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The following is a Good Friday Worship Service written by Rev.Richard and Charlene Fairchild based on the traditional "last seven words" of Christ. Rather than preaching on those words, as is the usual approach, a series of reflections are offered on each word. Changes that we hope to implement will make those reflections even less didactic and even more impassioned than they already are. Never-the-less, this service has been tested and found to be very effective in moving the worshippers into a deeper appreciation of the passion of Christ.
It is our suggestion that the sanctuary be draped in black. Please note that the service now calls for Seven Candles to be extinguished during the service. A free standing candelabra is ideal for this, otherwise seven candles on the communion table / alter will suffice.
Lighting in the sanctuary should be low. A single reader and a single narrator - one who is able to be expressive in his or her reading, should be utilized. A bulletin can be easily prepared for the congregation - using this outline - and omitting the text of the reflections. We find it good to retain the actual scripture readings in the bulletin to help the congregation in their reflection at home over the period of vigil.
MUSICAL PRELUDE WORDS OF WELCOME & CALL TO WORSHIP: (Isaiah 53:1-3) L The Lord be with you. P And also with you. L We gather here to worship God. P We gather to remember how Jesus suffered and died for us and to thank God for his love and his mercy L Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? P He grew up before God like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. L He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. P Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. * HYMN: O Come And Mourn With Me A While - VU 136 O come and mourn with me awhile; O come now to the Saviour's side; O come, together let us mourn; Jesus, our Love, is crucified. Have we no tears to shed for Him, While soldiers scoff and foes deride? Ah! look how patiently He hangs; Jesus, our Love, is crucified. Seven times he spake, seven words of love; And all three hours His silence cried For mercy on the souls of all; Jesus, our Love, is crucified. O love of God! O sin filled world! In this dread act your strength is tried, and victory remains with love; Jesus, our love, is crucified. * PRAYER OF INVOCATION L Let us pray. P Merciful God - as we remember how your son Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross, how seven times he spake, seven words of love, we ask you to bless our hearing. L Father, as we recall how all three hours His silence cried for mercy on the souls of all, we ask you to help us to understand the mystery of your love, and make us into a people who are ever more worthy of it. P Amen. THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF JESUS THE FIRST WORD Luke 23:33-34 When they came to the place called "The Skull", they nailed Jesus to the cross there, and the two criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said "Forgive them, Father! They do not know what they are doing." * Meditation on the First Word "They do not know what they are doing" They do not know? They ...who killed Jesus? Who is "they"? It is so easy to name others to blame others the Romans the crowd Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas they all played their part and conspired against Jesus or simply followed orders to maintain the peace to keep Jesus' kingdom from infringing on theirs. And yet where are we when Jesus' kingdom infringes on ours? on our peace and our order? on our prosperity and our security? Where are we when the victims of our peace cry for justice? when those disenfranchised by our order call for compassion? when the hungry and the lonely beg us to share our prosperity our security our power? Where are we when Christ is crucified among us? Surely he should have raged at the sinners who nailed him to the tree. Surely he should have raged at us for the evil we do, the evil we do both knowing and unknowing, Yet compassion is there in the first words that he utters He intercedes for us before the Father. Compassion that called him into being in his mother's womb Compassion that compelled him to the cross Compassion that brings incredible, unbelievable grace Compassion that echoes through the centuries to all who participate in the killing of Christ: Compassion that cries out from the cross: "Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing" Extinguishing The Candle L Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us. P You suffered and died that we might be made whole. * Anthem: What Wonderous Love Is This" (VU 147 verse 1-2) THE SECOND WORD Luke 23:39-43 One of the criminals hanging there threw insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" The other one, however, rebuked him, saying: "Don't you fear God? Here we are all under the same sentence. Ours, however, is only right, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did; but he has done no wrong." And he said to Jesus, "Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!" Jesus said to him, "I tell you this: Today you will be in Paradise with me." * Meditation on The Second Word How much are we like the first thief? Full of anger - because we are not rescued from our sin? Full of hate - because we suffer because of the sins of others? How much do we want God to snap his fingers And make right what we have made wrong? What we have allowed others to make wrong? How easy it is to cry "save us" and to rail against