MARCH 3rd 2017
THANK GOD FOR FRIDAY
Today is Friday. It always has a resonance about it, a Friday.
For a lot of us, 6pm on a Friday comes as a gift. It comes with thanksgiving. The American restaurant chain TGI Friday have built their business model out of it! Starting in 1965 as a cocktail bar in New York, it is now a worldwide franchise with 900 restaurants in 60 countries. A place for people to let their hair down after a hard week at work. But I wonder, how many customers know that TGI stands for 'Thank God its...'
Friday evening is a day in our culture when many go out and begin a weekend of relaxation, looking forward to letting go of the stresses and strains of the working week.
But there are other things that resonate about Fridays. Especially so, perhaps, in Lent. It is of course a solemn day for Christians. For in six Fridays time we will mark Good Friday. I wonder if there is a way we should, at least in Lent, identify ourselves with Christ crucified on that Friday. One correspondent has commented upon the lessons we could learn from Christians from other countries who take fasting and prayer seriously, very seriously, as a Lenten discipline. And they wonder, perhaps justifiably, if their Western brothers and sisters truly have begun to understand the significance of Lent at all. I wonder what you think?
But it is also true that we should be celebratory on a Friday evening. For by 6pm on that first Good Friday, everything had changed. Absolutely everything. At a cosmic level, the new reign of forgiveness of sins had begun. And all creation, as Romans 8 tells us, is waiting for the sons and daughters of God to come into their own, to claim their vocation as image-bearers of God. 'Thank God for Friday' means something utterly different to TGIF.
It seems to me that the two other religions of 'The Book' have a considerably more intentional understanding of the importance of Fridays. We know that for Muslims around the world, Friday is the holy day of prayer. Friday is actually called, in Arabic, Al Jumu'ah, which means the 'day of the congregation'. Although devout Muslims pray daily five times, on Fridays it is the duty of all Muslims to come together, just after noon, for the main prayers.
In Judaism, Friday evening at sundown (6pm at the moment), is the start of the Sabbath. And there is a special prayer for the lighting of candles to signify the start of the Day of Rest:
Blessed are you, Adonai our God,
Sovereign of the universe,
who hallows us with mitzvot*,
commanding us to kindle the light of Shabbat.
*Mitzvot means 'any good deed' and also the 613 commandments of God found in the Hebrew bible.
The centrality of the cross surely makes Fridays a holy day for us too. Here is the Collect for Good Friday from the Church of England:
look with mercy on this your family
for which our Lord Jesus Christ was content to be betrayed
and given up into the hands of sinners
and to suffer death upon the cross;
who is alive and glorified with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.