Welcome to this Good Friday service, even though we are not gathered as a community to relive the events of the day so long ago. However, know that each of you is held in the hearts of others; held in God’s love. Take a moment to envisage in your mind’s eye the Communion Table with a plain black cloth across the centre, a single white candle and a chalice tipped on its side.
GREETING: Today we remember a man. A man who had dreams, who had those dreams shattered, who needed time to think and pray, who knew he was likely to die for what he believed. A man of extraordinary religious insight. A man who did die – a cruel death. We Remember… On this day we remember: the betrayal of friendship and its consequences, the casual cruelty of Roman authority and execution, how unreliable others proved to be in a crisis. On this day may we also remember that religious bigotry, cruelty and unreliability are still a part of our everyday lives. On this day, then, may we learn some new ways for living: to not avoid contact with suffering, to not close our eyes in the face of suffering; to not maintain anger or hatred; to not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest, or to impress people; to not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature; as this day we remember. (Adapted – M Dobson, M Morwood, Thich Nhat Hanh)
A Man of Ancient Time and Place (Winchester New WOV 264)
A man of ancient time and place with foreign speech and foreign face, reveals the glory, power and grace of costly, unexpected love.
A rabbi, schooled in Moses’ Law, a male, amending Herod’s flaw, arouses wonder, rage and awe with costly, unexpected love.
By teasing word and healing deed, a leper touched, an outcast freed, he bears the fruit and plants the seed of costly, unexpected love.
The cost we barely can surmise when, lifted up before our eyes, the face of God we recognise in crucified, unfathomed love.
May faith and hope within us grow, the way of Christ to tell and show, and may the Spirit breathe and blow in costly, unexpected love. (© Brian Wren)
OPENING PRAYER In hope, and in longing: we are called to join together. In solidarity with those who struggle: we are called to join together. In resistance to those who dominate: we are called to join together. In memory of Jesus, who lived with compassion: we are called to join together. In memory of all who act with courage: we are called to join together. (Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer – adapted)
Great prophet of pity, subversive in love, unsettle our comfort, divert and remove us from self-interest. Shield us from pride, that we might yet embody the gifts you offer. Raise us up, fit us for service – to care for all who are lonely, or lost in despair. Fit us for service, to care for the reed that is bending, the wick that is burning low. Through grace and persistence, God, help us to grow. From each generation, race, colour or creed, gather us together, united by need. And, God, may we find, in spite of ourselves, that your welcome is kind. AMEN.
The readings for this morning’s service come from Luke 23
Reading 1: The elders of the people and the chief priests and scribes rose, and they brought Jesus before Pilate. They began their accusation by saying, We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king. Pilate put to Jesus this question, Are you the king of the Jews? It is you who say it, Jesus replied. Reflection 1: I remember a man who had dreams of what might be: that people would be set free from ideas and images of God that enslaved them, that people would believe that through their everyday acts of human kindness they are intimately connected with the sacred, that people would live in peace, in God’s presence all the days of their lives. I remember a man driven by his dreams.
Silence (count to 10) Reading 2: Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowds, I find no case against this man. But they persisted, He is inflaming the people with his teaching all over Judea; it has come all the way from Galilee, where he began, down to here.
Reflection 2: I remember a man who had his moments of breakthrough, when it must have seemed his dream was being realised: the times people really listened and responded, the men and women who were prepared to walk with him and support him, times when he spoke better and more convincingly than other times. I remember a man deeply encouraged by his successes. Silence (count to 10)
HYMN: On Friday, When the Sky was Dark (Tune: Belmont WOV 435)
On Friday, when the sky was dark, disciples fled in fright and dazed, through Saturday, they wait the dawn of Sunday’s light.
From dull despair to blazing light, from agony and death, God’s people sought for grace and hope, and for the Spirit’s breath.
The silent waking of the Christ brought all the world to praise, as death was done and life re-born with hope for all our days.
That hope returns with each new year, the prompt for faith’s re-birth and brighter than a thousand suns God’s glory flames on earth!
As new life forces through the earth, the world is sprung with green, and all creation rings again as joy is sung and seen. © Andrew Pratt
Reading 3: When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man was a Galilean. And finding that he came under Herod’s jurisdiction, he passed him over to Herod who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been wanting for a long time to set eyes on him; he was hoping to see some miracle worked by Jesus. So Herod questioned Jesus at some length, but without getting a reply.
