My first Tenebrae service was less than a decade ago. I said "Excuse me?" to the elder who served me communion because I'd never been served it and certainly never had the words, "The blood of Christ shed for you," accompanying it. In my circles we take communion or pass it, rarely by intinction or only on special occasions. "As often as you do this," has become often and rote and tacked on at the end of the service. A cardboard cracker with a plastic cup of Welch's.
"My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me," sounded from the balcony and the candles were extinguished one by one by one by one. We who have walked in darkness walked out in darkness that night.
We all know that Sunday is coming and our Easter best will prove it, pinks and blues and spring greens masking how still dark some of our Easters feel. He is risen, he is risen indeed, but some of us still feel the bleary-eyed darkness of Thursday and Friday and Saturday in our earth encrusted eyes and ears accustomed to nos. I feel like Peter around Easter every year, full of disappointment and denials and "How longs?" and "Surely nots." I feel as he must have felt when Christ rebuked him, called him or the spirit within his words, "Satan," and instructed him behind him. That's the kind of disappointing I think I am to the God of the universe sometimes and Easter doesn't resolve that, no matter how many times we echo "He is risen indeed."
We who have walked in darkness still sometimes do.
I have been thinking about all the nos I've gotten in my life. Hoards of them, echoes and echoes of them, big ones, little ones. Nos from those who knew better and nos from those I didn't think knew better. It's easy in an Instagram, celebrity, and loud, loud world to assume most people live in the kingdom of Yes. Even the marginalized who make it make it sound like they won't take no for an answer. But the great majority of most of our lives is no. Sometimes it's not yet or not quite or tomorrow or someday, but most of us don't have that sort of futuristic information. We learn to live with no.
I think about the disciples today, on this Good Friday. The king who they thought would take a throne is dying on a cross and it is darkness, darkness all around.
This is a no.
No matter how you rationalize or rush to remember and remind that we're Sunday people, they weren't. Not yet. They were still Friday people and Saturday people. They were hearing the darkest no of their lives and no takes a while to heal from, so I understand all the doubt floating around on that first Easter morning.
I will always be grateful for Easter mornings, for Resurrection Sundays, and for pinks and blues and spring greens. But I also feel a deep sensitivity for those for whom Sunday still feels like a Friday or Saturday. For those whose ears are so tuned to no, they can't imagine a yes. This is most of us, if we're honest. Even the pastors and theologians and church staffers who will wear pink or gingham ties and go to bed bone tired Sunday night from serving. Most of us know the light is coming and is here, in part, already. But we'll all head back into Monday and most Mondays feel like walking among a people in darkness who haven't yet seen a great light. It is good work, but it is hard, and it reminds us all to say and keep saying, with our ancient brothers and sisters, "How long, O Lord?" and "Come quickly."
The King has come and is coming again. But today, on this Good Friday, and tomorrow on this Black Saturday, and in a few days on a mostly ordinary Monday we still see in part dimly. I need reminders that the full light of life is coming, maybe you do too.
A few months ago a pastor at my church paraphrased from the Westminster Catechism during communion. He said, "As surely as I can taste the crumbs of this wafer and the juice that washes it down, this is how sure my salvation is." I think of this every week now, as I take communion: "My salvation is as real as the crunch of this wafer, as real as the sweet sharpness of the fruit of the vine." As often as I do it, I have to remind myself because I am a forgetting sort and a busy sort and the sort who gets caught up in doing more than being, in saying more than believing, and in gospeling more than being gospeled.
Before Easter Sunday I am more like Peter but after I am more like Thomas. I need the tangibleness of a Savior who offered to the doubter his nail-scarred hands and broken side: "Touch me," he said, "Thrust your hand into my side and believe." I need the physicalness of a Savior who knows how the nos condition us to disbelieve and who offers us something to feel, to touch, to see, to know. Communion, however rote and however unlike I wish it were done in my circles, is this reminder to the Sunday people and the ones still stuck in Saturday, that he knows our frame, he knows that we are but dust today. And there is a better, more eternal, Sunday coming.