Last week at Urban Life, someone prayed to this effect:
“God, we pray that we won’t be overcome by the religiosity of the somberness of Good Friday next week.”
The prayer continued, but my mind stuck on this line. The “religiosity of the somberness of Good Friday”.
I didn’t say anything, but my insides were roiling. I was confused, upset, unsure of what was going on. Here’s why.
In non-denominational churches here, “religiosity” is something they try to avoid. As are things that are “traditional”, things considered “religious”, and according to the leaders, formal theological education. They don’t want to get bogged down in something that keeps them from focusing totally on Jesus and worshiping God. Things that are considered religious, traditional, traditions, symbolic items, rituals, and not in the Bible, are not encouraged or are actively disdained. (Clearly I am speaking in general – not every individual thinks exactly this way.)
So “religiosity” is a bad thing.
So being somber on Good Friday is a bad thing. It’s bad because it’s traditional, “religious”, what churches normally do, empty of meaning.
And I get it, at least somewhat. I don’t like religiosity. I don’t like doing tradition or ritual for the sake of doing ritual or tradition. Traditions that are empty of meaning, that are done “just because we’ve always done it this way”, are stupid. Symbols that are used and no one knows why should not be used anymore, or the meaning should be taught.
But I also don’t think that the “somberness of Good Friday” falls into the “religiosity” category. Sure, at some churches it might just be tradition, ritual, whatnot. But I don’t see it that way.
Good Friday is somber. It’s somber for a reason. It’s somber because Jesus died – God died. We wear black, we dim the lights, we leave in silence, we don’t say joyous words like “hallelujah”.
It’s not religiosity, it’s real life. We are remembering that someone died, God died, as though it were happening again this year. It’s not old, staunchy religion – it’s real, in the moment, I’m torn up inside because the one who’s supposed to be messiah, savior, hero, God…is getting brutally killed. Not that Jesus is dying again – he died once for all – but we remember it as though it is our reality now.
Because it is our reality. Jesus’ death is our reality. On Friday we recall that as humans we mess up, we hurt our neighbor, our relationship with God, ourselves. And because God loves us so very, very much, God came to earth and died to save us from death, so we can live with God.
But we killed God. God died. It’s sad. It’s somber. It’s not religious. It’s life.
This Friday, Good Friday, the church here will be partying, trying to avoid the religiosity and somberness. They will celebrate Easter on Friday and Sunday. I will probably be cheerful on the outside as well on Friday. But inside I will be somber, not for the ritual of it all, but because Jesus had to die before he could rise, darkness had to reach it’s deepest before the light, and there had to be grief before the joy.