Reflection 3: I remember a man who learned of the cruel death of his cousin. He got into a boat, seeking a lonely place, where he could be with his friends to absorb the shock, to grieve quietly, and to calm the feelings of powerlessness and frustration and fear for his own future. I wonder what he prayed about that night? I wonder what helped him leave that lonely place and go forward to confront life, rather than retreat into isolation and safety? [pause] I remember a man driven by his convictions. Silence (count to 10)
Reading 4: Then Herod, together with his guards, treated Jesus with contempt and made fun of him. Herod put a rich cloak on Jesus, and sent him back to Pilate. And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day. Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leaders and the people. You brought this man before me, Pilate said, as a political agitator. Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no case against him in respect of all the charges you bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since he has sent him back to us. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserve death, so I shall have him flogged and then let him go. But altogether they howled, Away with him! Give us Barabbas! Pilate was anxious to set Jesus free and addressed them again, but they shouted back, Crucify, crucify him! Reflection 4: I remember a man whose dream was shattered: who broke down and cried over what could have been, who knew the pain of failure and powerlessness, who knew what it was like to feel broken and terribly alone. I remember someone human like all of us. Silence (count to 10)
Reading 5: Pilate then gave a verdict : their demand was to be granted. Pilate released Barabbas whom they asked for and who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.
Reflection 5: I remember a man who knew he was going to die: who gathered with his friends knowing it was for the last time, who spoke to them about what he really believed, who wanted them to remember him and to keep his dream alive. I remember a testament to love. Music for Reflection or silence
Reading 6: When they reached the place called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the two criminals also, one on the right, the other on the left.
Reflection 6: I remember a man crucified. He was a failure, abandoned by his male friends, taunted, despised, enduring a shameful and agonising death, no consoling or heartfelt presence of his God to help him. I remember a man whose faith in all he believed was tested to the limits.
PRAYER POEM: This Planet of Pain alt. (Bruce Sanguin) Now we open to the story of the Crucified and Risen One, arms stretched out across the chasms of fear, pulling factions into his own broken body, closer to his pierced heart, so that this planet of pain may one day claim as its own the love flowing out from that sacred, broken heart. Yes, pull us in, Spirit of the Living God, into the Heart of our hearts, that we might once and for all lay down our arsenals of fear and take up our tools to build the kin-dom of God for the sake of all creation.
THE CROSS TABLEAU The cross is lifted and held by a man / or 2 men A white cloth (shroud) is placed on the floor (in front of the Communion Table) by 4 women The cross is carried horizontally and placed on the cloth. The prominence of the women at the cross stands in contrast to Jesus’ inner group of disciples. Having the women as witnesses was part of a subversiveness at the heart of Jesus’ approach. Therefore remembering the stories, and remembering the death of innocent, fragile things in the world around us, imagine the 4 women, representing us all, scattering autumn leaves over the cross. They are our witnesses. The Gift of Fragrant Essence Imagine fragrant essence sprinkled over the leaves to remind us of the gift of the unnamed woman who anointed Jesus.
HYMN: Jesus Story – The Role Model (Tune: Kilmarnock WOV 186)
The Jesus story is the one which shows me how to live; this Jesus story is the one that prompts me to forgive.
This story tells me of a man who called the outcast ‘Friend’; compassion was the way he lived; his loving knew no end.
When faced with wrong he did not flinch, but struggled for the right; he always lived by what he taught, and would not turn to spite.
He never looked for pers’nal gain, nor empty hollow praise; We look to his integrity to follow in his ways.
This Jesus story is the one which urges us to show in every word and every deed his love lived long ago. (© George Stuart)
Reflection 7 I remember a man of extraordinary religious insight: utterly convinced of the connectedness between human loving and living in God, determined to give people personal authority in their relationship with God, wanting to set people free from fear of the unknown, setting his heart on breaking down barriers between people… We give thanks for the ways in which the life, teaching, and death of Jesus, have set us free. [pause] Jesus provides a glimpse into another this-world reality. His vision is worth exploring. For we are encouraged to celebrate life, to suck the marrow out of existence, to explore, and probe, and experiment, to venture into unchartered seas, without fear of a tyrannical and vindictive God. God does not set limits on our curiosity. (Robert Funk/adapted) Silence
A Litany for Leaving It is almost time for us to leave (this place). As we do so we give ourselves into the hands of God. For –
We believe in God around us, dreamer and sustainer of life. When there was nothing but an ocean of tears, God sighed over the waters and dreamed a small dream: light in the darkness, a small planet in space. We believe in God beside us, Jesus as the Christ, dream made flesh. When hate and fear were raging, when love was beaten down, when hope was nailed and left to die, Christ entered into our deep secret places. We believe in God within us, Spirit who empowers the dream. Who weeps with us in our despair, who breathes on prison doors, never admitting it’s hopeless, always expecting the bars to bend and sway and break forth into blossom. (Based on an Affirmation of Faith by D McRae-McMahon)
So, in hope and faith we affirm that nothing can separate us from the love and source of life – God. The Candle is extinguished
HYMN WORDS: Lift High the Cross
Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore his glorious name!
Come, Christian people, sing your praises, shout! If we are silent, even stones cry out…
Jesus, you wept to see our human strife, teach us compassion for each human life…
Peace was your plea and peace your loving theme let peace be our passport, peace a living dream…
Great is the cost of walking on this road, to follow and suffer with the Son of God…
Worlds to be born and children yet to be come, take up this song into eternity… (© Shirley Murray)