It’s Good Friday! Writing on the prompt – “Alive”.
originally published on ggmandy dot com on
I often find myself speechless when I think of what He went through for me. That’s why today, I haven’t found too many words of my own. I’m gonna let my sons do the writing this time!
Rev. Brian Farmer, “on Sunday’s Coming”
There’s certainly a place for the mentality of, “It’s Friday; but, Sunday’s coming.” No question about that. My concern is that, in our Tylenol society, we don’t allow ourselves to really contemplate and reflect on Friday. We don’t like pain. We avoid thinking or talking about death. But, without grasping the heartache, separation, and loss that took place on Friday, we can’t really appreciate Sunday for all that it’s worth, nor experience the depth of joy and gratitude its coming truly brings. Don’t let Good Friday pass without really reflecting on what it commemorates. It’s not exactly comfortable; but, it’s not supposed to be. Experience the grief and loss with those early followers at the foot of the cross, so that you can really experience their amazement and joy at the empty tomb.
Friday – we should remember the initial grief the followers of Jesus felt, and remember He died to be our perfect sacrifice.
Saturday is usually forgotten. The disciples had failed, they lost all hope, they were fugitives, and the world had no Savior.
Sunday – We celebrate the fact that even though Christ died on Friday, He rose again declaring Himself the perfect living Savior. And even though we have “Saturdays” filled with failure and humiliation, we don’t have to stay on Saturday. We can move forward into Sunday remembering what Christ did on Friday and knowing he can turn our “Saturdays” into Sundays filled with Grace, Forgiveness, and Praise.
6 who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. 8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross! 9 As a result God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow —in heaven and on earth and under the earth— 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
12 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, 13 for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God. 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing,15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world.
How Do We Do This?
Photo Credit Pedrovia @Pixabay
16 by holding on to the word of life so that on the day of Christ I will have a reason to boast that I did not run in vain nor labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice together with all of you. 18 And in the same way you also should be glad and rejoice together with me.
This year we are facing a completely different Easter than any other year in our lives. I’ve celebrated different Easters but not like this… everyone in their own homes.
I am so grateful for the ability to gather together electronically. But you may say, “It won’t be the same”. However, this morning I happened upon a shared video of chapel service at my Alma Mater (Asbury University). The chaplains were still having chapel for the students even though they were spread all across the nation.
One chaplain noted that in a certain language the word “crisis” not only means impending trouble but “opportunity”. We have an opportunity to make something wonderful of this time. We can create new traditions and memorable moments together in our little families right in our living room.
Sure we may not have new dresses or egg hunts and candy, but maybe, just maybe, or attention will turn to the hope of Easter. The Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. That He can restore hope and joy to our lives that may have been missing for a long long time.
Below I share several links to other suggestions for celebrating in place this Easter. But before that, I share this prayer from Romans 15:13…
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
With Easter coming up, I thought I might share a few tips on how I made it through Sundays with children. Regardless of how often you make it to church, Sunday worship with kids can be a challenge. Sometimes it can make you wonder why you bother going to church at all. Check out why regular worship is important here.
The day is completely different from any other day of the week and likely the night before was different as well. I remember Sundays when we arrived at church a bit frazzled just from getting ready for church.
Keep Reading even if you have no children, some of these steps all of us can take to improve our worship time.
Start Preparing Early in the Week
Check with the church office to see if anything is going to be different this week.
Will there be Children’s Church or Nursery Attendants available for your child?
Do the children remain in the service for a portion of the service?
What are the service times? Some churches change the time on special days.
Saturday Preparations for Worship with Kids
Plan a simple breakfast that is easy to serve and clean up. For us, muffins and milk or orange juice usually did the trick.
If you have babies or toddlers, clean out and re-stock the diaper bag.
Decide what everyone is wearing. Our daughter, by 4 years of age, was pretty obstinate about what she would wear. But we found that if we planned this with her the night before, there wasn’t a fight on Sunday morning.
Is everything clean and pressed; down to the shoes. Avoid having to find socks and shoes (or shoelaces) and hairbows at the last minute. When everything is laid out and ready to put on, it takes much less time and aggravation to get everyone dressed and in the car.
