Good Friday A — April 7
Good Friday, April 7, 2023
“In the Dust of Death”
(During this time, make Matthew 27:1-54 available for the congregation to read. It can be posted on a screen or printed in the bulletin for reflection. Also, for those who prefer to have congregants enter into a silent sanctuary, the prelude may be omitted, but the text should still be provided.)
Words of Welcome
We come together today/tonight to rest in the shadow of the cross. We may be seeking forgiveness. We may be in need of a renewed relationship with God. We may feel abandoned, even distressed by the silence when we beseech God to appear. Perhaps we seek reunion with the Spirit of Christ, or with ourselves.
What we know is that we rarely arrive here clothed in glory. There are no horns to sound or drums to bang. There are no triumphant parades. There is only a crown of thorns, mockery, and a grief that has lasted generations.
So we come together to mourn our sibling Christ, passing from this world to the next. We share in the sorrow of death and the unknown. We mourn with parents, and friends, with community and alone. Whether we are on the outskirts looking in or feel surrounded by a great Love, we will pass this way together.
You are welcome here.
On Good Friday, we place ourselves as far from You as possible and remember how we left You alone – yes You – who has never abandoned even the worst of us.
Hear our prayers of grief and regret
As You linger between palms and an empty tomb, we have done wrong to turn our backs on you. We ask forgiveness through our deeds, through generosity and action within our congregation and community.
Hear our prayers of grief and regret
We cannot rewrite the story, but we may add new chapters. We can strive to become people who would ask for your release, who would beg the authorities to grant you clemency, who would treat your teachings as the road map we’ve been searching for to lead us to radical compassion.
Hear our prayers of grief and regret
We can learn from this day. We must accept it as part of who we are and what we have done before we move on to new life. No one spoke for You. Now, we must speak for those who are despised. We must listen to those who have been suppressed.
God, hear these prayers of grief and regret. Let us go out and turn them into action! Amen
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
An Enlightening: Praying Hope into Despair
My God! My God,
why have you left me all alone?
Why are you so far from saving me—
so far from my anguished groans?
My God, I cry out during the day,
but you don’t answer;
even at nighttime I don’t stop.
Whenever we encounter distress, let us bring light. (Light a candle)
My God, I call on you – see me, hear me, hold me safe!
You are the holy one, enthroned.
You are Israel’s praise.
Our ancestors trusted you—
they trusted you and you rescued them;
they cried out to you, and they were saved;
they trusted you and they weren’t ashamed.
But I’m just a worm, less than human;
insulted by one person, despised by another.
All who see me make fun of me—
they gape, shaking their heads:
“That One was committed to God,
so let God plan a rescue;
let God deliver
since this One was God’s favorite.”
Whenever we witness bullying, let us bring light (Light a candle)
You, the holy one, raise me up that I may recommit myself to grace!
But you are the one who pulled me from the womb,
placing me safely at my mother’s breasts.
I was thrown on you from birth;
you’ve been my God
since I was in my mother’s womb.
Wherever a child of God finds safety, let us bring light (Light a candle)
You pulled me from the womb, oh God – parent me now with gentleness and compassion!
Please don’t be far from me,
because trouble is near
and there’s no one to help.
Many bulls surround me;
mighty bulls from Bashan encircle me.
They open their mouths at me
like a lion ripping and roaring!
I’m poured out like water.
All my bones have fallen apart.
My heart is like wax;
it melts inside me.
My strength is dried up
like a piece of broken pottery.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you’ve set me down in the dirt of death.
Whoever is suffering, let us bring light (Light a candle)
Please don’t be far from me – though I was born alone, and I may die the same – be by my side through every stumbling step.
Dogs surround me;
a pack of evil people circle me like a lion—
oh, my poor hands and feet!
I can count all my bones!
Meanwhile, they just stare at me, watching me.
They divvy up my garments among themselves;
they cast lots for my clothes.
Whoever are victimized and alone, let us bring light (Light a candle)
Dogs may surround me and snap at my heels, God, but I trust in you to guide me to gentle them.
But you, God! Don’t be far away!
You are my strength!
Come quick and help me!
Deliver me from the sword.
Deliver my life from the power of the dog.
Save me from the mouth of the lion.
