A few days ago, on Wednesday, I wrote about the fact that I need to “be still” and quiet enough internally in order to hear God, to listen. I’d like to report that in the two days since I’ve arrived at a place of stillness, but I can’t. My world – and yours I’d imagine – both externally and internally – is still pretty noisy. So, I have work to do and perhaps one day I’ll arrive at a place of quiet within my own heart and soul. Until then, I’ll have to start each morning and live each day in the spirit of Katharina A von Schlegel’s hymn, “Be still my soul! The Lord is on your side…”
There is perhaps no better way to begin this day, Good Friday, than by trying to quiet my soul and to remember “The Lord is on your side.” I say that because, in order to fully appreciate today, I need a great deal of stillness. This day, as you are no doubt aware, is the most solemn day in the Christian year. This is the day that Christians all over the world recount and reflect on the great suffering, crucifixion, and death of Christ as He took on the full consequence of human evil and rebellion against God. The Cross is one side of Good Friday but there is another side that requires a great deal of stillness in order to appreciate it.
To reflect on Christ’s suffering and crucifixion, which is one side of Good Friday, I must use my imagination – which is perfectly fine. What I mean is that, as I read the text, I must mentally visualize what Jesus went through. Of course, some of what I imagine comes from artistic depictions and even films of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion. It is gruesome but nevertheless an important part of reflecting on Good Friday. But I don’t have to imagine my sin; I know the ways I have lacked conformity to God’s will in my life, which as every Presbyterian will tell you is how the Westminster Confession of Faith defines sin (any lack of conformity to the will of God).
The other side of Good Friday is that today is the day that I – like a lot of Christians – will, as a friend of mine wrote years ago – “reﬂect deeply on my sin and lament the cost of my evil actions.” That’s the other side of Good Friday; today, then, is a heavy day and one that requires stillness of heart and soul in order to fully reflect on the fact that “Jesus willingly took my place to suﬀer the just consequences of my sin, that I might be set free from sin’s guilt and power.” That’s the other side of Good Friday and the part that can’t be neglected but the part that requires stillness of soul and heart.
While I approach this day fully aware that “Sunday’s Comin,’” while I approach Good Friday with a view to the empty tomb, I don’t want to rush nor gloss over what brought about the need for Good Friday. To do that, to neglect to reflect deeply on both Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion, and death and on the fact that he willingly did that on my account sin would be an egregious, spiritual oversight. But the truth is, I don’t like reflecting on my sin. I don’t like reflecting on death. Most people don’t. But in the Christian life, both are necessary in order to fully embrace the message of the Gospel.
If I’ve learned anything at all about being a Christian, I’ve learned that in order to fully appreciate the empty tomb, I must come to terms with who I am and what I’ve done and how all those things rolled into Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. And so, today I will be spending time reading through the seven last words of Jesus from the cross (I’ve included them here so you can join me). I’ll be spending time reflecting on those texts and reflecting on my side of the cross. I’ll do my best to settle into some stillness and quiet in order to appreciate the solemnness of this day. I hope you will join me.
*What follows is an order of worship for a Good Friday service. I plan to use it as it is written and imagine myself participating as if I am in church. You may want to do the same.
The Seven Last Words of Christ
As you enter into worship, please assume a quiet attitude of worship.
Please silence your mobile devices.
“Be Still, My Soul” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqgC1tqifV8
CALL TO WORSHIP
O crucified Jesus, Son of the Father, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, eternal Word of God .
We worship You.
O crucified Jesus, holy temple of God, dwelling place of the Most High.
We adore You.
O crucified Jesus, who humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.
We adore You.
The First Word
LUKE 23:32-34…Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
“What Wondrous Love Is This” Koine – https://youtu.be/acOZB3u5_Gk
Before we hear of Your death and the world going into deep darkness,
Take away all the darkness from our lives, from our souls, from our consciences. Take away all that has offended You and all that has hurt others. In Your mercy, hear our prayer.
The Second Word
LUKE 23:35-43...And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the king of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
“O Sacred Head Now Wounded” Fernando Ortega – https://youtu.be/LGmh75yvbHs
Lord Jesus Christ, Remember us when You come into Your kingdom. Remember us, not for our impressive accomplishments nor for the virtues we occasionally display. Remember us as one of the criminal community who hung at Your side. Remember us as those in need of Your mercy and grace. In Your mercy, hear our prayer.
The Third Word
JOHN 19:25-27...But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
“Alas and Did My Savior Bleed” https://youtu.be/waWQUOgwNGs
O blessed Savior, Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, as You cared for Your family then, continue to care for Your family now, for all our brothers and sisters who live in fear or in hunger or in need. Grant us the compassion to love as You love. In Your mercy, hear our prayer.
The Fourth Word
MATTHEW 27:45-46…Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” – Fernando Ortega – https://youtu.be/dLDGVl8D5UU
Holy God, You always hear our cries and listen to our sorrows. And so we pause to absorb this moment of utter agony when You closed Your ears to Your Son; this moment when He was forsaken, so that we might not be; this moment when He was abandoned when we deserved to be. Hear our prayer.
The Fifth Word
JOHN 19:28-29… After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.
O blessed Savior, Whose lips were dry and whose throat was parched, grant us the water of life. For all of us who hunger and thirst for righteousness, May we taste of Your love and mercy now and evermore. Lord, hear our prayer.
The Sixth Word
JOHN 19:30…When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Lord Jesus, You finished the work You were sent to do. Now enable us, by Your Holy Spirit, to be faithful to our call to follow You. In Your mercy, hear our prayer.
The Seventh Word
LUKE 23:44-46…It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
Lord Jesus, You were nailed to the cross by the hands of godless men. Now You are safe in the hands of Your loving Father. Grant us grace to find our ultimate security in life and in death where You found Yours, in the hands of our Father. Amen.
May God, who gives us a new vision of life through the cross, enlighten our understanding, inflame our affections, and enable us to walk the way of the cross. And may the love of God — the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit — surround us as we seek to discern that love. Amen.
Tolling of the Bells
The bells toll thirty-three times, once for each year of Jesus’ life on earth. When the bells cease, the congregation may depart in silence. We leave awaiting Christ’s resurrection