All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Have you ever been known to "chase rabbits?" You know, you start off on one topic and you find a point of interest and follow that train of thought, and then you find another point of interest and follow that train of thought and pretty soon, you forget where you started.
Today, I was thinking about Good Friday and all of the events that happened on the day that Jesus was crucified. For the last two weeks, we have had a special exhibit and experience of Jesus' journey to the cross represented in artwork on display at Covington First UMC.
Today, Good Friday is the last day of this exhibit, and tonight we will have a special Good Friday service at the church. As a faith congregation, we have studied the last 24 hours of Jesus' life and Jesus' final words from the cross, and we have been on a journey through the season of Lent in which we have focused on asking God to help us change things in our lives like harboring hard feelings and grudges, stopping bad habits, and even improving our devotional life habits.
As I was reflecting on our journey to Good Friday, and to the cross, I began to wonder how "Good Friday" became known as "Good" Friday, when it seems like the cruelty and shame of the crucifixion of Jesus was anything but "Good." So I did what any 21st century curious scholar would do - I Googled it! I found out that the reference of the Friday of Christ's Passion as "Good Friday" was first documented by St. Irenaeus in as early as 155 C.E.
Then, I wondered who Irenaeus was, so I followed a bunny trail, and read that he was a Bishop in the early church, and that he knew Polycarp. These are names I remember from some Church history class way back in seminary, but they are not names we use every day.
I remembered Polycarp, but besides being a creature from Pokemon, a popular anime cartoon, I didn't remember much about him. So I looked up Polycarp and reminded myself that he was probably the first Bishop of the early church at Smyrna, one of the churches established by Paul on one of his missionary journeys. In fact, Polycarp was around in the days of Paul and from his writings, we learn much about the early church and his interactions with some of the apostles, those eyewitnesses of Jesus' death and resurrection. So, Polycarp is important in the life of the church because he carried on the Gospel message, helped establish the church and see that it continued after Paul, and was even martyred for his faith as were many of the other early church leaders.
As I was thinking about Polycarp and the leaders of the early church, I began to wonder about the chronology of the church and how we got to where we are today, so off down the bunny trail I went to find a chronology of the Christian Fathers. Well, before this turns into a tome the size of War and Peace, I will just say that I learned a lot and remembered a lot of what I had learned in seminary that I have not necessarily used...well, at least not on a daily basis. That's what I get for chasing rabbits - an entire refresher course in Church History from the early church forward!
Sometimes sheep are like rabbits. They follow another sheep or even a lovely tuft of grass, and they keep following the grass, forgetting to look for the shepherd. And then they see another interesting plot of grass, and another one, and...well, pretty soon, they're "chasing rabbits" and have wandered away from the sight of the shepherd.
Isaiah reminds us that we are all like that - we all chase rabbits in our lives, wandering off out of the sight of the shepherd. Thanks be to God, the Good Shepherd comes to find us, gently reminds us that we have wandered, and leads us back to the fold. The Good Shepherd took on the sins of us all, dying on the cross for our sins so that we could have a restored relationship with God. As the favorite hymn "Amazing Grace" so eloquently proclaims, "I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see."
So, as I reflect on Good Friday and Jesus' suffering on the cross, I have to remember all of these things that have brought us to this time in the Christian year, and all of those who suffered for the Gospel so that I could sit in the comfort of my 21st century home and read the Gospel of Jesus Christ without fear of being thrown into pits with raging wild beasts or being nailed to a cross or shot in a line of a firing squad. And I remember those who did suffer, and those who still suffer injustice, persecution, and even death for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ, the one who died on the cross and who arose from the dead so that all of our Fridays could be Good Fridays.
This Easter, as you are chasing rabbits and bunnies, remember that an empty egg reminds us that the tomb was empty, that Christ is risen, and that it is our mission to carry on the message of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection so that those who follow us will know and so that those we follow will not have died in vain.
Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!!
Rev. Jan McCoy is the Associate Pastor of Covington First United Methodist Circuit in downtown Covington, GA. She may be reached at email@example.com