God when there is no magic cure no miraculous recovery no legions of angels to take away pain and bring wholeness. How easy it is to scorn the Messiah, to mock the goodness of the world and condemn the light of the world because we are unwilling to face what we we have done? Yet there is goodness There is a cure for sin a cure that does not promise magical solutions but promises that the pain of sin is not the end, that when all this is over when the suffering is finished that the final word is not torture and defeat but life -- life springing out of the ashes life transformed and fulfilled in Paradise. To the compassionate thief To the one who could still recognize the good in the world To the one who tried to comfort and protect that good To the one who sought good -- Comfort was given "Today, you will be in paradise with me." Extinguishing The Candle L Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us. P You suffered and died that we might be made whole. ANTHEM: "Jesus Remember Me" (Choir 2x, Congregation 3x) - VU 148 Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. THE THIRD WORD John 19:25-27 Standing close to Jesus' cross were his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there; so he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that time the disciple took her to live in his home. * Meditation on the Third Word Who can grasp the grief? the grief of Mary watching her son suffer? the grief of Mary watching him die? And who can grasp the grief of the son? The son who must see his mother mourn? What gift can a man give his mother? What can he offer when he is gone? How can he help her? Hold her? Comfort her? Honour her? "Woman, here is your son" Here is one I love, to love you, and for you to love. One who knows me One who is my brother and who can speak of me. One Who can hold you, comfort you, and honour you; One who shares your grief "Here is your mother" Here is one I love, for you to love, and to love you. The one who taught me, the one who fed me, the one who wiped away my tears the one who hugged me, the one who grieves with you. Women, behold your children; children, behold your mothers. Extinguishing The Candle L Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us. P You suffered and died that we might be made whole. ANTHEM: "At The Cross Her Vigil Keeping" (VU 139 verse 1-5) THE FOURTH WORD Mark 15:33-34 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Elo-i, elo-i, lama sabach-thani?" which means, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" * Meditation on the Fourth Word Of all the agony of that tortuous day the lacerations of the scourging the chafing of the thorns around his head the convulsions of his tormented, dehydrated body as it hung in the heat all the day Nothing reaches the depth of this anguished cry of desolation "My God, my god, why hast thou forsaken me?" Jesus, who found his purpose and strength in the presence of God who was sustained by the immediacy of his relationship with God and who endured all by the tangible power of God always at work within him , always a centre of vitality and peace, found himself totally alone on the cross. Jesus, whose very being was God, found himself utterly, absolutely, despairingly. cut off from all that gives life and breath cut off from all that gives purpose and hope cut off from the source of his being cut off, even from himself plumbing the depths of the human condition to walk in the place of the utter absence of God, in the place of sinners in the place of those who reject God. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" In these words is the central mystery of the crucifixion which cannot be fully comprehended, that there is no despair so deep or evil so overwhelming or place so far removed from joy, light, and love from the very heart of God that God has not been before us, and where God cannot meet us and bring us home. Extinguishing The Candle L Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us. P You suffered and died that we might be made whole. HYMN: "O Sacred Head" (Verses 1-4) - VU 145 O sacred Head, sore wounded, with grief and shame weighed down, Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown; How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn! How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn! Thy grief and bitter passion were all for sinners gain, mine, mine was the transgression, but thine the cruel pain. Lo, here I fall, my Saviour, turn not from me thy face; but look on me with favour, and grant to me thy grace. What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend, For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee. Be near when I am dying, O show thy cross to me; and for my succour flying, come, Lord, to set me free. These eyes, new faith receiving, from thee shall not remove, for all who die believing, die safely through thy love. THE FIFTH WORD John 19:28 After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), "I thirst." * Meditation on the Fifth Word There is a kind of timelessness about hanging on a cross. It is not a quiet death, over in an instant in one glorious moment of martyrdom like being torn apart by lions. A cross is as much an instrument of torture as it is a gallows from which to hang, And as the day wears on seconds stretch into minutes which stretch into hours until there comes a point when time can no longer be measured except in the gradual weakening of the body and its ever more insistent demands for that substance which is so vital to life so foundational to all living things so basic to existence as we know