This is a brief synopsis of my Day of Tears (aka “Good Friday”) message.
Last week was what is known as Holy Week. It is the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the last supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, his arrest, conviction, beating and brutal death on a cross.
Though I’m sure Jesus was not so naïve nor arrogant as to believe that his entry on the back of a colt, to cheering crowds, and the chanting of Hosanna to the King, could last, I’m sure the people wanted it to, hoped it would. Their excitement was real, their dreams of life without oppression suddenly flitted within arm’s reach. Please, God, let it be true. By the end of the week, their hopes and their hallelujah were broken and shattered.
It may have seemed an odd choice for the service on Friday, but the choir sang a shortened version of Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” right before my message. The song has a gut-wrenching, haunting quality that calls out to us in the words, “There’s a blaze of light in every word, it doesn’t matter what you heard, the holy or the broken Hallelujah….”
(For the full audio version, click here.)
This week led us from the holy to the broken hallelujahs. Our voices were proud, strong, joyful and hopeful at the beginning of the week. But by Friday night, whatever praise we could eek out, was in a voice broken by grief, torn by despair.
What the heck happened here?
Everything was going so well?
Certainly he was the Messiah, the one to bring peace and harmony?
All the signs were there. How could it all go wrong?
The holy and the broken hallelujahs are not just part of religious life and the religious story. They are your story and my story. They are the huge highs and lows of life. Those times when all is right with the world, life is good, we are happy, we sing at the top of our lungs, we thank God for our blessings, we feel invincible… and then there is a plot twist, an unexpected turn for the worse – an accident, a job loss, a cancer diagnosis, a sick child, a betrayal, a death. Life turns on us and we say… what on earth just happened here? How could it all go wrong so quickly? Our hallelujahs are broken and mournful. We know God is still with us, but we find it hard to croak out a word of thanksgiving, much less a hallelujah.
Though it wasn’t intended to, the last verse seems to fit Jesus pretty appropriately:
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
The strength, the integrity, and the love with which he lived until the end is an amazing example for each of us when we experience our own times of brokenness, loss and pain.