It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming
Ben Clarke reflects on Friday, the holy and chaotic “time between times”, when we wait for the hope and the peace that Sunday brings.
Friday conjures up a lot of images and feelings in my life and within broader Australian society. For some it has been the object of a week-long countdown to “beer o’clock”. My school-aged children celebrate the coming of Friday with glee. However, for me it often inaugurates a day of reckoning when I face the work still undone and juggle the deadlines missed.
Celtic mythology celebrates as sacred the “time between times”. The dawn and the dusk, the inter-tidal zone, and the night between old and new moons. It celebrates the holiness of these times and spaces of transition and change.
Friday, at least Easter Friday, seems to me to be one of these “time between times”. It is a holy, chaotic time when the very foundation of the world is in flux. On Good Friday we see Christ on the cross, arms outstretched, bridging the whole of history. To do anything other than recoil at the horror and barbarity of Christ’s death is to miss the massive human sacrifice he made. And yet there it is. Standing clear against the Friday sky. I am loath to ponder it and yet am compelled to acknowledge that it is certainly a holy time of mysterious change.
It was on this Good Friday that the heart rending cry of “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me...” ripped through the universe. It still tears our theological understanding from its mooring. How could the Godhead, the relationship that defines and holds the universe in place, be broken?
Friday, as a time between times, is also strongly analogous to the place we inhabit in history. N.T. Wright uses the term “now and not yet” to describe the reality of our salvation and yet acknowledge its future completion and the truth of Jesus’ declaration that the Kingdom is at hand, yet remains elusive and incomplete. Friday is very much a now and not yet day. The weekend has started, but not yet. The week is over, but not yet. It is finished... but not yet.
Friday is the life of exodus, it is the destruction of Jerusalem. It is the waiting in the upper room for the spirit to descend. Friday represents at once the lowest and the highest moment in history. Because Friday is followed, eventually, by Sunday.
Sunday is a different day. It has a different social, cultural and theological quality. Sunday is a new beginning. It is hope where there was none. It’s the unexpected visitor who brings light and life to a dark, cold lounge room. Sunday is the return from exile, the first walk down the streets of Zion and the first drink with the risen Lord that heralds the end to not only death but to the whole bad storyline.
I would love to skip Friday and just have Sunday. I’d love to never even know the reality of Friday but I seem to be living Friday after Friday after Friday. I know about Sunday but I haven't lived through one for a long time. The time between times seems to swirl with such chaotic forces that I am trapped there. Trapped in a story of death and destruction. Trapped in exile where even the songs of redemption bring bitter tears. Trapped to repeat the destructive habits that make Friday such a sad day.
I remember hearing speaker, author and pastor Tony Campolo describe a sermon delivered by his pastor, which went like this:
It’s Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter’s denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. Jesus is standing before the high priest of Israel, silent as a lamb before the slaughter. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday’s coming.
It’s Friday and I feel trapped. In a myriad of ways, I feel trapped and bound by the devastation that is Friday. I feel like I’m living in a now but not yet time between times when I know that I should experience the victorious spirit-filled, Christ-centered life, but I look at the threats of climate change, growing population and food shortages. I become transfixed by the tragedy of inequality where I have money to burn and others are poor beyond belief. I am, at times, overwhelmed by the apathy that I sometimes rile against and at other times participate in wholeheartedly.
This Lent, I’m letting myself live in the Friday-ness of it all. I’m hoping and trusting that I will have a Sunday again, and in the meantime have enough faith to live the fullness of Friday. That’s what those in exile did. That’s what many of TEAR’s partners, working with communities on the margins, do. That’s what Abraham did when by faith he looked for but never saw Zion, his city of promise. That’s what Jesus did – and he continues to call us into this difficult and uncomfortable space.
It’s Friday, a now but not yet time between times, but by faith I believe in Sunday.
Ben Clarke is TEAR’s South Australian State Coordinator.