What words connect us today to eye witnesses, to friends, to family?
What words explain the collision of earth and divine?
Worship Words resources for Good Friday:
I didn’t sign up for this.
Not whips and nails,
splinters and thorns,
blood and stink and agony.
I didn’t sign up for this.
Not failure and despair,
discouragement and derision,
ignominy and ridicule.
If it comes to this,
I want to walk away too –
deny having ever known you.
I, too, am your betrayer.
And yet you welcome me to your table
as your dearest friend
for whom you willingly give your life.
Jesus: “You will all become deserters…”
Peter: “Even though all become deserters, I will not!”
Jesus: “Truly I tell you… this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
Peter: “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you…”
Disciple 1: (stand in pew, call loudly to Peter) Peter, what happened?
Peter: We all saw Judas kiss Jesus then… that mob seized Jesus. A sword appeared from nowhere. The High Priest’s slave’s ear is cut off. Then I knew trouble would avalanche. Amid the shouts and confusion I hide in the roots of an old olive tree. What happened to you lot?
Disciple 2: (Stand in pew, call loudly to Peter) We high-tailed out of there, scattered. Where did they take Jesus?
Peter: The mob drags Jesus from the Mount of Olives. I follow at a distance. We cross the Kidron Valley and enter Jerusalem’s east gate. The city streets are empty at that hour. I lag behind. I do not want to be seen or caught. Following their torchlights and noise is easy. They lead me to the High Priest’s house.
Disciple 3: (Stand in pew, call loudly to Peter) What? You went to the High Priest’s house?
Peter: Jesus must have been inside. I can not see him. A fire burns in the court yard. No one guards the gate. I enter. I sit with those warming themselves at the fire. You know how cold it is tonight. We all have our cloaks wrapped tight. Only when I sit close do I realize those at the fire with me are from that mob that grabbed Jesus, soldiers of the High Priest. My blood runs cold. Still, I stay to hear what is said.
Disciple 1: (stand in pew, call loudly to Peter) Who spoke? What did they say?
Peter: Who spoke? So-called witnesses. They cannot get their stories straight. False testimony, lies. The priests want, need, two witnesses to say the same thing, to make a case against Jesus. It does not happen. Finally, the High Priest himself, I recognize his voice, asks Jesus: “Are you the messiah?” Now, the priest is speaking Greek and my Greek is not too good. But Jesus says, “I am–” but you know in Greek when you say “I am” it can also mean, “Am I?” The High Priest hears it as “I am,” a confession from Jesus. The High Priest tears his robe and screams, “you have heard his blasphemy!” The High Priest calls for the guards, the men at the fire with me. He hands Jesus over to the guards. They begin to beat Jesus.
Disciple 2: (stand in pew, call loudly to Peter) Ah, Peter, it must have been torture for you listening to Jesus be abused and dangerous, too. Yet, you stayed, loyal to the end. And Jesus thought you would deny him. Good old, faithful Peter… Pause
Voice from the pulpit: Where does Mark get this account of Jesus at the High Priest’s house? We are not told of any other witness than Peter. What do we conclude? The conclusion: Peter tells his own story. Peter, for better or worse, perhaps wanting to duck and cover, Peter tells us what happened at the High Priest’s house.
Peter: No, mates, not so loyal, not so brave… pause. The guards are busy beating Jesus. With their departure from the fire there is room for others to warm themselves. The serving women gather at the blaze to see and hear what is going on. One of them looks at me and says, “Hey, you were with that man from Nazareth. You were with Jesus!” The night is chilly but I break into a sweat when she fingers me. I can hear what they are doing to Jesus. The High Priest has accused Jesus of blasphemy. When the guards are done with him, they will stone him to death.
In fear I say to the serving woman, “I do not know what you are talking about, woman! I do not know him.” The courtyard cock crows. To put some distance between me and that nosy woman, I move to the gate.
But people have heard her accusation. Others are looking at me. She follows me. She says to the surrounding people, “This man is one of them!” There is such venom in her voice, my denial comes quick, “I do not know that Galilean!”
Now, I stand outside the gate. I still want to know what will happen next to Jesus. Another bystander measures me up and says, “Certainly, you are one of them. I can tell by YOUR accent you are a Galilean.”
