It’s Good Friday. I usually don’t use a quote for an entire post, but this is special. This is my favorite Easter story from Tony Campolo. I hope it encourages you today.
I belong to a Black church in West Philadelphia. I’ve been a member of that church for decades, & for me, Mt. Carmel Baptist Church is the closest thing to Heaven this side of the pearly gates. I preach to a lot of congregations, but I have to say that no other group of people fills me with excitement like the congregation of my home church. People in my congregation always let me know how I’m doing. Whether I am good or bad, they let me know how they feel about my message.
One time when I was preaching, I sensed no movement of the dynamism of God. I was struggling, as you have seen ministers struggle, & seemed to be getting nowhere. I had gotten about three-quarters of the way through my sermon when some lady on the back row yelled, “Help him, Jesus! Help him, Jesus!” That was all the evidence I needed that things were not going well that day.
On the other hand, when the preacher is really “on” in my church, they let him know that too. The deacons sit right under the pulpit, & whenever the preacher says something especially good, they cheer him on by yelling, “Preach, Brother! Preach!” And I want to tell you that when they do that to me, it makes me want to preach!
The women in my church have a special way of responding when the preacher is “doing good.” They wave one hand in the air & call out to the preacher, “Well, well.” Whenever they do that to me, my hormones bubble. But that’s not all. When I really get going, the men in my congregation shout encouragement by saying, “Keep going, Brother! Keep going!” I assure you that you’d never hear “Keep going!” from a White congregation. They’re more likely to check their watches & mumble, “Stop! Stop!”
One Good Friday there were 7 of us preaching back to back. When it was my turn to preach, I rolled into high gear, & I want to tell you, I was good. The more I preached, the more the people in that congregation turned on, & the more they turned on, the better I got. I got better & better & better. I got so good that I wanted to take notes on me! At the end of my message, the congregation broke loose. I was absolutely thrilled to hear the hallelujahs & their cries of joy. I sat down next to my pastor & he looked at me with a smile. He reached down with his hand & squeezed my knee. “You did all right!” he said.
I turned to him & asked, “Pastor, are you going to be able to top that?”
The old man smiled at me & said, “Son, you just sit back, ’cause this old man is going to do you in!”
I didn’t figure that anybody could have done me in that day. I had been so good. But the old guy got up, & I have to admit, he did me in—with one line. For an hour & a half he preached one line over & over again. For an hour & a half he stood that crowd on its ear with just one line:
“It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!” That statement may not blow you away, but you should have heard him do it. He started his sermon real softly by saying, “It was Friday; it was Friday & my Jesus was dead on the tree. But that was Friday, & Sunday’s comin’!”
One of the deacons yelled, “Preach, Brother! Preach!” It was all the encouragement he needed. He came on louder as he said, “It was Friday & Mary was cryin’ her eyes out. The disciples were runnin’ in every direction, like sheep without a shepherd. But that was Friday, & Sunday’s comin’!” People in the congregation were beginning to pick up the message. Women were waving their hands in the air & calling softly, “Well, well.” Some of the men were yelling, “Keep going! Keep going!”
The preacher kept going. He picked up the volume still more & shouted, “It was Friday. The cynics were lookin’ at the world & sayin’, ‘As things have been so they shall be. You can’t change anything in this world; you can’t change anything.’ But those cynics didn’t know that it was only Friday. Sunday’s comin’!
“It was Friday! And on Friday, those forces that oppress the poor & make the poor to suffer were in control. But that was Friday! Sunday’s comin’!
“It was Friday, & on Friday Pilate thought he had washed his hands of a lot of trouble. The Pharisees were struttin’ around, laughin’ & pokin’ each other in the ribs. They thought they were back in charge of things, but they didn’t know that it was only Friday! Sunday’s comin’!”
He worked that one phrase for a half-hour, then an hour, then an hour & a quarter, then an hour & a half. Over & over he came at us, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’! It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’! It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!”
By the time he came to the end of the message, I was exhausted. He had me & everybody else so worked up that I don’t think any of us could have stood it much longer. At the end of his message he just yelled at the top of his lungs, “IT’S FRIDAY!” & all 500 of us in that church yelled back with one accord, “BUT SUNDAY’S COMIN’!”
That’s the Good News. That is the word that the world is waiting to hear. That’s what we have got to go out there & tell the world’s people.
When they are psychologically depressed, we have to tell them that Sunday’s coming. When they feel that they can never know love again, we’ve got to tell them that Sunday’s coming. When they have lost their belief in the miraculous so that they no longer expect great things from God, we must tell them that Sunday’s coming.
We must go to a world that is suffering economic injustice & political oppression & tell them that Sunday’s coming. The world may be filled with 5 million hungry. Half of the planet may be under the tyranny of communist domination. Dictators may rule in Latin America. People may find their rights abridged & their hopes under attack. But I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, because to all of those who are on the brink of despair, I can yell at the top of my lungs, “IT’S FRIDAY, BUT SUNDAY’S COMIN’!”