Good Friday Lutherans & Empty Crosses

We’ve all heard of “C&E Christians” – that strange breed that shows up for church on Christmas and Easter, but no other time. The church just pops into existence for those two days, and then disappears so one need not be bothered with actual attendance. Whatever. Even the book of Hebrews laments the trend of those who “neglect the assembling of themselves together.” There is nothing new under the sun, I suppose.

But there is a smaller and more unusual group of otherwise faithful Christians – usually from Baptistic churches – that I see every year not on Easter or Christmas Eve (their churches have services on those days), but on Good Friday. They attend our Tenebrae service. “Our church doesn’t offer one of these” they say. I once heard, “I grew up Lutheran, and we go to the <a local Baptistic church>. But Easter just doesn’t feel right without Good Friday.”

And I always want to say, but never have, “What does that say about your church?”

Of course, the liturgical year is not required for salvation. There is no command from God that we celebrate Good Friday. And in the early church there were those who wanted to pick one day for Easter and move it around the week like we do with Christmas. If that view had prevailed, we’d have celebrated Good Friday this year on Palm Sunday. So, Good Friday itself is not the issue.

But what does it say about a church that they don’t set aside even one day a year, specifically to commemorate the death of our Lord. Today we read the entire Passion account according to Saint John. I assume the “Good Friday Lutherans” find this edifying, because I’ve had them return from year to year. I certainly find it edifying. But apparently their pastors and churches do not.

It’s also noticeable that such churches practically never have their artwork feature Jesus on the cross. They claim second commandment (which is really 1A). But I’m not convinced. They rid themselves of the liturgical tradition that has “Read the entire passion account”. They read the commandment rigidly so they need never look at a figure of the crucified Christ (but often put on cute pageants involving local farm animals to have the baby Jesus in the manger). And I wonder, what about the crucifixion is is too offensive to ever face head on in the church? To ask the question is almost to answer it.

I can’t imagine a year without Good Friday before Easter Sunday. My children can’t either at this point in their lives. But millions of otherwise Christian folk just don’t think its necessary for us to set aside time to hear the of the death of our Lord. So be it. For those who insist on attending a Lutheran church just on this day, because they find that Easter doesn’t feel right without Good Friday, I agree. But I am curious why you attend a church that doesn’t.

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