As I’ve often shared with folks, I adore much about it: Sunrise services, springtime pastels, Easter baptisms, and all of the pomp and circumstance that typically surrounds the day.
Fundamentally, I love that we are an Easter people, a people committed to the belief that neither evil nor death can ever restrain God. That, friends, is good news.
And yet, I also know – and am fond of saying – that we can’t get to Easter without Good Friday. We have to spend time deep in the horror of betrayal and false convictions. There is no resurrection without the brutality of the cross.
In many congregations, it is a challenge to get us to sit in that discomfort. It is more pleasant to jump from Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday to his resurrection on Easter morning. We’d often rather avoid the challenge of Holy Week. We prefer to ignore Good Friday because it is just so hard, and it reminds us too much of the world’s ugliness. It reminds us too much, perhaps, of our own role in the world’s ugliness, whether intentional or by our passive inaction.
But that pain is a necessary part of the journey. Let’s be honest: the story makes no sense when we leave out that part. More fundamentally, that week is essential to our faith. Regardless of our theological understanding of the crucifixion and resurrection, we can’t choose one and leave the other aside.
I worry that sometimes our racial justice work is approached with the same desire to skip ahead, with an urgency to get to resolution and restoration without spending time in the hard space of deep repentance and meaningful reparation. We must engage the pieces that frighten us. We must embrace the discomfort. We must acknowledge the ugliness past and present.
Here’s the thing, though: that is also the space for transformation. It is the space of true solidarity with those whose entire lives feel like Good Friday. It is the journey to hell during self-reflection. It is the dark tomb of sacrifice to fix what was broken – lives, trust, communities, and so much more. Just as our faith story doesn’t make sense without Holy Week and Good Friday, neither does restoration work without taking the necessary steps to get there.
As we approach the end of this Lenten season and the journey to the cross, I invite us to slow things down. Let us consider ways in which we need to recommit personally and communally to the hard work of striving for racial justice and other types of justice. May we honor and work through the process that gets us to restoration.
Finally, let us remember that our work is not on behalf of those who seek justice, but for ourselves. As people who claim a commitment to follow in the ways of Jesus, this work is necessary for our own faithfulness. Restoration serves not only the oppressed but all who have been separated. Through it, we are together able to come closer to a world on earth as we imagine it to be in Heaven.
I give thanks for your work and for the ways in which we will continue to work together toward this grand vision. I love Easter, and I am delighted that we are an Easter people together.
Reminder: Be sure to check out this Good Friday service led by Rev. Emma Brewer-Wallin, Minister of Economic and Environmental Justice, and Rev. Elizabeth Garrigan-Byerly, Area Conference Minister for the North Central Region.
Blessings and power!
Rev. James D. Ross II
Minister for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Image by Gerd Altmann for Pixabay
The Rev. Dr. James D. Ross II is Director Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He also provides support and leadership within the Conference, our churches, other settings of the United Church of Christ, and the communities where we live, worship and ...