The Fruit of Lent (Good Friday): Love

18 04 2014
Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit

Week 1: Peace

Week 2: Forbearance
Week 3: Goodness
Week 4: Faithfulness
Week 5: Gentleness
Week 6: Self-Control
LOVE

You are a loving God, and you ask us to love one another.

Forgive us, Jesus, for we have forgotten what it means to love. We so often forget your great gift of love to us. We so often forget that love gives without asking anything in return; so often we pursue the return rather than love itself. Forgive us for failing to love you with our whole hearts. Forgive us for turning our backs upon those we have deemed unworthy of our love. Forgive us for the many times we fail to pursue your example of sacrificial love, choosing the easy road instead. Spirit, teach us how to chase after this difficult love. Help us to understand the fullness of Christ’s gift to us, and thereby gain the strength to extend that gift to each other, to our family, our friends, and especially to those who seem unlovable, who give us nothing in return.

Sung Response:  Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on us. (x2)

Your sin has been crucified with Christ Jesus, and you are forgiven. You are free to walk in the fullness of the life offered to you by the Spirit of God.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.





Page CXVI: Good Friday to Easter

11 04 2014

cxvi_friday_1600Dear Readers,

Next week (April 15th, to be exact) Page CXVI releases their final album in their Church Calendar series. They have graciously given me an advance copy to review (and have given me a link to share with you as a sneak peak preview! – see below). This is a beautiful, rich album. Stronger, I think, than their previous release (Lent to Maundy Thursday). It’s an album that lends itself to the necessary contemplative waiting of Good Friday and Holy Saturday – and then enters with weighty joy into Easter Sunday.

As I generally find the music of Page CXVI to be useful for contemplative listening/prayer (consider buying a few of their hymn albums if you’re planning a personal retreat some time in the future), I would recommend listening to the album this way: make a playlist of tracks 1-3 and play it on repeat as you have time for contemplation on Good Friday and especially on Holy Saturday; then, start your Sunday morning with tracks 4-8. Tracks 4-8 are not jumping-up-and-down-joyful. They are, as I expressed to a friend recently, a celebration of Christ’s resurrection – and of what the cross accomplished – but they celebrate the gain without dismissing the cost.

Listen here, for a sneak peak – The record will be available on pagecxvi.com, iTunes, and other digital media stores on April 15th!

 





A Liturgy for Good Friday

29 03 2013

Taken from Matthew 27 and Psalm 22

Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied.  When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?”But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed over to be crucified.

Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

They took Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). There they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.

 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.

Two rebels were crucified with Jesus, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”  In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open.

You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!

 





The Weight of Good Friday: Chapter 23 of Joan Chittister’s “The Liturgical Year”

6 04 2012
by Stacey Gleddiesmith

Good Friday.

The day when hope falters and darkness seems to triumph.

Joan Chittister describes the pain of second-century Israel: “the grief was still raw. After all, they were still waiting for His return, then and there. And in the midst of the wait, the desolation inspired a fast that tapped into the profound heartache of a people. For years, the Christian community fasted not only on Good Friday but on Holy Saturday as well…. For years, the fast was a complete one. Early Christians took no food or water at all. They fasted for forty straight hours without either eating or drinking” (p. 148).

Now, she says, Good Friday gatherings are often mere pageantry:  “something to watch, something to realize with a pang… But nothing really serious” (p. 151).

So how do we push past our momentary sympathy with Christ, and take up our cross to follow him? How do we inspire our congregations to do so? How do we preach crucifixion to a culture that shrinks from unpleasantness?

We can use darkness and silence. We can bring newness to history through creative tellings. We can hold back the celebration and take time to sit in the dark. To wait. We can add weight to our words, laying the burden of Christ, for once, heavily on the shoulders of our congregation. Allowing ourselves to feel our backs bowed and our knees trembling – Friday, Saturday.

More than that, we can fast. Having read this chapter, I feel a fresh urgency to observe Good Friday by taking in nothing but the death of Christ. I need the gnawing in my belly that will, in Chittister’s words “whet the need for the return of Jesus to our own lives.” The fast of Good Friday, she says, “means to concentrate us on the moment, to be there nagging at us in the midst of our distractions, to keep us keenly aware of what the spiritual life is meant to be about” (p. 151). I need that. Desperately.

So I invite you to fast with me. Or, if not to fast, to solemnize this day in another way. I invite you to share, here, your experience of Good Friday – the weight that was laid upon you – that we may fully experience together the lightening of Easter morning.





Good Friday: From Light to Darkness – a Liturgy

4 04 2012

Call to Worship: Today we walk with Jesus to Golgotha. We remember the pain that he suffered. We remember the triumph of his death – that didn’t look much like triumph to anyone. And today we remember what it really means to say we are “taking up our cross” and “following Jesus.”

