future hope, when there will be no more pain and suffering, no more death, and no more separation. This is a good Lenten practice anyway, but with so much going on right on, I pray everyone is remembering where we can find hope and that that can bring come level of comfort during this time.

Some thoughts on Lent

Growing up Baptist, I think my first exposure to the concept of Lent, in which someone gave up something for the period of time leading up the Easter, came from the movie 40 Days and 40 Nights. That was my senior year in high school and I don’t think I actually knew a catholic until one of my roommates a few years later in college. I guess because of this, I’ve never really ‘got’ Lent.

It was amusing last week as Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, approached. Most of the people in my immediate office are Catholics. This is true now for the first time in the 10 years in which I’ve work there. So, I think there is a bit of Baptists and Beer thing going on (if you go fishing, why should you take two Baptist instead of one? They’ll both watch the other to make sure they don’t drink your beer), in which they are all watching to see who is giving up what and who went to Ash Wednesday Mass. The best part was on Friday, as they are supposed to abstain from meat, one of them had already forgotten and was called out right before he ate a chicken biscuit. This is the same guy who ate steak every night for the week leading up to Lent, because that is what he was giving up.

If you don’t know, Lent is not in the Bible. We, as Christians, are not required to participate, or to fast, or really follow any particular rules about Lent. The concept comes from the Temptation of Christ, when he spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, fasting and preparing for his ministry. As a spiritual exercise, I find it fascinating. That being said, I don’t really understand how, and almost wish that the works and rules based requirements of Catholics were actually Biblical requirements. In a sense, it would be easy to give up something for the sake of giving up something. Or skipping meat on Fridays, just because, though fish is allowed, basically because Aquinas didn’t think it tasted good. Apparently, part of the fasting and abstinence is just to give up something you enjoy.

However, if you are seeking a spiritual discipline, and want a reason for what you are giving up, it becomes more difficult. I feel like I really need a why. It doesn’t work for me to say, I’ll give up pizza, because I like pizza. I guess, ultimately, that is often the point of fasting, but as a Lenten practice, it seems odd. Maybe this is due to wanting to have a counter balance. So, I give up pizza, what am I supposed to do with that? If I just replace it with something that is also good, like burgers, what have I gained. I’ve heard from some who fast from dinner on Fridays and instead spend the time they would be cooking and eating in prayer. That seems interesting. This is why I consider myself to only have had on successful Lent.

It was years ago, and I gave up video games and decided to use the time playing them when I get home from work, to read the Gospels. This did in fact change me. I started reading more, especially studying the Bible and theology, to the point that now I have a blog about book reviews. Also, I never regained the habit of playing video games only a daily basis and actually haven’t played any in a few years, ever since Sprout was a few months old.

In this way, I do think I completed a spiritual exercise. I have up something that was pointless, and began to study the Bible. But I’ve struggled to ever replicate this again. As you start to think about things to give up, you mind if often drawn away from spiritual things. For instance, the only other time I actually gave up something was last year, and I have up alcohol. Seemed like a good idea, but then I lost a few pounds from it, so it kind of became about health; plus I never found something to replace it with, or any kind of ‘why’.

As I talk with others looking to engage in a Lenten abstinence, the same issues seem to come up. People decide to get up earlier in the morning and go to the gym, or give up red meat or sugar, to lose a few points. Those are basically New Year’s resolutions. They are good things, nothing wrong with either of them, but tying them to God seems disingenuous. Likewise, people struggling with alcoholism or lust will give up getting drunk or porn. These are already things you shouldn’t be doing.

Anyway, I guess this is just a long way of saying, I don’t know how to Lent. I’d love to hear from any of my readers as to what you’ve given up and why, either this year or in the past. Finally, any good satire type things to give up are always appreciated, probably my favorite two that I’ve heard is people giving up their Catholicism, or giving up their virginity.