The purpose of the Tenebrae service is to connect with those people who experienced the loss of Jesus Christ firsthand. As the sanctuary darkens, we experience some of the darkness that overtook their world and their life. When we see the Christ candle leave the sanctuary, we may feel a moment of hopelessness and helplessness. There is nothing to celebrate in this service. Our one hope, that we might indeed be reunited to our Creator, is dead and buried.
I have pastoral colleagues who will not observe a Tenebrae service because they say we live in a post – Easter church. We cannot be without hope because hope has already been raised. Yes, fortunately, that is true. Still, the disciples lived, for a few days, knowing that Christ would never again walk with them, teach them, and show them the power of God in their midst. We live knowing that the power of God is always with us, alive in us through the person of the Holy Spirit.
Yet we live in a society that, even as it is able to allow us to connect in more ways than any other society in the history of the world, is more fractured than any previous society. We can call, text, E-mail, FaceBook, tweet, chat, etc, but we still know less and less about one another. We lose compassion, never really gaining understanding of our brother or sister in Christ.
Tenebrae reminds us of that brokenness. It tells us that we need restoration.
When the disciples had community, what was its center, its focal point? The community of faith centered itself around the person of Jesus Christ. It did not divide up over mode of baptism or style of music. It cared nothing about pre-millennialism, post-millennialism, or amillenialism. It was immediate because the need for restoration was immediate. We were broken and there was no better time to fix our brokenness than right now. We were too busy evangelizing the world to worry that one of our group should be hated as a tax collector, another was a blue collar fisherman, another was an anarchist, and another, even though he stole from the group, was allowed to stay a part of the community as long as he was willing.
Today we divide over politics, race, worship styles, marriage issues, nationality, and many other things. In so many ways we seem more lost than they ever were. Yes, indeed, the darkness of the Tenebrae seems overwhelming at this point. Our hopelessness seems to equal that of the disciples.
We do know the end of the story. But, now do you have a little better appreciation for the view the disciples had on Good Friday?