Friday, April 2, 2010

Darkness at Noon, Apr 2, 2010

For Good Friday, as for Palm Sunday, I have included most of the liturgy along with the sermon . . . Ian

Welcome to Good Friday worship at Knox United Church. Good Friday is the most solemn day in the Christian calendar. This morning we retell the Passion of the Christ.  In doing so, we remember Jesus' solidarity with our human journey in all of its joy and pain. His solidarity is one that leads to death, even to death on the cross. May we all feel God's Spirit today as we come to the end of our Lenten journey this year, a love- and pain-filled journey towards the hope and joy of Easter.

Let us join together in our opening hymn . . . 

* GATHERING HYMN "Spirit, Open My Heart" #79 MV

. . . and the words of our Call to Worship and Opening Prayer

 * CALL TO WORSHIP (said together)

Today the carpenter’s hands are nailed to a cross
and the king of kings is crowned with thorns.
Today he sets us free, himself imprisoned on a tree.
Today is God’s Friday.
We come in worship.


Good Friday God:
Grant us your presence on this day of Christ's passion
that we might be with him through death to resurrection.
We pray in the name of our crucified Saviour.  Amen.


Isaiah 53: 3-12             Suffering Servant
Psalm 22                      "My God, My God"
Luke 23: 26-47            Jesus' death

Sermon: Darkness at Noon

"It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun's light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Having said this, he breathed his last."

We have arrived at the still point of the year. We have journeyed to Jerusalem and to the cross. We have retold the story of Christ's passion and death. And now we wait . . . we wait through the rest of Good Friday, through Holy Saturday tomorrow, through Saturday night, and until dawn on Easter morning. At that time, we will gather again to hear the good news of the empty tomb, the good news that God has raised Jesus to new life, and the good news of Mary Magdalene's loving encounter with her risen Lord.

This is our story, this is our tradition, and this is our faith. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and God's anointed Christ, has died on a cross. It is also our story, our tradition and our faith that Jesus will be raised as God's Christ on Easter Sunday morning. We celebrate the mystery of this story not only during Lent, Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We also celebrate this mystery every Sunday at worship; and the story forms us in the very core of our hearts and minds.

So as we worship and wait this morning, a few thoughts about the Passion story . . .

For me, the main thing about the Passion is not what we learn from it or doctrines that we craft from it. I am not too concerned about putting into words what the story means, or what actions it moves us to take. To me, the main thing is the journey and its path -- the way of the Cross.

As told in the Book of Acts, the earliest followers of Jesus called themselves the People of the Way. And the Way they followed was a path of faith, hope and love; and it was the Way of the Cross.

As we can tell from the pain in the Scriptures we have heard this morning, this Way is not an easy one. But the difficulties in the story, I believe, are also why it can speak to us. Life, despite all that we love about it and all the joys and wonders we experience, does not always seem easy. Because the Christian Way does not flinch from showing how painful the path to new life can be, it speaks truth to us in a way that a more sugar-coated path might not.

As a child, I thought our religion was nothing but sweetness and light. You needed only to be pure and good and do the right things, and God would make life come out right. But when I returned to church as an adult, the pain of Good Friday showed me that the Christian Way was not an escape from life. Instead the Way of the Christ goes right to the heart of life, moves onto death, and then beyond death to new life.

Now it is true that we often feel joy on the path of faith, hope and love. Nevertheless, it is not an unrealistic path. The Way of the Cross reveals terrible truths about life; and so it is a Way that we can trust and love.

Jesus as the Son of God undergoes a terrible Passion. And so we know that God will be with us through wars and disease, through economic and environmental upheavals, and through lives filled with loss and suffering.

It is often the case that the longer we live and the more that we love, the more losses and failures we also experience. These losses flow from many sources: from the broken and fallen world into which we have born; from the human condition of birth, growth, maturity, and ageing; and from the inevitable mistakes and sins we commit.

The Passion of the Christ shows that what we most value in life -- the God who is Love -- is present with us even on the worst days  And most mysterious and wonderful of all, it shows that this God of Love leads us to new life in the midst of loss  . . .

As so on a Friday many years ago, darkness came over the land at noon, and three hours later, Jesus breathed his last and died.

And now we wait. We wait with our fallen Saviour who lived and died in solidarity with all the best and worst of our human lives. We wait even as we mourn. And we wait in hope for new life.

Our journey to Jerusalem and the cross has ended. Our time of waiting continues a little longer.

This is the still point of our year. And into the stillness let us say once again . . . Come, Lord Jesus, come.


Decoration of the Cross

At this time, all are now invited to participate in decorating the cross. We received a strip of red ribbon when we entered the sanctuary. As a form of prayer in motion, we are invited to reflect for a moment on loss or pain in our lives. Then all who wish are invited to come to the front and tie our ribbon to the cross as a way of symbolizing this prayer. As people come forward to decorate the cross, we will repeatedly sing the simple hymn, "Jesus Remember Me." None of us are obligated to tie a ribbon to the cross, but all our welcomed to do so.

On Easter Sunday during worship, we will again transform the cross with the children as we celebrate the resurrection hope of Easter morning.

Let us begin this time by singing Jesus Remember Me through one time, and then as we continue to sing, people are invited as you feel moved to come to the cross.

singing "Jesus Remember Me" #148 VU

Thank you. Let us now sing together the hymn . . .

* HYMN "What Wondrous Love Is This" #147 VU


And now let us pray . . .

Let us pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus,
for all people everywhere according to their need
and for the entire web of life.

God of Life and Death, in the midst of Good Friday's sombre mood, help us to be aware that you are with us every moment of our lives, perhaps especially on days like this. Help us to give thanks for this and all our other blessings.
    For a Way of faith hope and love, we give thanks
    For the promise of new life through death, we give thanks
    And for church communities in which to walk this Way, we give thanks.

Having come this far through Lent, even to the foot of the cross, we now address you this morning, Lord, in the words of the songwriter:

God of still waiting, God of deep longing, God of the heart's true rest: hold us in fathomless peace, guard us with un-waning love . . .

God of Healing, some of us may be hurting today
May we feel your healing touch during times of physical and emotional pain, in times of loss, and when we feel afraid and alone.
God, we need your loving presence.
And we now raise up for support and love those whom we remember in silence . . .

Gracious God, these are our concerns, our joys, our prayers. We lift them up to you.

And now let us draw all our prayers, spoken and unspoken into one Great Prayer by saying again the Prayer that Jesus taught us

Our father, whom art in heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever -- Amen.

Let us now join together in our closing hymn . . .

* CLOSING HYMN "God of Still Waiting" #20 MV


Dear friends, as we leave this sacred place and wait for dawn on Sunday, we go knowing that we do so with . . . the Love of God, the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit both now and always.


* BENEDICTION SONG (tune, Passion Chorale, #145 VU)

I wait for you, my comfort, eternal guide and friend.
My soul awaits your presence, seeks hope until the end.
Like those who keep a vigil, I watch for sunrise bright;
A symbol of the sharing of love’s redeeming light.

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