Lay Reader's Letter
We tend to take our leisure time for granted these days, but back in the early nineteenth century, before the introduction of bank holidays, Christmas Day and Good Friday would have been the only two days of leisure granted to most working people. Christmas Day and Good Friday - the days when we celebrate the birth and the death of Jesus. Many families have their own traditions of what they do on these two Holy Days; and Good Friday is a day when there are plenty of traditions to choose from. The traditional food for the day, despite the fact that supermarkets stock them all the year round, is the hot-cross bun; a rare treat when dripping with melted butter. Perhaps your family won't eat meat on Good Friday or, more specifically, you will eat fish. If you are a gardener, Good Friday will be the day when, given reasonable weather, you will be sowing your potatoes.
The name Good Friday probably evolved from an earlier designation - God's Friday - in the same way that 'goodbye' evolved from 'God be with you'. For Christians the emphasis of Good Friday will be on both Jesus and God. In the morning, many hundreds of Christians from the Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard areas, and many thousands of Christians nationwide, will take part in marches of witness. Then, in the afternoon, services will be held which reflect on Christ's suffering, either a three hour service from noon until 3pm or a one hour service from 2 to 3pm, commemorating Christ's final hours on the cross culminating in his death.
The church has always understood that the day commemorated on Good Friday was anything but happy. On that day, Jesus underwent one of the most dreadful tortures ever devised by mankind so, since the early centuries of the church, the day has been marked by sadness, mourning, fasting, and prayer. But the Christian conviction is that the day was also the one in which God's love was truly revealed. Out of Jesus' dreadful anguish God raised Him from the dead to new and abundant life. And for his followers the pain of Good Friday, the not knowing of Holy Saturday, gave way to the joy of Easter. So in some parts of Europe, the day is not just called "Good," but "Great" or "Holy" Friday.
So it can be for each of us whenever we experience darkness, pain or suffering, whether it be on Good Friday or on any other day. My prayer is that, on Good Friday you will take the time to reflect on the suffering of Jesus and on the love of God. Each of us needs to know the presence of a Saviour who shares our suffering and experience the Easter message, the great affirmation that pain and death do not have to have the final word and that God's redeeming love can still bring us hope and joy and pleasure even in the darkest and most difficult times.
And if we can catch a glimpse of such resurrection experiences in our own lives then we can proclaim with confidence the Easter message "The Lord is risen - He is risen indeed. Alleluia." A happy and glorious Easter to you all.
Gordon - Lay Reader
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About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.