Where Were the Children? [A Good Friday Reflection]

This post was originally published on Good Friday in 2016. We attended a similar Maundy Thursday service last night, at a new congregation, and I was again struck by their incredible ability to really understand what was happening. They both left worship with questions and reflections about how much Jesus loved his friends. I’m republishing this as it was originally written, because it’s been in the archives for far too long, and because sometimes the original says it better than anything new I could come up with.

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But why are they taking the candles away Mama? she asks, with tears in her eyes. I like the candles. Will they bring them back?

This is the first Maundy Thursday service we’ve been to in several years. The last one I can remember going to, we left early – because A was just a year old and staying out past 7pm just wasn’t in our cards. But this year, I didn’t care how late we were out … I didn’t want to miss it. I wanted to experience the remembrance of those last days. The last meal. The foot washing. The prayers in the garden. That last night with his friends, his disciples, his family.

I wanted my children to experience it. As difficult as it is to watch … as difficult as it is to understand … the majesty of Easter just isn’t as glorious without experiencing the loss. I wanted them to experience that loss …. so that when we walk in to Easter service and we see the flowers, the candles, the white paraments … when we hear the loud bells and trumpets sounding, it truly is majestic and glorious.

But man did it tear me up inside when my 20-month old asked to go up to have her feet washed. And man did it break my heart to watch my 4-year-old begin to comprehend what was going on.

We’ve dealt with a lot of loss in our family over the last 6 months. The loss of favorite toys that were too big to make the move with us. The loss of a house that was home. The loss of a neighborhood that was so very good to us, and will never be replaceable. The loss of a community of friends that we could call on at any time – whenever we needed them. The loss of two sweet kitties who still have a forever home in our hearts. The loss of a yard where we spent hours of our time – playing, planting, praying. The loss of a church that was far from perfect, but was still home. The loss of family being close by. This watching of the alter being stripped – it was just one more loss for her. For all of us.

And it got me thinking … where were all the children that night that Jesus was arrested and taken away? It was late in the evening, so I imagine they were safe at home with their parents – maybe eating dinner, maybe getting ready for bed, maybe already sleeping. What was it like for them when they awoke the next day and were told that Jesus – the man that welcomed them with open arms when the rest of society pushed them to the side – the man that they loved so dearly – was gone? How did their parents explain it to them? What did they say when the questions started rolling in?

My response went something like this:

They are taking them away so we remember what it was like the night Jesus died. People were sad. They were scared. It was dark and quiet and lonely. But when we come back for Easter service on Sunday, it will all be back.

Because as hard as it is for me to answer the questions, at least I know the loss isn’t forever. At least my response can include the hope that those things we love about worship – the candles, the paraments, the music, the flowers – they will be back. I can’t imagine Maundy Thursday and Good Friday without knowing Easter was coming. And the last several years – those years that I have experienced Easter without experiencing the loss of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday – Easter just didn’t have the same amount of majesty.

So today, on this Holy Good Friday, here’s a blessing for you – a blessing for all of us …

May you take the time to remember the loss, may you remember the quiet of those dark three days, and may you forever rest in the hope that Easter is coming.