One of the best sermons I’ve ever heard was given by a guy named Tony Campolo, and it was called “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’!” I remember that it was nowhere near Easter when I first heard that message, but it is such a terrific Easter theme that I was profoundly struck by the universality of it. In many ways, we live Good Friday every day of our lives. Death and dying are around us constantly and without fail as we move around on this planet.
Yesterday I was driving down an old country road and I came to a four-way stop. I looked to my right, and an eighteen wheeler was paused to let me go ahead. I saw that it was fully loaded with crates of live chickens, headed off somewhere along the chain of industry in order to make those awesome boneless chicken breasts that I bake, grill, fry and ultimately consume. It was strange, because it was about 25 degrees outside, and they were in wire baskets that had to be absolutely frigid whenever the truck began moving. I thought, “Those poor chickens need some cover.” And then, almost immediately my mind finished the thought: “…so that they are more at ease when they get to the slaughterhouse!” It was a strange moment.
But the “It’s Friday” part of the message and ministry of Jesus has to do with the painful reality that we really do not need anyone to explain to us. Life is hard, and it is often seasoned with great suffering. Many well-intentioned ministers and friends in the faith often try to comfort us in our suffering with the assurance that we live in a “fallen world,” and that all pain is a by-product of “original sin.” But such counsel has always struck me as pretty self-serving. I mean, I have never in my life been in a hospital room or funeral home and had friends and family members say to me, “Well, it’s hard to let my granddad go, but, you know, that’s what original sin does…” In the same way, I’ve never seen a doctor tell a patient that has just received the news that they have heart disease or diabetes “Well, Mr. Smith, before we talk about a course of treatment, I just would like to take a moment to explain to you how to avoid patterns of behavior that could bring about heart disease/high blood pressure.” Such a discussion would be completely silly: if the cat is in the chicken coop, it’s too late to tell me how to build a cat-proof chicken coop!
Explanations of why we suffer, or whose “fault” suffering might be strike me as utterly useless when grappling with the stark reality of pain. The truth is that we live predominantly in a Good Friday world. As a Christian, my job is not to offer up a reliable explanation of the mechanics of how the world is shattered. My calling is to follow Christ’s lead in fixing it.
SUNDAY IS COMING! It’s exciting, then, to get to the answer to every question: the reason why we are here. The reason why we do what we do. The reason why we hope in the face of great suffering and injustice. The reason we can sit beside our brothers and sisters who are grieving and resonate faith and love to them even as they cry. Sure, it’s Friday. Sure, it’s frightening and lonely and painful and demanding. Sure it is. We acknowledge the truth of life as we know it and as we build it. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’!”
Easter Sunday is the answer that God gives me whenever I confront the pain of a Good Friday world. It’s not a theory, or a mechanical description. It’s not an analysis of cause and effect. It’s not a sociological or demographic study. It’s an announcement that changes everything:
“HE IS NOT HERE! HE IS RISEN!”
You don’t have to intellectually accept it. You certainly don’t have to understand it. You honestly cannot ever hope to explain it. But this announcement is for you. You are meant to hear it. And once you hear it, you are invited to run – not walk! - to the empty tomb that is in your heart waiting to be discovered. Once you see it for yourself, you will live in an Easter world…forever.