No Good Friday either

After yesterday’s abortive visit to a church for Maundy Thursday, I reconsidered by plans for Good Friday, today, and decided to not to attend any service.

Part of this comes from having no familiar church I attend. But the greater problem is the common rite, based on familiar readings. For my purpose, I’ll refer to the Revised Common Lectionary. I don’t have a problem with the Isaiah or Hebrew lections, or the Psalm. But the gospel reading — with its string of “the Jews” — always catches in my throat. In my last pastorate, I tended to swallow or elide over the usage. And in typical mainline fashion, I spent time apologizing for the passage or trying to explain it — John’s gospel speaks to a particular experience of the early church — but in worship it sticks in the throat. Preachers, do you know what I mean?

I have visited, dined with, talked to, debated with, worked with and befriended too many real live Jews to go there. And try to explain away the incongruity to people who aren’t already tied into these cycles of worship.

It’s getting late — but there have to be better options for Good Friday, not just for the readings, but also for the liturgy which can easily go grizzly or maudlin. And we have a year to respond.

6 Replies to “No Good Friday either”

  1. Yes. I do know what you mean.

    There are other times of the year when I have the same reaction to the lectionary readings. That readingin particular, though and in public worship is not a place I go. For the same reasons. At Eliot we do Maundy Thursday (I would love to learn what happened for you to make you skip it). Good Friday this year was all about cleaning up after the flood. Which seemed rather appropriate, I think…

    …oh…and Holy Saturday is a Church work day. We go over to the church, prepare the sanctuary for tomorrow, plant the flowers, etc…

  2. I am also not at all fond of the Johanine text, and I would not want my Jewish neighbors to hear it.

    I have always played loose with the lectionary, and except in the rigidity of my present Episcopal place of ministry, I have chosen to use less inflamatory crucifixion texts from the synpotic Gospels.

    I am not at all keen on veneration of the cross, and prefer a less morbid liturgy of noonday prayer, or evening prayer.

    Pastorally I think it is very important to tell the story of Christ’s death. But for me the real theological action that “gets things done” in terms of salvation, is the birth of Christ and the resurrection. And so I plan my efforts accordingly.

  3. I’m no preacher, but I know what you mean. I came home last night after singing the Victoria Passion according to St. John one more time and decided I just won’t participate if we sing it again next year.

    It’s inexplicable to me how a congregation that talks constantly about its commitment to “radical welcome” in self-congratulatory tones doesn’t see the contradiction here.

  4. This is one of the reasons why I cannot and will not preach from the lectionary. But then I’m very low church, don’t worry much about outward forms of religion, and also believe that local traditions can be really meaningful.

    My home church, in Concord Massachusetts, has long had a chowder supper on Maundy Thursday, and then they do communion with their 18th C. communion silver. The chowder supper always seemed more meaningful to me in that church, and more poignant, than the actual Maundy Thursday communion service. My favorite Maundy Thursday service ever was when I went to silent meeting for worship at Beacon Hill Friends in Boston, and then we all went out on Boston Common for a silent peace vigil, something that congregation does every year. It sure was cold, but I felt far more of a connection with Jesus in that service (and far more of a connection with the congregation, and all the followers of Jesus) than any “traditional” Maundy Thursday service.

    Not that I think my preferences would please you, Scott (I think you’re much more liturgically-oriented than I)! I guess my real point is that the Jesus story is so much bigger than anything that can be contained in any one worship service.

  5. However let’s remember that the Gospels were written by 3 Jewish disciples and one Gentile. However when rembrandt paints himself as being one of those raising the Cross with Christ on it,then he is recognising that it was not only the Jews or Romans involved with the Crucifixion.Perhaps future translations could put ” the people” rather than “the Jews” .

  6. @Dan: We have a UU colleague who used to make breakfast for the elders of her church as her Maundy Thursday ritual. I thought this was a lovely cultural equivalent of Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet, since the original would have embarrassed that lot of old Vermonters into their graves.

    Scott, I appreciate your sensitivity and wish you luck finding a congregation that incorporates these concerns into its liturgy.

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