Christians love the cross. Catholics love the crucifix. Orthodox love the double cross. Protestants love the bare cross. But Christians love the cross.
And what day
does should the cross get more focus than any other? Good Friday.
But, somehow we’ve stretched Good Friday into an all year affair, like that friend who insists on celebrating his whole birth-month instead of a birthday.
Much of our preaching and singing leaves Jesus so flogged and bruised that he is more of a perpetual sacrifice to be admired than a risen and resurrected Lord to be followed.†
Thing is, two of our most well known creeds don’t give the cross much focus. They don’t explain what happens on the cross.
The Nicene Creed (the widest accepted confession of the Christian faith) confesses:
he [the Son of God] came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again”
It doesn’t mention what happens on the cross. It doesn’t say Jesus offers a perfect sacrifice for our sins. It doesn’t say Jesus is suffers a certain amount so a certain number of people may be saved. It merely says “For us and our salvation” and “for our sake.”
The Apostles’ Creed (more common in the Western church) doesn’t give much more:
was crucified, died, and was buried;”
So, why do we take one day (Good Friday) and turn it into the church year?
The liturgical calendar (liturgy means “work of the people,” meaning you and me) has seasons: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ordinary Time.
Good Friday is one single day. An important day to be sure. But it’s still one day, and a day only only makes sense by looking through the empty tomb.
If Good Friday is your church year, then you’re missing out on the good news.
If your piety and preaching focus only on the cross and whatever happens there, you miss:
- the expectation and longing of Advent: for the coming of the Christ child and for the restoration of heaven and earth
- John the Baptist, Mary, Zechariah, and others pointing to the new thing God is doing in the world
- the mystery and beauty of the Incarnation
- the epiphany (revealing) of Jesus to the Gentiles and the nations
- the journey of Jesus into the desert and preparation for Easter
- seeing the love of God met with abandonment and desertion on Maundy Thursday
- the joyous season (not day) of Easter and the empty tomb
- the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and your calling as bearers of the good news to the ends of the earth
- the creation of a new community (the church), who like Israel, is called to be a blessing to the nations
- the miraculous and the mundane happening side by side (the rest of the Gospels)
- the story of Israel and God’s faithfulness to a people who would often rather choose how to live than follow God (sound familiar?). But who would follow God to a land they had not been shown.
Good Friday is coming, and I hope you will find a service to be a part of and enter into the agony of that day. But, I also hope you will live more fully into the depth and wonder of those four little words come the Easter Sunday and the season that follows.
Not because the cross isn’t important or paramount to our faith. But, because our faith is significant enough to not be limited, even to the cross.