it: -- water. Water to moisten a parched mouth Water to free a swollen tongue Water to open a rasping throat that cannot gasp enough air. Water to keep hope alive to keep life alive just a few moments longer. Water, to a crucified man, is life. "O God, thou art my God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee as in a dry and weary land where no water is." Who can tell if these words from Psalm 63 went through Jesus mind but a thirst for water is a thirst for life and a thirst for life is a thirst for God who promises streams in the desert mighty rivers in the dry land and living water to wash away every tear. Here, at the end of it all those promises seem far away, - distant. And yet Jesus - forsaken by God still clings to the memory and the hope of life. "I thirst." Extinguishing The Candle L Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us. P You suffered and died that we might be made whole. ANTHEM: "They Crucified My Lord" (VU 141 verses 1-3) THE SIXTH WORD John 19:29-30 A bowl was there, full of cheap wine mixed with vinegar, so a sponge was soaked in it, put on stlk of hyssop and lifted up to his lips. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished"; * Meditation on the Sixth Word What a sigh of relief! What a cry of deliverance, that finally, after seemingly endless pain and gasping torment, it is over at last. The suffering is ended. The ordeal is finished and nothing remains but the blessed peace of the absence of all sensation. When all there is, is pain its ceasing is the greatest blessing of all even when its ceasing comes only with death. But Jesus' cry is more than just welcoming the ending of pain it is more than joy at the deliverance death brings. He does not merely say, "it is over" he says, "it is accomplished, fulfilled, achieved" Jesus's cry isn't a cry of defeat and despair It is a cry of success and triumph - even at the moment of death - that the race has been run that he has endured to the end that the strife is over and the battle is won. Jesus' cry is a cry of relief to be sure but it is also a cry of victory: "The work I came to do is complete" there is nothing more to add "it is finished" Extinguishing The Candle L Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us. P You suffered and died that we might be made whole. ANTHEM: "They Crucified My Lord - VU 141 verses 3-5) THE SEVENTH WORD Luke 23:46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last. * Meditation on the Seventh Word It is the end, the very end the end of the ordeal the end of the suffering and Jesus alone on the cross tortured exhausted abandoned by his friends forsaken by God gasps for a last breath and gathers the strength for one final cry. Why would he choose to speak so close to the end? Why would he muster the last energy he had to cry out with a loud voice? Couldn't God have heard his thoughts? Unless God wasn't the only one intended to hear. Unless his voice was pitched loud so that we too might hear this final dedication of his soul. A dedication made despite the pain, despite the mocking, despite the agony, despite the sense of horrible aloneness he felt. A dedication made to God before the resurrection, before the victory of the kingdom, before any assurance other than that which faith could bring. Jesus entrusts his spirit -- his life -- and all that has given it meaning -- to God in faith, even at the point of his own abandonment when the good seems so very far away he proclaims his faith in God, the darkness cannot overcome it. "Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit" Extinguishing The Candle L Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us. P You suffered and died that we might be made whole. SILENT MEDITATION ANTHEM: "There Is A Green Hill Far Away" - VU 152 Responsive Reading: Isaiah 53-4-6,9 L Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. P But he was wounded for our transgressions and he was bruised for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole. L All we like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all. P He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death, although he had done no violence nor was any deceit in his mouth. HYMN: "Were You There" (verse 1-2) - VU 144 Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Prayer of Dedication: L Lord God, you have given us everything. P You have not held anything back. L Help us in like manner to give of ourselves P Sanctify us Christ's name. P Bless us and all that we think, feel, say, and do that we, like Jesus, may be a blessing unto others, L We ask this and all things that we ask of you through him, saying the prayer that he taught us... P Our Father.... HYMN: "Were You There" (verses 3-5) - VU 144 Were you there when the sun refused to shine? Were you there when the sun refused to shine? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when the sun refused to shine? Were you there when they pierced him in the side? Were you there when they pierced him in the side? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they pierced him in the side? Were you there when they laid in the tomb? Were you there when they laid in the tomb? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb? BENEDICTION Depart now in peace - and may the Spirit of Christ, go with you, may his faith and trust abide within you, and may the knowledge of his love support you both now and forevermore, copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999-2006 please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.
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