The Rev. Dan DeFriece of Calvary Baptist Church in Seymour worries that for many people, Good Friday wasn’t good.
That’s because they are waiting too long to love and accept Jesus as their Lord and savior, he said.
“Every one of us is going to face the grave someday, and it’s too late to acknowledge Jesus after that,” he preached in his message during the 26th annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast on Friday morning at The Pines Evergreen Room.
But for all of those who get to know Jesus when it matters the most, like one of the thieves who hung on a cross next to him, Good Friday is not just good, it is the greatest of Fridays, DeFriece said.
Why? Because Jesus proclaimed, “Today you shall be with me in paradise.”
“This thief met Jesus when he was humble enough to see his own sin,” said DeFriece, who also serves as chaplain of the Seymour Police Department. “Part of the problem I see in our world is that too many people aren’t willing to come to that place.”
DeFriece asked those in attendance who they related to most in the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.
“Are you Pilate not willing to make a decision, are you Herod just wanting to see something, are you the centurion who is waiting possibly until it’s too late or are you going to be the thief on the cross who looks to Jesus and says I know that you are God and I need you?” he said.
He prayed everyone comes to the thief’s conclusion and acknowledges they need God.
The Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast is a Seymour tradition that brings the community together to renew their faith and pray for each other and for all people.
The Rev. Angel Abshear of Trinity United Methodist Church gave the invocation.
“We offer thanks for all that you have given us, especially for the tearing of the veil, which allowed us access to our high priest,” she said. “We ask your spirit’s wisdom and discernment over our mayor and all of those who are under him and boost him up and help him to effectively run this city.”
But it’s not just the mayor who needs such divine guidance, she added.
“Lord, we ask that each and every one of us would search for ways that we can improve this city and we can raise up a new generation of leaders,” she said.
Around 115 community members attended this year’s prayer breakfast after last year’s in-person event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But not wanting to completely miss out on his first Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast as mayor, Matt Nicholson was able to put together a video last year to share with the community.
“It’s nice to see everybody live and in person,” he said in welcoming everyone.
Sandee Ramsey of Seymour said she was glad she decided to go to the prayer breakfast this year.
“It was refreshing and a blessing,” she said.
In his prayer, Nicholson gave thanks for the life and death of Jesus, which allowed for the forgiveness of man’s sins.
“We gather together on this Good Friday to remember your death and thank you for your sacrifice for us. Thank you for guiding our path and help us remember that even in times of adversity, we can rest in the knowledge that you are with us,” he said.
Abshear said she was thankful and felt blessed to be able to participate.
“We thank you this day for continuing this tradition of the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast for in many places, it is difficult to even say prayer in our country,” she said.
The program included the presentation of colors by the Seymour Fire Department and Seymour Police Department, the pledge of allegiance and musical performances by DeFriece and his wife, Jen, along with Ray and Pam Eakins.
The Rev. Steve Greene from The Point in Seymour provided the benediction.
“We pray, Lord, today your best blessings on our mayor, city officials and all those who work to make Seymour the place that it is,” he said. “We also pray for the communities around us. As we look around this world, there’s a realization that we desperately need you today.”
Seymour resident Jennifer Hopkins shared her story of recovery from drug addiction and how she came to love Jesus and the people of Seymour. Afterwards, she sang the song “Scars” with acoustic backup from Dwight Hendrix and Scott Larrison.
“I am one of the drug addicts that Jesus died to save,” Hopkins said. “Five years ago, I walked into this town a stranger. I walked into this town reaching for God and fighting for my life.”
She fell in love with Seymour’s character, charm, history and downtown.
“And I fell in love with its people,” she said. “I was amazed at how many joyful people were just combined into one place.”
Now, she knows what she saw.
“I saw Jesus,” she said. “Because of the heart of this city, we are here today not just for the biscuits and gravy, not just for the great music, but we are here to honor our resurrected king, and that says a lot. It says a lot about who we are as a community and who we are as leaders.”