We are going to move together, as we did during Lent, through the words Jesus spoke as he hung on the cross – and we are going to move together through the last hours of Jesus, and with him into the tomb. As we move through each phrase that Jesus spoke from the cross, we will blow out one of our Lenten candles – and we will have a short time of silence. After the seventh word, I will ask you all to blow out your candles, and we will share a longer moment of silence in relative darkness.

Come, let us worship together.

*Opening Song: O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – vs 1, 2, 3

Reader 1: Jesus we come – to walk the road with you – to follow you to the cross. We prepare ourselves now to follow your footprints in the dust. To understand how you died. To understand how we die. To understand how you lived. To understand how we should live.

Reader 2: John 18:28-19:18

 

Reader 3: Luke 23:32-34

Reader 1: You forgave even those who took your hands and feet and drove nails into solid wood. Who, straining, lifted up the cross that held you and dropped it into place. You have forgiven them. When we ask for mercy, we are amazed to find that it has already been extended. You have forgiven us.

1st Candle blown out – short Silence

*Congregational Response: What Wondrous Love Is This – vs1, vs2

 

Reader 3: Luke 23:35-43

Reader 1: In your darkest hour, you turned to reassure the man beside you – a stranger. You extended eternity to him, even as you died. When we suffer, we find your hand extended to us – we find strength in the life you give us.

2nd Candle blown out – short Silence

*Congregational Response: O Sacred Head Now Wounded – vs. 1, 2

 

Reader 2: John 19:19-24

Reader 3: John 19:25-27

Reader 1: You turned, in your suffering, to care for those who cared for you. You turned those you loved toward each other, and asked them to give each other the status of family. You have called us your sisters, your brothers.

3rd Candle blown out – short Silence

*Congregational Response: O Sacred Head Now Wounded – vs. 3

 

Reader 3: John 19:28-29

Reader 1: You were fully human – thirsty as you hung there, in the hot sun. You felt the urgent need of a parched throat and a dry tongue. You have quenched our thirst with your living water.

4th Candle blown out – short Silence

*Congregational Response: You Are My King – vs, ch, vs

 

Reader 3: Mark 15:33-34

Reader 1: You were abandoned by God, alone in your suffering. You withstood what we could not, and promised to never leave or forsake us.

5th Candle blown out – short Silence

*Congregational Response: How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – vs1

 

Reader 3: John 19:30

Reader 1: You finished the work you came into the world to complete, at great cost to yourself. At great cost to yourself, you completed, and will complete, the world in which you came to work. At great cost you have completed and will complete your work in us.

6th Candle blown out – short Silence

*Congregational Response: How Deep the Father’s Love For Us – vs2, 3

 

Reader 3: Luke 23: 44-46

Reader 1: After all. After everything. After the pain, the rejection, the sorrow – you entrusted your spirit to your heavenly father. Although you felt the forsakenness of sin in its fullest, you trusted your father. Now you entrust us to your heavenly Father – sitting at his right hand, and interceding for us. The curtain was torn, our separation from God is ended – in this moment. May we trust. May we learn, in the darkness, the extent of your faithfulness. May we entrust ourselves to you.

In a moment, as I blow out the seventh candle, I will ask you, also, to extinguish the light on your table. We will take a moment together to grieve, and to feel the weight of Christ’s sacrifice, of the Father’s sacrifice. As we sit in silence, and as we sit in the dark, we will also fill our hearts with stillness, as we seek to understand the cross – and as we seek to take up our own cross.

Lord Jesus, we ask that you would teach us to understand this great and terrible mystery. Please accept now our silent worship.

7th Candle blown out – Long Silence

*Congregational Response: Beneath the Cross of Jesus – vs1, 2, 1

Reader 2: John 19:31-42

Benediction: And so we wait. Through the night, through the long, silent Saturday in the tomb. The battle is already won. Jesus has already declared his work finished – but we wait. We wait for the glimmer of dawn in the darkness. For the sliver of hope that lightens despair. We wait for the empty tomb. We wait for Christ to return.

In a moment, we are going to share a meal together. Communion, as it was first celebrated, was the sharing of a meal. Jesus did not sit with his disciples the night of his betrayal and offer them only a bite of bread and a sip of wine – he sat with them around a table that contained a feast. Take a moment before you eat, to bow your head and remember. As you eat this food that many hands have prepared, hold in the back of your mind the words of Christ: “Take and eat. This is my body.” And as you drink, hold in the back of your mind the words of Christ: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

And as you wait, as you eat and drink, may the darkness of waiting make the light shine brighter. May the pain you experience intensify your joy. And may your night, gradually, gloriously, give way to morning.

Amen.