Saturday, April 11, 2009
Good Friday 2009: Locked in the Grain Shed
In my off farm job, I get a half day off for Good Friday, so I went home to do farm chores before church. Sometimes in the course of getting work done, I make more work for myself. I have a small 12X12 building to store feed grain and a few hand tools. The door was scrounged from somewhere, and sometimes blows open in high winds, so last Fall I nailed a short board beside it to keep it. About 2:00 on Good Friday, I needed a shovel. Because my cowdog was with me, and there was a litter of kittens inside, I did something I almost never do-closed the door from the inside. The minute I did, the homemade keeper on the outside swiveled into locked position.
I was stuck inside. While my dog Nipper is very bright, she is too short to reach the lock. I am not claustrophobic, but I did have things to do. My wife could not hear if I yelled. I had enough tools in the shed to break out, but anything I break, I have to fix.
In the end, I decided that the door was the most expendable part of the building. On the fourth hard kick, it broke enough for me to reach the swivel with a piece of stick. I spent part of the rest of the day fixing my own mess.
Some messes I can fix myself. My legs are strong enough to kick though a decrepit door. One mess I can't fix is the one inside me. As Mike Horton puts it, "We are all trapped in a burning elevator comprised of of our own narcissistic existence and need a rescuer". The message of good Friday and Easter is that someone comes to open a door I can't kick through. He takes the mess of my life upon himself, and ultimately kicks down the door of sin, hell, and death. This lets me out of the burning elevator.
Our Good Friday Service was an occasion of particular solemn joy because our Anglican church was joined by two Presbyterian pastors and their flocks. The church we rent from (Highland Presbyterian) joined us, as did Gateway Evangelical Presbyterian Church . The homily was delivered by Rev. Dr. T David Gordon, who is a PCA minister, also licensed to preach in our diocese.
So our 1928 Anglican prayer book service was conducted by three Presbyterians and one Anglican clergyman. I thought a lot about standing in this little church in my western Pennsylvania hometown, but also at a crossroads of Geneva and Canterbury. Presbyterians and Anglicans, like all parts of the church, have a checkered history. I remembered that Calvinists in 17th Century England used to steal the surplices from Anglican churches and throw them in outhouses. In an attempt to bring episcopal church government to Scotland, many Anglicans persecuted the Presbyterians, including drowning by chaining women out a low tide. Presbyterians hacked apart an Anglican Bishop in front of his daughter.
I know way too much shameful history to romanticize the past of any confession.From the outrageous savagery of the Byzantine empire to the brutality of the English Civil War, The church has proven it is comprised of sinners. I also know there is no better place for sinners to stand together than at the foot of the cross on Good Friday.