Before the alleluias get dug up from the ground, before anyone can look for the living among the dead, before Sunday can come, there will be a Friday.
It is the order of things. It is the way that the calendar pages turn. Before there can be a Sunday to praise, there must be a Friday to mourn.
There are people who sit in our pews every Sunday who say they can’t watch the news anymore. It’s too terrible, they tell me. It’s just so awful that they can’t watch. Like the disciples in the Gospel of Luke, they stand at a distance from the bad news.
It is not their children that are dying. It is not their city that is flooding. They don’t need to watch. They can just turn off the television for there is no wall being built in their backyard. They can shelter themselves from all of those terrible things.
I can too.
I can close my browser. I don’t need to watch that video or read that article. I can turn away from all of the bad news but I cannot skip over the fact that Friday came first.
Before Sunday came, before hope was resurrected, there was a Friday when everything ended. All that could have been got tortured and killed on a cross.
And they stood watching at a distance. They couldn’t be close. It hurt too much. They had given their whole lives to this possibility that was tortured and killed on a cross. It was over. Everything was going to be different. Nothing would ever be the same.
It’s just not possible to leap into joy.
We need just a little time to mourn.
Because of that Friday we cannot simply tell each other to look on the bright side. We only add to the brutality if we deny the systems of injustice that are still at work in this world. We will only torture ourselves if we do not give ourselves a little space to admit that something is coming to an end.
It is for this reason that Good Friday comes first.
Something is dying. It may be a child you know or one you saw on the news. It could be the church down the street or the one you’ve called home for more than forty years. Or it could be some hope for the future that will never come true.
Don’t try to leap into joy. Give yourself some space to grieve what once was so that you can make room for what could be.
Before Easter comes, I hope and I pray that you will find a little space to grieve.
The Rev. Elsa A. Peters is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who has served churches in New York City, Maine and Washington. She believes in the power of community, that poverty can end in our lifetime and that everyone needs a little more love. Follow along in her adventures in ministry at http://revelsaanderspeters.com. You can also find her on Facebook at /elsa.a.peters.