Lay out everything you need to take with you (Bibles, lesson books, etc) Have them ready to grab as you walk out the door.
Get your bath and hair washed. For as many as possible, do this Saturday evening. Especially with large families and/or few bathrooms.
Keep Saturday evening sacred. In the Jewish faith, the Sabbath begins at sundown, the day before. I see a lot of good in this because it keeps us from staying out late and being too tired for worship in the morning. So we tried to stick to the rule that everyone gets home by dark. It’s not always possible, but this definitely helps the whole mindset of preparing for worship the next morning.
Sunday Morning Schedule
Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early. This keeps you on time even if something goes awry. Children do much better if they are not being rushed. This also give you a few minutes to visit with friends or just get your mind focused on worship.
Arise early and enjoy a cup of coffee before you start getting the kids going. Typically, worship starts later than the start of school or work days. Why not rise at the same time to make the morning more enjoyable?
Turn on some upbeat worship music. In one home we lived in, we had an intercom. I piped the music through the house. This was everyone’s wake up call or at least notification that I would be coming around to get them out of bed.
Breakfast for the children. If you cook something, such as bacon, this could be another way to get them rolling out of bed. I know it works for teenagers. 🙂
Get dressed. I never figured out which was better.. dress the kids first or myself. I’ve had that fail either way. LOL! Maybe get dressed and put on an apron! 🙂
Assign others to help with the littles. You’ve laid out the clothes so this shouldn’t be difficult.
Give a 10-minute “Time to get in the car” call. Start looking over everyone to be sure they are fully dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, etc.
Again, leave 15-20 minutes earlier than needed.
Church Arrival & Worship with Children
Use the restroom. Non-negotiable rule. This keeps them from having to get up during the service to use the restroom. This is a no-no in our family. If you must take them out because they are disruptive, do so and get them calmed down. Then return to the service. If you don’t they will learn that you will take them out if they get disruptive. Children CAN learn to be quiet and respectful in church.
If you are a regular, watch for newcomers and greet them.
Find a seat. I suggest in the front half of the sanctuary. There are fewer distractions. Sit as a family. Another non-negotiable.
Prepare your heart for worship. Pray silently. Read some scriptures. The bulletin may have the pastors’ text. Go ahead and read it over to begin thinking about it. If the bulletin has the scheduled songs, meditate on the words of these songs.
Instruct your children during worship. They should learn to sing/sit/stand/pray along with the congregation. No toys or coloring during this part of the service.
Smaller children can have non-distractive toys or a book/coloring book. Save that container of Cheerios for the last few moments of the service when they are getting restless and the pastor is making his final point or call for decision.
Encourage your school-age children to take notes. You could even set up rewards for doing so. As a children’s minister, I created a small booklet for the children to take notes on days we stayed in the service. Such as this one. I gave them a small prize after church if they showed me their work.
After Worship Activities
Don’t rush out. Greet those around you, especially newcomers. Go straight to the ones you don’t know. They will leave quickly, especially if no one speaks to them. Your friends will be around and you know how to contact them anyway. If you need to speak with them, give them a quick, “Don’t leave before I talk with you.” greeting and then head to the visitors. If you are a visitor. Wait around a bit. Give people a chance to find you. Or just go ahead and speak to someone near you.
Clean up around you. Pick up bulletins, papers and anything you brought with you. Most churches have volunteers that do the cleaning. No one gets paid to do this, so help out and clean up your own mess.
Easter, for me, has always been a great day of celebration. A day of basking in the joy of the resurrection. But this year, it was different. We were in the dark.
You see, life has changed a lot for our family recently. Easter 2015, my husband was pastoring a church as he had been for nearly 40 years. Our children and I were deeply involved in his ministry, especially when it came to planning a celebration service such as Easter. The four of us spent much time studying the significance of Easter. We spent many hours reviewing videos and music finding just the right words to make Easter fresh, new, and alive. Something that would draw the people into the celebration, helping them realize what God had done for them. By the time Easter Sunday arrived, we were already filled beyond excitement. So ready to share the story and bring people to a closer relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
But this year, it was different.
