Something happened to me this afternoon. And I'm really glad it did. But first, let's back up.
Last night (Maundy Thursday) is supposed to be one of the most moving services of the year. We hear about Jesus' last supper with his disciples. We hear how he washed their feet and mandated they do the same. We gather with him around the table and partake of his body and blood, knowing that in a matter of hours he will be hanging on a cross. At the end, we strip the church and the altar of practically every movable adornment, draping anything that will hold still with a black, sheer cloth. We embrace the betrayal that happens as Jesus and his disciples left the table that night. The church is black. The world is dark. Hope is lost.
But for some reason, it just didn't hit me this year. And, come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I missed it last year, too. I don't know why for sure, but for some reason Maundy Thursday doesn't wrench my heart the way I think it should. Why not? What's missing? Perhaps it's because we don't actually read the gospel story of Jesus betrayal and arrest. Or maybe it's because I'm caught up in the mechanics of stripping the altar and forget to allow the sentimentality of the moment wash over me. Maybe it's something else. But I remain convinced that I'm supposed to tear up a little bit at that service, yet I never get even close. Why?
Today, that changed. There's something powerful about the Good Friday liturgy. Finally, the passion caught up with me, and the death of Jesus became real. For me, that happened around 12:15 today, as we were reading the lessons. But I don't think it's because we get the full passion story in the readings. And I don't think it's because the church is draped in black. I think it's because there's nothing else we can do on Good Friday but sit...and listen...and pray.
This is a day of emptiness. There are no liturgical acts that can fill up the void that is left by the death of our savior. No Eucharist to be celebrated. No recessional hymn. No blessing or dismissal. We just sit and deal with the fact that Jesus died on the cross. We don't try to explain it. We just sit in reaction to it, praying for the world and for ourselves.
I'm thankful we don't overdo it. Sometimes it's the simple moments of emotion that get me right where I need to be gotten.