From a meal with friends, to an act of service of washing another’s feet. To prayers in the garden on the mountain, and the handing over of the One who gave himself for us. To the sham of a trial, and the jeers of the crowd. To the procession of the cross, and the crucifixion. From the adoration of the cross, and to the tomb. It is finished.
As the passion story moves from the triumphant entry of Palm Sunday to the gathering in an upper room on Maundy Thursday, to the cross of Good Friday, and the long waiting of Holy Saturday… It is finished. At least for now.
As I lay here awake on this long night, these three words keep coming back to me. It is finished.
The holiest of days of the church year, has come and gone. Though it feels like we have been living in the midst of Good Friday here in Nebraska for over a month already. The floods have seen to this. People’s lives have been turned upside down. If it has felt like a long Good Friday for you this year, I suspect you are not alone. I wonder if Easter will feel like Easter? I hope so. But even if not, the promise will still be true.
Out of death comes life. Through the ugliness and humiliation of a cross, comes triumph and hope. Out of a tomb, sin is no more. These are the promises of Easter. The promises which the world laughs at as impossible. The promises which even so, we know are true deep in the heart and base of our being.
They are the promises which ground us. They are the promises at the center of our faith. That God is for you. That God has done all of this, for you. That God is with you always. And God most certainly knows you, claims you as God’s own, and loves you.
These promises I am clinging to on this long night. This night of darkness, of waiting. This night and day to come where we sit in vigil. We mourn. We pray. We wonder. We hope.
These are promises I cling to, as yet I continue to hear the words, “It is finished.”
This past week my parents and brothers and sister toasted memories and the joy and challenges of saying good bye to our family’s home for nearly the past three decades. My parents’ home officially sold this Holy Week. Now they are busy packing and making final decisions, knowing they have only a couple weeks remaining to call the home I called home for most of my formative years, home.
God is present in the midst of the challenges. God has certainly been present in the stories, learning, ups, downs, parties, gatherings, adventures, pains, and joys of life together in this home. God will certainly be present in the midst of this new chapter and change. Though it might, like it does tonight, feel like the in between space of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It might feel like the vigil we keep, as we look for what may be to come.
It is finished. The home I loved to come back and visit, will always live in my memories. The hometown I grew up in, will always hold a deep and special place in my heart. My home congregation will always be a part of who I am, as a Child of God who was baptized on Easter Sunday thirty two years ago. Yes, Good Friday this year was also my baptismal birthday. I wonder, what is worse or better, having one’s actual birthday on Ash Wednesday as I did last year, or one’s baptismal birthday on Good Friday?
My home congregation where I was also confirmed, and married, will always be part of my life. In the cemetery on the hill behind the church, are the graves of my grandfather and uncle whom I am in part named after. Some day my grandma and perhaps others in our family will be laid to rest there too. But as we know this Good Friday and Easter story, those graves are simply markers of legacy and memory. Grandpa and Uncle Danny certainly aren’t there anymore. They have long been at the banquet and resurrection party.
My home I grew up in, my hometown, and my home congregation will always be near to me. But as life moves, and as God calls and leads, home means a new thing now. Home means life together with Allison, Caroline, and our cat Buddy. Home means a lovely community out in the country in the Big Red State. Home means a faith community gathered together in a beautiful church out on a hill, next to a cemetery and corn and soybean fields. Home means living in the shadow of a water tower now, and not the shadow of a mountain range. Home means a beautiful place to grow as a father and spouse. It might often be quiet, but it is certainly not quiet around here on Sunday mornings. And this Sunday to come, the Sunday where we find the tomb opened and empty, will be no different.
It is not Sunday yet. But Sunday is coming. And that is a promise we cling to as Easter people, called to point to and speak of life out of death. A promise we cling to of the resurrection, in spite of all evidence to the contrary as we live in a Good Friday world- A world full of hunger; a world filled with injustice and the mistreatment of the poor; a world where the gap between the haves and have nots continues to grow; and a world where fear and scarcity might tell us we need a wall, but really we need an open door and an outstretched arm, like our Savior offers for us.
On the cross Jesus opened his arms wider than any person could. And those arms are opened wide for you, for me, and for all. God in Christ has done this. Once and for all.
Worship on Good Friday ended here with the words based on Psalm 22. The final sentence sits with me, just as it did as I sung it from the organ hours ago:
“They shall proclaim God’s deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying to them, ‘The Lord has acted!'”*
The Lord has acted. It is finished. Now we wait. We pray. We mourn. We remember. We hope. We recall God’s promises and saving work for us. We give thanks. And soon, we celebrate.
*Psalm 22:31, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006).