“Why is Good Friday good, Nana?” asks my grandbean.
The child knows very well what happened on that day so long ago. The day Christians remember the gruesome death of Jesus Christ, crucified on a rugged cross at Calvary, outside the gates of Jerusalem. A cross not much different from the one towering over the raspberry patch in our backyard. Rough unpainted wood. Old, but strong.
I noticed the cross on my first visit to our home before we bought it. A previous owner used it to hold up the far end of the clothesline. It still does that. Mostly, though, it reminds me of what’s good about Good Friday.
In autumn, the shedding season (perhaps my favourite) our clothesline cross reminds me that love costs. That the blood of Christ, streaming the length of his cross, made it possible for the likes of you and me to be at peace with God. “Good” isn’t a big or deep or wide enough word to describe that.
In the winter, when the cross stands superimposed over the bare trees just beyond, as though it has emerged from them, I remember that Calvary’s cross first grew up graceful. Green. And that even in the winter of our waning world (and the whine of my darkest days) Jesus’ death planted the seeds of eternal spring. Sins forgiven. The solid hope of unending life beyond life for believers. Those promises were sealed by Christ’s resurrection. And that’s beyond good, too.
The cross also reminds me of what’s good about Good Friday in spring and summer. When adult wrens, returning from their wanderings, fly to the far side of the cross and swoop into the opening of the wren house that hangs there. When they pop out ecstatic and perch on the crossbar to sing. Full warble. Heads back. Throats pulsating.
I know that song – I’ve sung one like it. A homecoming song. Clear. Joyful. The song of a soul set free by a resurrected Saviour. He who first spelled in spilled blood God’s love for the world he created. A world gone mad.
During the nesting season, before the chicks fledge, the parent birds chatter fierce warnings as we pick raspberries: Come no closer. We inhabit here. Our offspring we’re raising here. And make no mistake: we will defend our home.
Such audacity on the part of a one-ounce bird. To challenge me, an adult female human. I heed the warning. God gave wrens things I don’t have. A needle-sharp beak, swift wings and lion-sized courage.
I think of Calvary then, too. Pray for a wren’s determination to abide at the cross. To bring my loved ones into its shelter. To rest in the central doctrine of the Christian faith: our good God, giving his good Son, to invite a global collection of whosoevers to the eternal bounty of belief in a true Saviour.
What’s good about Good Friday? Ah, Bean. Let’s start over. Come with me to the clothesline cross…