From the horns of the wild oxen
you have answered me!
I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
I will praise you in the very center of the congregation!
All of you who revere the God—sing praise!
All of you who are descendants of the story—give honor!
All of you who are all offspring of human struggle—
stand in awe!
Whoever is threatened by word or weapon, let us bring light (Light a candle)
But you, Lord, stay near – through every day, though sorrows may abound, you comfort me.
Because you didn’t despise or detest
the suffering of anyone who suffered—
didn’t hide or turn away from me.
but listened when I cried out for help.
I offer praise in the great congregation
because of you;
I will fulfill my promises
in the presence of those who honor God.
For God is the source of hope – let us bring light (Light a candle)
God will not despise our suffering – no! God rejoices in our softness, as in our resilience! God soothes us in grief and clarifies our joy until both are honed as tools of resistance and liberation!
Let all those who are suffering eat and be full!
Let all who seek God offer praise!
I pray your hearts live forever!
Every part of the earth
will remember and come back to God;
every family among all the nations will worship you.
Because the right to rule belongs to God,
God rules all nations.
Indeed, all the earth’s powerful
all who are descending to the dust
my being also has come alive.
For God is love and abundance – let us bring light (Light a candle)
Let all who are suffering hear this – God will not abandon you. God will be in the hands and feet of those who ease your pain, and in the earth that provides for you, and in the path that spreads out before you when you least expect reprieve.
Future descendants will serve God;
generations to come will be told about God.
They will proclaim God’s righteousness
to those not yet born,
telling them what God has done.
For God brings reconciliation, and with it, justice, let us bring light (Light a candle)
Future descendants will look to us and ask, “Where did you find God when the world became wild?” We must remember, then, that God is in our hearts, and our hands, and in those that have been abused and abandoned. God is in the shadow of the cross, with its power to change us all, if we pause to hear the pain, and respond with love. Amen
God, we who have turned away from the pain of this day, who jump straight from the glory of palms to the celebration of resurrection, we must be called to remember.
You are the grief. You are the loss that haunts us, not just on this day, but throughout our lives. You are in the faces of the parents whose children have been pulled from cars or out of their beds to be slain, and in the homes that have collapsed, caught fire, or washed away. You are in the fear walking through grocery store, movie theater, parade, and school, an eye out for a weapon that may transform normalcy into death. You are in the desperate families fleeing oppression, violence, and unrest, and you are in those who stay to fight (and yes, also in those who cower to survive). You are in women protecting their bodies, and in children for whom life is the ultimate struggle. You witness the mask worn by those without privilege, the rage for those without representation, the guilt in those who know they can’t or won’t or haven’t done enough.
But You are also in the crumpled bills tucked into the hand of one with a damp cardboard sign. You are in the decision to use restorative justice over juvenile detention, in mental health services instead of mistrust. You are in the enthusiasm of the young who show up to vote, to protest, to bring the reckoning to the feet of the oppressors. You are in the small square plots of garden tucked between high rises, and in the hands of those who are turning back to simpler ways to live on this earth.
You are in the stories of hope, even on this day. Even when you were denied and beaten, thrown to the bitter crowds, and left to die, still, you are present in our highest love for community and justice. You, who must have felt forsaken on that cross, have never turned your back on us. You are here when we seek you. You are here when we need you. You are here through whatever has happened and whatever may come. In a stable, or in the temple, in a ship in the storm, or reaching out to the lepers, in an upstairs room or a lonely garden or a prison cell – even when You are strung up, seemingly out of reach – You are here.
We are not alone. We may call out, feel forsaken, burn with pain. We may be given more than any one person should have to handle, and still, we are held.
Remember, though, this day and all days, to pause. There may be a cross you could carry, a verdict you could overthrow, a hand to hold. God is with us, in us, and acting through us, this day, and forevermore. Amen
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent
If I could tell you one thing I have learned,
it is to go when the wind is blowing just right,
when the sun is out, when people are calling for you.
Tomorrow might be grim.
Tomorrow, death may call on you, on one you love,
and you will regret that you did not feel the wind once more
before you had to leave.
In the Dust of Death: Service Prayers and Full Liturgy for Good Friday A were written by Maria Mankin.