Our church this morning was surprisingly upbeat. Surprising, because it’s Good Friday, the day when Christian commemorate the crucifixion and death of Christ. Not exactly cheerful subject matter.
In my western Christian tradition, it’s normally a fairly somber day, with a focus not only on Christ’s suffering but our own sin which, in the words of a famous hymn “held him there until it was accomplished.” We focus on the betrayal of Jesus by his own (forgetting of course, the women and the beloved disciple) and how we would do no better. We come conscious of our sin and humbly thankful for Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. We say, “It’s Friday… but Sunday is coming.” It’s not celebration time yet. That would seem sacrilegious.
At City Harvest Dar, the worship team wore black with a bit of red, but it was all dance moves and joy. The service opened with ‘Msalaba ndio asili ya mema‘. In English, it’s:
The cross is the source of goodness
Here I laid my burdens down.
I have life and eternal happiness
Come, celebrate here.
From there, we went into a song about the blood of Jesus, how we can’t pay for sin without it, be cleansed without it, please God without it, etc. There are familiar themes here, like our debt of sin and broken relationship with God. Yet, the focus is not on these things but on the one who deals with them.
And so the singing morphed into amazement and praise. Who else could do this? Who else would do this? The one who does this is worthy of all honour and glory and praise! Which all melds beautifully into that great theme of Tanzanian Christianity, that there is no God like our God.
Seeing this progression, I felt I understood Revelation 5 a bit better. I’ve found the focus on worthiness perplexing at times: there’s just not a lot about me in there! As in, not a lot about why Jesus had to die; it’s all about him. Yet, if I am tempted to make Good Friday about how unworthy I am, Tanzanian Christianity teaches me to look not at myself and my own unworthiness but at Jesus and his worthiness.
I guess if you’re in a culture where guilt and innocence are prominent, it might be appropriate to spend time focusing on personal sin and its solution, especially if people assume themselves to be innocent or generally good. (Then again, maybe not but that’s a discussion for another day!) But in Tanzania, sin and its effects are not disputed. People see poverty; they are daily confronted with their own inadequacies and failings as well as those of more powerful people and of spirits and demons. Their need is for a saviour from all these things, and he needs to be able to deliver.
And so, in the sermon, our ears were pummelled with the good news that the blood of Jesus means we are forgiven, healed, freed, etc. It didn’t feel like good news to me, in terms of the delivery. It felt like being assaulted! If you didn’t understand the words, you’d think the sermon was fire and brimstone. But in Tanzania, the medium has to match the message, so if the Saviour is in fact powerful, this news will be delivered with power.
The cross is the source of this goodness coming to us. So Good Friday, as the day of our deliverance, is less somber in tone and more celebratory.
This is the third time I’ve blogged about a Good Friday service from our Tanzanian church. You might like to check out the complementary perspectives from my other two posts:
Categories: Tanzania Written by Tamie
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.
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