I forgot to tell you the story yesterday of my worst Good Friday. I was serving as pastor of Faith United Methodist in Fargo, and as was the tradition, all the United Methodist pastors in town would get together to lead the Good Friday service. It was about 5pm that evening, and I was at home with the family before heading over to the church. With two little boys in the house, our living area was filled with all sorts of “boys’ toys,” including little cars, and weapons of every sort and kind, from former costumes they wore. In particular, there was a little silver plastic sword, used in many fights and against many enemies. Aaron, at that time about five years old, has his back to me, and so I did what any good father would do – I poked him in the bottom with the sword. I’m sure all you fathers would agree with my actions.
Well, the battle was on at a that point, and somehow, Aaron got the sword away from me, and started chasing me to return the blow. However, at that time in my life, I was fast and agile, and so I took a leap over our couch that was sitting in the basement. Almost all of me made it over – except, I had not calculated the low-positioned wood beam hanging from the low ceiling directly above the couch. I remember leaping, and then I remember being on my knees behind the couch, with a pretty sharp pain in my scalp.
Hanging on to the top of my head, I asked my lovely wife to tell me what it looked like – it, being the source of a good amount of blood being left on my hands from applying direct pressure. Her response was, “Well, it is pretty gaping!” Lovely words. After another towel or two, nurse Cheri opted to drive me down to the emergency room to see what they could do.
I’m not sure you can imagine how many times I had to tell my story to the folks in emergency… What happened? Well, I poked my son in the bottom with a plastic sword, and then he tried to do the same to me, so I jumped over the couch and hit my head on the ceiling beam… Over and over again…
Well, after all was said and done, I had seven staples punched into the top of my head and was sent home with a couple of pills to dull the pain, and a missed Good Friday service.
When telling the story, I always mention that I learned the true meaning of the old hymn “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”
But today is Saturday, the last day of the three-day observance leading up to tomorrow morning’s resurrection celebration. It’s named in many places as “Holy Saturday.” Back in Jesus’ time, and among the Jewish faithful today, it is a Sabbath day, a day of rest. In the four Gospels, absolutely nothing is mentioned about the day after crucifixion. It is silent, almost as if there is nothing to report. I expect, for the disciples, it was a day of hiding, or fear. Their teacher has indeed been killed, and who knows what the authorities might want to do with the rest of them. It’s a dangerous time, but since it is also the Sabbath, there is no work to be done, no shopping to do – nothing but be still and silent. It is perhaps the worst day in Jesus’ disciples’ lives. All they can do is expect the worst to happen at any moment.
There are other places in the scripture that try to account for the time between crucifixion and resurrection. It is claimed and presented in our Apostles’ creed. We always were in awe of the fact that grownups let us say the naughty word right there in church, with no punishment. It was the phrase, “He descended into hell…” There is was, right there, expecting us to say it! Later versions, of course, changed the words to “He descended to the dead.” Actually, that second one is probably the truer one, but not as fun for elementary boys. The Jewish word is She’ ol, and it means “dwelling of the dead.” It’s not necessarily a place of punishment, like the Greek Hades, or even where most of us think of “hell,” which is actually mistaken adaptation of The god Hades and the underground, where most human souls find themselves. In many parts of our religion, we hand the place over to Satan, and it’s where pitchforks, and other terrible things are used against those who do not find salvation while on earth.
But, for Jesus, it was simply that dark-enveloped place where the Jewish soul rested for all eternity. In Sheol, there was nothing – just nothing.
Some parts of the scripture will say that Jesus took that time to preach salvation to the souls stuck there who never had the chance to hear about Jesus himself. That may be, but how can anyone know such a thing?
For me, instead, I take today as that “silent Saturday,” quiet and without even knowing that it should be a day of anticipation and wonder, as we wait in expectation to hear what God indeed has done for the Son whose sacred head was truly wounded, with grief and shame weighed down…
Tomorrow, however, is another story! See you then!
Word for the day: trypanophobia. Pronounced try-PAN-oh-fo-bya. It’s a two-part Greek word, from trypano, meaning “auger – or something that drills a hole,” and our good friend phobia, or “fear. Trypanophobia is a fear of injections. Seems to fit in this time of our world, eh? However, studies show that some bodies physically respond to a needle stick with what is known as a vasovagal reflect, where one’s blood pressure rises sharply and then plummets. The normal result is a fainting spell. Now, who’s to say whether it is a mental reaction or a simply physical one, but if it happens to you, it might be reasonable for you to have a trypanophobic reaction…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.