This time, we found ourselves on the other side of the picture. No longer in ministry, we were now sitting in the pews taking in a completely different view of the celebration. We were not involved in the planning and therefore; though we had read our Lenten Devotions, the excitement was much different.
Saturday before Easter
This time, our hearts felt the sadness of Saturday. Saturday, when hope was lost and followers of Christ wondered, “What in the world would happen now?” Everything that we had spent many years working toward seemed to be for naught.
The blinding darkness of a rainy day enveloped our day. Tears clouded our view and the ache in our hearts kept us from seeing beyond Saturday.
This was our own personal Saturday.
But our church community was held stuck in “Saturday” as well.
That particular Saturday, was to be a joyous day of celebration. A wedding celebration, but instead we were saddened because the young bride-to-be was in a hospital having had a heart attack (at the young age of 35). She would indeed go home to heaven on Sunday. This was not the kind of resurrection Sunday we had been looking forward to.
It certainly did not feel like a time to celebrate.
Possibly, we could now relate to how the disciples may have felt on that Saturday.
Or maybe we felt much like the friends and family that stood around Lazarus’ grave only a week before wondering why did God allow this to happen?
Why did He not come to our aid?
Where was He?
Oh, how we dread being in the dark.
The Light is always preferred to darkness.
We want to be able to see what is going on; to have at least a little bit of control of our situation. But the only way that our faith can grow is in the dark. Like a seed that must be planted in the cold, dark ground and remain there for days in order to sprout and come to life.
On Easter, we like being the one outside the grave, anticipating the resurrection. Watching and waiting, in the light. In the light, we know what’s going to happen. We know the end of the story and we can wait with anticipation.
But oh, it’s another thing to allow God to place us in the darkness to wait there.
We can’t see what is happening, so we resist the dark. We get claustrophobic and resist the plan God has for us. Why can’t we understand that God places us in the dark for our own good? Sometimes, it is for our own protection because He loves us. He wants us to know we can trust Him in the darkness.
Lazarus and his sisters were close friends of Jesus. (John 11:3)They loved Jesus greatly and He loved them. They spent a lot of time together whenever possible. Just as we, as Christians, can have a wonderful relationship with our Lord. We have lived for and with Jesus maybe for years. We love Him and we serve him expecting his blessings. But there is much to learn and the place to learn it is quite possibly is in the darkness of a Saturday.
Jesus stayed away so that God could be glorified. (John 11:4)
On Saturday, in the darkness, it may feel that Jesus is not there. And we wonder why does He not come to rescue us? Sure Jesus could have gone to them immediately and healed Lazarus. But how long would that last? How quickly would Lazarus and his friends have fallen back into the daily routines of life? Would their faith have been stretched? Would they have really grown to a new spiritual level? I think not. They had seen many miracles of healing and for Jesus to perform another miracle of healing would have only been par for the course. To raise Lazarus from the grave after 4 days ….. Now that would and did bring great glory to God because the impossible had been accomplished.
Jesus stayed away so that the disciples could have greater faith. (John 11:15)
The disciples, Lazarus and his friends would soon need great faith. Jesus was just one week from going to the cross. They would need a strong faith to get through this trial. They would need great faith to hang on through Saturday. Maybe, if they had not just seen Lazarus raised up, they truly would have given up hope and lost all faith before Sunday came and God raised Jesus from the grave. Maybe, it is what got them through their next Saturday.
Imagine a surgeon, if you will.
If he were to take you to surgery and allow you to be awake for the procedure, most of us would not allow him to touch us. We would fear the pain of it, we would see the surgeon’s knife coming and run away. But when he “puts us in darkness” through anesthesia we remain quiet and still for the work to be done. We, too often, fight against entering the darkness. Why? Because we do not have enough faith in what God will do.
We really don’t have to fight Him, you know.
He really does have everything under control.
He knows what is best.
And when we look back at what he has done, we are amazed.
We celebrate in His Resurrection in a much greater way. And our faith grows to a new level just as promised in James 1
… you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
So, you see. It may be Saturday for you right now, but Sunday’s coming!
Let God do His work in the dark. Have faith.
Expecting Great Things!
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