A Good Friday to Acknowledge Grief and Death

I’ve had several conversations the past two weeks with pastoral colleagues about how to navigate this unique Holy Week. Typically on Palm Sunday, we encourage our congregations not to rush forward to Easter, but instead to walk through the events of Jesus’ last week – his suffering, crucifixion, death, and burial. Yet in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s tempting to gloss over Good Friday and opt for a spoiler alert: it’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

Who wants to focus on suffering and death when we’re surrounded by so much suffering and death? Who’s ready to move forward to brighter, more hopeful days ahead? Who’s wrestling with how to hope for those brighter days when we’re surrounded by so much suffering and death?

In talking with colleagues, one conversation in particular helped bridge some of these questions. She, her husband, and children had a sabbatical scheduled, beginning next month. A large portion of their sabbatical was to be spent traveling to Europe and South America. While they are still taking a sabbatical, obviously, their travel plans have changed. She said that on Good Friday they planned to bury – literally – their sabbatical plans in their backyard. Then on Easter Monday they will start fresh and design a new sabbatical.

There’s something powerful and deeply theological in that for me.

On that first Good Friday when Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb, the disciples thought all of their plans, their hopes, their dreams were buried right there with him.

But then on Sunday, they discovered all those plans, hopes, and dreams were alive and well again. Not the way they expected. Something far better.

Like my friend and those first disciples, each of us has experienced the death of some of our own plans and aspirations as a result of the pandemic. The loss of a job. A reduction in our retirement savings. A canceled commencement. The loss of a sports season. No end-of-year school activities. A postponed road race. The inability to gather in a hospital room or at a wedding or funeral. The inability to go out to eat or get a haircut. The loss of routine and “normal” life.

Each of us has experienced a loss, and each of us is grieving that loss. As a way of acknowledging that grief, what if today, like my friend, we took time to bury that which we have lost?

What do you need to bury today?

Whether you literally bury something – a vacation itinerary, an unused sports ticket, an invitation, an old business card – or figuratively bury it through journaling, meditation, or prayer, take time today to acknowledge the loss and allow yourself to grieve. Then take time to consider what new thing God might have in store for you in the future…

…for it is Friday, but Sunday is surely coming.

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