I curse my accuser and shout, “I swear on my mother’s head I do not know this man!” And with that, I hear the courtyard cock crow, again.
At the passover dinner tonight, I had sworn to Jesus, sworn to him, that even though everyone might desert him, I would not. Even if I had to die with Jesus, I would not desert him.
Remember what Jesus said to me? (yes, before the cock crows twice, I would deny him three times.) Fearing for my life I, I fight my way through the crowd and escaped Back in the Kidron Valley, where it is dark as death, I break down and weep, sisters and brothers. I weep bitterly. (Peter sits and puts his head in his hands.) Pause…
Written while apartheid raged in South Africa, by Ana & Tod Gobledale, Mfanefile United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, Zululand (now KwaZulu-Natal).
Pause before the prayer, allowing God’s Spirit to search your heart. Make your own confession. Pause after the prayer to experience the reality of God’s forgiveness.
I want to keep my hands smooth,
my skin unbroken,
my feet unscarred.
I don’t want the imprint of the cross on my shoulder.
Let someone else carry it for me – it is too heavy.
I need to keep what ‘self’ I have;
there isn’t enough to give any away.
If I have to die,
I want it to be some worthy cause.
If I have to give my life,
I want to be remembered as a hero –
not some broken failure
to be laughed at and jeered;
not some sub-human piece of human refuse.
I don’t ‘do’ that sort of love.
I want it returned with interest,
not with scepticism,
You’re calling the wrong person, Jesus.
You need saints and martyrs to march with you –
zealots and cross-bearers.
I’d only let you down.
Can you cope with my weaknesses?
Forgive my failures?
Transform my timidity?
Because I want to follow.
At least, for today I do.
Teach me how.
The clear pain, the death has brought me back,
Submitted to your arms, almost a child.
You don’t know whether to be thankful
Or to cry
For such happiness,
My body, stripped of the mystery
Is yours alone.
Sweet your tears drip onto my shoulder
And gather obediently near the blade.
How good it is!
The pilgrimage and words never to be understood,
The disciples, of whom you’re proud, of whom you are afraid,
The [Creator], the assumed, the unspoken, watching,
All is behind.
Calmed by the understood suffering
You hold me in your arms
You rock me, gently,
Rock me, Mama.
Three days only, I’m allowed to rest
In death and on your lap.
Then the resurrection will come
And again you are not meant to understand.
Three days only
But until then
I feel so good
On your lap, descended from the cross,
If I wasn’t afraid you’d find it terrifying,
Gently I’d turn toward you
To your face, smiling.
Ana Blandiana, pseudonym of Otilia Valeria Coman Rusan (born March 25, 1942 , Timișoara, Romania), is one of Romania’s foremost poets. “Ana was a leading dissident before the fall of Communism, …she became known for her daring, outspoken poems as well as for her courageous defence of ethical values. Over the years, her works have become the symbol of an ethical consciousness that refuses to be silenced by a totalitarian government.” Read more here.
O God, you are rich in mercy.
For when I was nothing,
you made me something.
When I wanted nothing to do with you,
you came looking for me
to bring me home as a lost child,
When I swore I never knew you,
you loved me and called me your friend.
When I shouted, ‘Crucify him!’
you asked for my forgiveness.
When I abandoned you to your lonely road,
you shouldered my cross
and carried it for me.
You could have done differently.
You could have compromised;
dazzled them with your arguments;
called on God.
Yet you did not.
You submitted to their sentence,
bent your back to their whips,
spread your hands to their nails,
and gave them the Life they demanded.
The agony of love.
The costliness of passion.
The price of New Life.
I cannot comprehend such love.
I can only wonder
“The Good Friday Vigil Against Gun Violence emerged out of what Denver experienced as the Summer of Violence in 1993, when there was a high incidence of gun deaths in the metro region. The staff of Washington Park UCC thought it would be important to lead a prayer service and protest, using symbolism from the Roman Catholic Stations of the Cross, at locations where a child was killed by a gun. This idea took a lot more work to implement than we initially had thought, so the first vigil took place on Good Friday of 1995. We have been doing the vigil ever since. We expanded it to include anyone who has been killed by a gun, not just children. Good Friday is an appropriate time to do this; we believe Christ is crucified in every act of violence.
