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Spiritual Growth

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

By Harriett J. Olson

What’s so good about Good Friday?

How do you observe or “celebrate” Good Friday?

Have you experienced a community whose whole pattern of activity changed that day? Or perhaps a community that observed a different pattern from noon to 3 p.m. on Good Friday? I have a vivid childhood memory of the difference between the somberness of the day, which was also the Friday at the end of our spring break from school. It was the last day to have fun, and there was nothing “fun” about its meanings or its observance. What makes that a “good” day?

As a young adult, a friend and I used the day off as time for a spiritual retreat in a religious community. When we arrived we discovered that they offered no meals that day and used no music in their services. It turned into a retreat of a different sort than we had expected. Perhaps that was “good?”

Our name for this day may remind you of Jesus’ verbal jousting with the teacher of the law—“why do you call me ‘good’? Only God is good.” This is, after all, the only holiday or holy day that the church calls “good.”

We come to this day with different experiences and we feel different things.

Perhaps we’re humbled by this immense demonstration of God’s love for us. Perhaps we’re horrified anew by the brutality that humans are capable of. Perhaps we’re grateful for the “indescribable gift” of new life in Christ. Perhaps we worry that we might have lined up with the “religious leaders” or the gullible crowd had we been there to see the political unrest and hear the charges read.

Have you noticed that some of the people who are not jumping in to plan the pageantry of Easter or the glad madhouse of Christmas celebrations are particularly attuned to observing Good Friday? Introverts, fed by quiet reflection, are the minority in the U.S. population, according to experts. Even those who are fed by time alone more than by time in a crowd have had to learn to adjust to get along. This might be a clue to why attendance at worship on Holy Thursday and Good Friday is so low, while Palm Sunday and Easter are among the year’s best attended services.

Quiet Good Friday folk may particularly value the silence of Tenebrae and the contemplation that some Good Friday services provide.

  • A word of caution to congregational worship leaders: try to avoid over-programming this day.
  • A word of challenge to Christmas and Easter people: be patient! Try to “cross-over” on this day and experience a worship practice that is not your first choice.

What ever your emotional reaction to this day, Good Friday can be a day of quiet reflection, gratitude and renewing of our commitment to “offer ourselves, our souls and bodies as a reasonable sacrifice of worship” inviting God to continue making us “a new creation.”

God is good.
All the time…including on Good Friday.

*Harriett J. Olson is the Deputy General Secretary of the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.
Last Updated: 04/07/2010

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