The middle-aged man was irate. "What are you doing at my door?" he yelled. I explained that I was doing what I did every Friday – driving a mini bus to collect children – including his daughter – to our churches 'Friday Club'.
"I know...but I don't want you here. She can't go. You're a Christian"..."Yes," I assured him, "that usually goes with the territory of being a minister".
"Well, I don't believe in God....and I hate him".
After the obvious retort, "you hate something you don't believe in?", I apologised and instead asked "Why? Why such anger?". "Because God killed my wife".
Sadly his wife had died young and he had been left to bring up a young child on his own. The trouble is that some well meaning people had suggested to him that it was God's will that this happened, and he, not unreasonably, took that to mean that God had killed his wife. I told him that I thought they were wrong.
"What did your wife die of?"
"Where do you think cancer comes from? Do you really think that God zapped her with cancer?"....
"Well no...but why...?"
"The question is not so much 'why' cancer is in the world – we can answer that one – but what has God done about it?"..."
Well, what has he done?"
Which brings us on to Easter – the heart of the Christian message and the answer to what God has done.
The Friday before Easter Sunday is known by many different names. In Germany it is called mourning Friday - there are still laws in place prohibiting horse racing and dancing on such a solemn day. In the Scandinavian countries it is known as 'the long Friday'. The Orthodox call it 'The Great and Holy Day". But in the UK and the US it is known as Good Friday – Good in this sense of being holy and pure.
It is the day of the Cross. To all intents and purposes it is the darkest day. For some it is Black Friday.
Forget all the romantic images. The Cross is so ugly that even the most hardened turned their faces away. The cruelest form of death that not even Mel Gibson's Passion could show the full extent of the horror.
You can see why it is a day of mourning and of deep, deep sorrow. See Mary weeping.
But it is also the turning point of history. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters are right – this is a Great and Holy Day. This is Good Friday. Because what was happening on the Cross was that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting peoples sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The Cross is not a tragedy, it is not a comedy; it is a victory. It is not, as some have sadly alleged, 'cosmic child abuse'. It is cosmic child delivery. It is by the Cross that we become children of God. It is salvation. It is forgiveness. It is life.
According to a survey carried out last week 46% of people who profess to be Christians do not believe that Christ died and rose again for their sins. That's a bit like saying you love Easter Eggs but don't believe in chocolate so you are happy with the wrapping! Being a 'cultural' or 'moral' Christian is pointless.
If Christ has not risen, then we are of all people to be pitied.
I visited the grieving widower for six weeks in a row, going through the great story of Easter. Until one week he asked me not to come back. Why? "Because you are making too much sense...I would rather live with my bitterness". So be it. We can choose the way of death.
I contrast that with another friend, – whose wife died earlier this year. Suzette was a beautiful vivacious person who clicked with my wife instantly. They became soul mates. Last year we managed to visit her in Mississippi for what turned out to be the last time. It was a poignant and profound occasion.
After she died her husband messaged, "When she passed I went for a walk alone immediately and realized that at that moment she was meeting God face to face finally, and that she was full of joy, and that so was God who longs for us all!"
Christians grieve. We miss those at empty seats in our homes as much as anyone. We miss our soul mates. But we have hope in Christ. All because of Easter. The Cross and Resurrection is God's answer, to the questions which no other in this world can answer.
In the death of Christ is the death of death. Its victory is defeated. Its sting has gone. In the words of the Easter hymn See What a Morning (Getty/Townend) "Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered". We can choose the way of life.
In Memory of Suzette Leverette
David Robertson is a minister in the Free Church of Scotland. He blogs at www.theweeflea.com