“The vigil is a three-hour prayer service, loosely based on the Stations of the Cross. The service is open to the entire community, and since the beginning, the group traveling to sites has been ecumenical (and occasionally interfaith).”
Written by Rev. Allyson Sawtell, member of Washington Park United Church of Christ, Denver, Colorado, USA
“Please do not take these meditations verbatim for your own use. Go ahead and use the imagery, but make it your own. In order to be led with sensitivity and integrity, your liturgy needs to come from your own heart, your own pain, your community’s pain, and the situations you have chosen from your own community. It will not translate well or be done with integrity simply to copy what is written here below.
“As you write your own meditations, you may find a sense of heaviness and grief. That’s what I experience every time I sit down to write this material. That’s good. May it open up your compassion for the victims, families, and survivors of gun violence. May your pain be healing for others….”
The basic order of our liturgy usually consists of:
A description of the shooting (date, people involved, what happened, any follow-up such as arrests, etc.)
Description of the Station you’ll be using
A few words relating the Station with the shooting
Short prayer. If you do a responsive prayer, use a simple response, such as “God have mercy.” Don’t do a long, responsive litany; it’s not appropriate to stay too long at any one site, especially if it’s a residential setting.
Song – usually one you think most people know, and do only one verse or chorus.
Flowers – one for each person killed at that site; have several extra in case there are family or friends there. During the singing, have someone place the flower on the site (and hand one to the family, if present).
Announce the next stop’s location. At the last stop, thank people for coming and leave them with a few words of hope. (Maybe use a more hopeful song at the last stop.)
Station One – Jesus is sentenced to death
On December 11, 2004, near this location, a16-year old young man was shot at a birthday party, after a fight broke out and shots were fired. He died later at Children’s Hospital.
This youth was not identified until a later date; he was Byris Williams. But when many of us first read about Byris’ death, he was still nameless to the world. Today we remember Byris Williams, call him by name, and pray for his family and friends.
The Station we commemorate here is the First Station – Jesus is condemned to die.
Jesus is condemned to death. And you wonder if Pilate even remembered – or knew– his name.
Too many people go unnamed or unremembered. Their deaths warrant just a few words in the paper, if that. Jesus is condemned to die, and doesn’t even make the obituary page. It’s old news in no time, and most of the rest of us get on with our lives.
But a hole has been ripped in the hearts of Byris’ family and friends. A hole has been ripped in the heart of our community as well. Because of this violence, none of us will ever be the same. We are the lesser because one 16-year old child, for a time nameless, was taken from this world in an act of violence.
In this city, where shootings are no surprise and violence seems to be the easiest response to anger and conflict, Jesus is sentenced to death. Jesus was sentenced to death when the shots rang out and Byris was killed.
Good Friday is indeed a God-awful time. Activism can and must come soon, and Easter is indeed a reality – but now, today, we stand in the pain.
Come by here, God, and gently hold those who mourn. Come by here, God, and help us put an end to violence.
Song –“Come by Here, my Lord, come by here” (tune: Kum By Yah)
The complete liturgy is available on the Simple Living Works! website, along with numerous other progressive and thoughtful worship resources for the church year.
In the silence, O God, I long to hear your words. In the breaking of dawn’s early light, I long to experience your presence. May the voice I hear this day be your voice, speaking a word of hope and healing into this curtain torn world.
In the activities of this day, I pray that I will not confuse marshmallow bunnies and plastic candy-filled eggs with your extreme makeover of the world. I pray on this Holy Saturday – with the rock still in place and stench of a sin covered cross still filling my senses – that I won’t be too quick to jump over this day of Holy waiting.
I pray as I worry about the timely opening of lilies and tulips and little kids who might splash water of out the baptistery onto the new sanctuary carpet, that I have left room in this day for the holy reordering and for your work of transforming that which is dead into that which is full of life.
I pray as my stomach remains full from feasting at your holy table and my arm is still sore from waving my palm branch that I can find time to sit and wait and dwell with you. For I know, Amazing Giver of Love and Life, that on this Holy Saturday, while the world turns its attention elsewhere, you are as busy as ever with the work of redemption.
And so help me to wait and listen and learn, knowing that you, O God, are still speaking a word of hope and wholeness in this broken and fragmented world.
Anonymous. This devotion was made possible by giving to the Disciples Mission Fund and the Easter Offering, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) USA