This is a brief story, a personal one.
I quite understand if some of you are not as drawn in personal stories so I thought I’d give you a “heads
up” not to read further.
This is about Good Friday morning.
My wife, Kerry, was co-hosting an Easter retreat at Rivendell on Bowen Island, and I was planning to
attend the First Baptist Church Vancouver’s Good Friday service at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. That
service was not until 10:30. I had some time on my hands because my day started with dropping off a
car to my daughter, Jessica, who lives on Commercial Drive, so at 8:00 am, I drop off the car and was
very near Grandview Calvary Church. I had no plans, just felt peaceful and was enjoying the quiet of
the city. That quiet is hard to come by. As I waited at the bus stop to take me downtown, I thought
about Grandview Calvary, and decided to just walk over two blocks to stand in front of their building
and pray for their Easter weekend, and all the times that they would meet and also reach out to others.
I wandered back to the bus and went downtown, which inevitably meanders through the Downtown
Eastside, one of the poorest urban neighbourhoods in Canada (there are so many rural neighbourhoods
that are far worse off and under resourced in this country but we have a fixation about the urban poor).
I remembered as I approached the Downtown Eastside that our son Andrew co-manages a facility, and
while I knew he was working that morning, and wondered if he had time for coffee.
I phoned him; there was no answer.
So I continued walking from Gore and Hastings right through the Downtown Eastside “strip” until I
got to the other side of the Woodward development (if some of you know the area) to one of those
gentrified, overly tidied (given its’ neighbourhood) comfortable pockets, a coffee house called JJ Bean. I
hadn’t heard from Andrew, so I started reading the paper that morning; the Globe and Mail. Something
had gone terribly wrong because the Globe and Mail was writing positively about the Christian faith,
John Stackhouse’s article about “What’s Good about Good Friday?” should be standard reading for all of
us on Easter, but I was particularly drawn to the article about the new Pope; Francis who was, as part of
his Easter ritual, imitating Christ at the last supper by washing the feet of a dozen folk. These particular folk happened to be youth at a detention facility in Rome. There is an anti-youth, fearful backlash going on in many places in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa because so many youth are unemployed and angry. Francis could not have picked a better group to show love and respect to. I was moved as I read
this piece, and then (it must have been the Spirit) I got to thinking, why all the emotion about something
that happened 9 or 10 time zones away when two blocks from here your own son is embedded in a
neighbourhood in great need? I’ll not get into the detail. I quaffed my coffee and went over to see my
son, met some fascinating people, dwelt in the midst of what good Friday is actually about… so much
more then a good cup of coffee, a newspaper and imaging empathy for people I do not know. Later in
the morning, I walked up to the Good Friday service at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and heard Darrell
Johnson speak of the Temple curtain being torn in two from top to bottom, and listened even more
about the powerful imagery that that reality created in the hearts and minds of that time and this. The
curtain which segregated and excluded, now torn open, made the direct experience of God accessible
to everyone; the folk that I had met on the bus that morning, the oh-so-tidy folk like me at the coffee
house, those I met on the street, friends of my son, and those at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, whose
stories I will likely never know no matter how “nicely they cleaned up” for service.
That’s part of my Good Friday. I began early in the morning faced with a life full of compartments, each
compartment crowded with different types of folks, compartments of my own making, dismantled at
the tearing of the curtain announcing the culmination of the death of Jesus, or as Nikos Kazantzakis once
said, “when Jesus said it is finished, it is as if everything has just begun”. My Good Friday began rather
predictably until the Holy Spirit pried my eyes open, I saw so many of the new beginnings that Jesus had
in mind for us — in his passion, his death, and resurrection.