“Thanks so much!”  “You have been a great help!”  “Much appreciated!”  The concierge service was impeccable, the wait staff most gracious, the iPad-toting ticket sellers selected desired shows on the spot and the theatre ushers almost carried you to your seats. Even at the airport, customs officers actually smiled and conversed, inviting us back to the city.  Indeed, the customer service was amazing! Where?  Why–in Las Vegas; during a recent trip with my sister for a sister weekend.

Everyone, it seemed, understood the importance of gaining a return customer.  Admittedly, it was a treat to be served well and we had fun.  However, we both recognized that there were other motivations in play.  Wait staff was eager for a generous tip, ticket sellers a commission, and the concierge’s aim was to keep you spending in their hotel.  For Vegas is a creative, cleverly crafted city built on pleasure and sustained by greed.  Its architects understand the capriciousness of human desires, prey upon them and successfully enlist others to do the same.

Holy Week, Good Friday stands in utter contrast!  A week bereft of hidden motives, prompted by pure love.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:6)

The Creator of humankind–who understands us entirely–chose not to prey on our fickleness, but instead reached out in great compassion and mercy to redeem us.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:45)

Instead of taking advantage of us in the cold and calculated way of the world, God enfolds us in his love.  This love is undeserved and offered unconditionally to those who choose to accept it.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.  (John 3:16-17)

In this most solemn of weeks, these verses bring me to a halt.  Here is where the artificiality of the world is confronted by the fidelity of Jesus.  Here is where I shudder as I recall that it was for my sins Christ died.

 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.  (Mark 15:20)

The gravity of my sins sobers me.  The authenticity of the love that compelled Jesus to lay down his life for me overwhelms me.  And so it should.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

   he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

   and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

   each of us has turned to our own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

   the iniquity of us all.  (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Prayer:  Most merciful God, Good Friday exists because of me, because of my sins.  I was born with a nature full of weakness, with many false motives, unable to redeem myself.  For me, your son suffered so much and shed his blood.  For me, Jesus has died on the cross.  For me, he was buried.  Thank you for your loving sacrifice.  Amen.

Contributed by Daryl Ginter