Apologies have been issued after it was pointed out to Tesco that this Easter-season advert somewhat missed the point. I suspect it was dreamt up by a team whose religious mantra is more along the line of “Thank God it’s Friday” than simply “Thank God”. That it made it from the drawing board to advertisements in newspapers is probably more indicative of widespread illiteracy about Christianity rather than being a deliberately callous slur. As far as I’m aware, Archbishop John Sentamu and Prime Minister Theresa May have kept their heads down on this one, after getting egg on their faces by protesting about ‘Easter’ getting dropped from the headline banner of “Cadbury egg hunts” in National Trust advertising (even if it had been removed entirely, does the E-word christianize fun-filled, chocolate-fuelled marketing events presided over by an anthropomorphic bunny?).
Good Friday isn’t “good” as in “good times”. Interpretations vary. Some suggest it was originally “God’s Friday” or simply that, although wrapped in the worst kinds of torture and humiliation humans can inflict it was the day when Satan’s curse was defeated, even if you have to turn the page to Resurrection Sunday to realise that when Jesus said, “it is finished” (Jn 19:30) he meant that he had won, not lost.
Sorrow and love, to borrow from the hymn, still flow mingled down. In the UK, the worst most Christians suffer is to be the butt of a few jokes and victims of the occasional misunderstanding, although still persisting to do more good than harm in most situations. Across the globe, the picture is more extreme. It is suggested that more Christians have been killed for their faith in the last 100 years than in the previous 1,900 years of church history (I suspect that might still stand, even adjusting for population increases); Christians are currently persecuted severely in many places, as documented by Open Doors. However, that same page also has hope in abundance – the church is also growing strongly despite the persecution.
One of the songs we will be singing at church on Sunday is “The Greatest Day in History” and I expect most people will take that to mean Easter Sunday. However, I wonder if that really ought to be used to today instead? We are still living in a time of growing pains. God is still working his purposes out. I can see that, for now, it is entirely appropriate to wait another couple of days to celebrate and to remember darker, mourning notes. However, when we stand on eternity’s shore, another song borrowing, I wonder if, in that timeless place, we will elide the two moments together.
Good Friday. Part of the greatest day in history. Often every little helps but this day can’t get better!