A Message for Good Friday 2020
Pastor Jim Melvin
Psalm 88: 1-2
O Lord, God of my salvation,
when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.
For me it’s worst at night, the fear, the anxiety, and feelings of near panic. My mind races ahead to all of the horrible things that could result from the pandemic–sickness, death, economic ruin, and a world not fit to live in. Darkness brings on despair; I’m lowered into the pit. It is then that I am driven to pray to God, like the Psalmist, to listen to my cries and come to help.
People suffering from dementia often suffer from what is called sundowning. As night comes on, the become more confused and agitated. In my experience, it is a universal phenomenon. The darkness creeps into the corners of our souls as the sun goes down. In our current state of siege, we are all a little bit demented; we’re all a little bit out of our minds.
The Psalmist continues to vividly describe what has driven him to cry out in anguish.
For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
This Psalm is often read to remember Jesus’ imprisonment at the house of Caiaphas the night before he was tried and executed. He was lowered into a dark stone pit to spend an agonizing night. You can imagine him reciting this psalm waiting for God to rescue him. This pit is the dark night of the human soul that all of us experience at one time or another.
On Good Friday, Christians knowingly descend into that Pit with Jesus. We wait with him in our anxiety and fear. We cry out with him to God in desperation.
When we are at the bottom of the pit, we can only look up. There is nothing to see in the darkness around us, not even the proverbial hand in front of our face. When we look up, however, a glimmer of light begins to filter down to us. Our eyes see the growing light of Easter dawn, of life and hope above. Relief. God has heard our cries. God is coming to save us.
I can’t avoid noticing that the timing of Good Friday this year is serendipitous and full of meaning. It is likely that we are near the bottom of the pit of global pandemic. A glimmer, just a glimmer of light begins to shine. Today, then, in the dark night of our souls, it is time for us to look up. There’s nothing to see down here in the pit . Easter is approaching. New life is coming. God is listening.
I suspect that you and I will experience more sundowning in the days and weeks ahead. Our time of trial is not over. We will cry out in the night in fear and anxiety. So, if you see me or anybody else dwelling in darkness, tell us to look up. The same light is shining up there for all of us.
May you be blessed by peace and hope this Holy Weekend.
(Go to www.jmfaithatwork.com to listen to a my podcast from earlier this year titled “Life in the Pit.)