The Mars Hill Good Friday Service: A Reflection

Most of my family and I watched the Mars Hill Church Good Friday Service on-line. Some brief thoughts:

  1. There was blood—a lot of it. It almost seemed like I was watching Gibson’s The Passion, although upon further reflection it was much different. While The Passion was often gratuitous in the blood-splattering, Mars Hill’s service didn’t come across that way. Rather, paradoxically, it was more disturbing, although I couldn’t attribute my sense of unease merely to the sheer quantity of blood.
  2. The imagery (a mix of still photography juxtaposed with videotaped dramatization), mingled with the Scriptures, was equally wholly disturbing yet wholly appropriate. From the ominous blood drops onto Judas’ coins to the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion (i.e. flogging, carrying the cross, and the crucifixion itself), it admittedly made for strenuous viewing. And yet, I couldn’t turn away.
  3. There was a lot of Scripture. Indeed, from beginning to end, it was a weaving of the Gospel narratives, from the Last Supper till Jesus’ final breath. It was read, even dramatized, with measured cadence. As powerful as the imagery was (so powerful that more than a few people watching reportedly became physically sick) it did not upstage the scriptural narrative, but rather enhanced it, ensuring the biblical account was central from beginning to end.
  4. The songs were wonderful. They began with their version of Twila Paris’ “Lamb of God,” and ended with Gillian Welch’s “By the Mark.” In between they also sang one of my favorite modern-day hymns, Stuart Townsend’s “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”  Mind you, these songs were done with Seattle grunge flair, which often lent an air of sonic dissonance, which accentuated the heightened narrative (save for Welch’s song, which was a quiet, reflective and beautifully hopeful anticipation of Easter Sunday). 

In summary: the quantity of blood, graphic imagery and primacy of Scripture, accompanied by a varied song selection, made for a Good Friday remembrance I won’t soon forget. For all of the church’s talk about the blood of Christ (which can all too often become peripheral or sanitized), it was hauntingly refreshing to be reminded once again of the necessity of Jesus’ blood spilt for such a rebel brood.