It has been Open Table’s practice to observe Good Friday with a solemn Tenebrae service based on the “seven last sayings of Christ,” seven statements the Gospels collectively attribute to Jesus as he hung from the cross. We pair each of these scriptures with a hymn or song and a prayer or brief reflection from the pastor followed by the extinguishing of one of the seven candles on the altar. We depart in silence.
Using this post to gather “virtually” this holy Friday, we share this blogpost by Emily M. D. Scott, titled “Suffering Doesn’t Save: Good Friday Stations that don’t Fetishize Pain,” whose theme that “suffering doesn’t save” has been the focus of our past Good Friday services. Rather than following the “Seven Last Sayings,” Scott creates modern visual equivalents of the Stations of the Cross, which also support our intention to weep for the countless victims of violence in this world, to express our dedication to the nonviolent path that Jesus trod, to repent of the harm we have done to others. We do not want to become voyeurs of violence, using the cross to manipulate and titillate. We see the cross not as God’s plan for salvation but humanity’s capacity for scapegoating; a consequence of sin, not our deliverance from it.
We invite you to use the photographs curated by Emily Scott to meditate not only on the death of Jesus but also imaginatively and compassionately enter the experiences of persons today: in hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19, war zones, prisons, protest movements, violent or impoverished homes and neighborhoods, inside the minds of persons struggling with mental illness—and with people in other places of suffering. Pray for the perpetrators of violence, too, and for our own complicity in violent policies and systems. The cross can represent the realities of human suffering, abandonment, and death, often at the hands of powerful governmental and religious institutions, and point us to Jesus’ alternate Way of peace and compassion and courage.
Peace be with you, dear friends.