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A Tennebrae Service

The following is a Good Friday Worship Service written by Rev.Richard and Charlene Fairchild based on the traditional "last seven words" of Christ. Rather than preaching on those words, as is the usual approach, a series of reflections are offered on each word. Changes that we hope to implement will make those reflections even less didactic and even more impassioned than they already are. Never-the-less, this service has been tested and found to be very effective in moving the worshippers into a deeper appreciation of the passion of Christ.

It is our suggestion that the sanctuary be draped in black. Please note that the service now calls for Seven Candles to be extinguished during the service. A free standing candelabra is ideal for this, otherwise seven candles on the communion table / alter will suffice.

Lighting in the sanctuary should be low. A single reader and a single narrator - one who is able to be expressive in his or her reading, should be utilized. A bulletin can be easily prepared for the congregation - using this outline - and omitting the text of the reflections. We find it good to retain the actual scripture readings in the bulletin to help the congregation in their reflection at home over the period of vigil.

The Seven Last Words
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L   The Lord be with you.
P   And also with you.
L   We gather here to worship God.
P   We gather to remember how Jesus suffered and died for us 
    and to thank God for his love and his mercy
L   Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of 
    the LORD been revealed? 
P   He grew up before God like a tender shoot, 
    and like a root out of dry ground.  
L   He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing 
    in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised 
    and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with 
P   Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised,
    and we esteemed him not.

* HYMN: O Come And Mourn With Me A While 	               - VU 136

O come and mourn with me awhile;
O come now to the Saviour's side;
O come, together let us mourn;
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

Have we no tears to shed for Him,
While soldiers scoff and foes deride?
Ah! look how patiently He hangs;
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

Seven times he spake, seven words of love;
And all three hours His silence cried
For mercy on the souls of all;
Jesus, our Love, is crucified.

O love of God!  O sin filled world!
In this dread act your strength is tried,
and victory remains with love;
Jesus, our love, is crucified.

L   Let us pray.
P   Merciful God - as we remember how your son Jesus bore our 
    sins in his body on the cross, how seven times he spake, seven 
    words of love, we ask you to bless our hearing.
L   Father, as we recall how  all three hours His silence cried 
    for mercy on the souls of all, we ask you to help us to 
    understand the mystery of your love, and make us into a people 
    who are ever more worthy of it.
P   Amen.


THE FIRST WORD                                        Luke 23:33-34 
     When they came to the place called "The Skull", they nailed
     Jesus to the cross there, and the two criminals, one on his
     right and one on his left. Jesus said "Forgive them, Father! 
     They do not know what they are doing." 

* Meditation on the First Word
"They do not know what they are doing" 
They do not know?  They ...who killed Jesus?
Who is "they"?

It is so easy to name others
to blame others 
the Romans 
the crowd 
Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas 
they all played their part 
and conspired against Jesus 
or simply followed orders to maintain the peace
to keep Jesus' kingdom from infringing on theirs. 

And yet where are we when Jesus' kingdom infringes on ours? 
on our peace and our order? 
on our prosperity and our security?

Where are we when the victims of our peace cry for justice? 
when those disenfranchised by our order call for compassion?
when the hungry and the lonely  beg us to share our prosperity 
     our security 
     our power? 
Where are we when Christ is crucified among us? 

Surely he should have raged 
at the sinners who nailed him to the tree.
Surely he should have raged at us for the evil we do,
the evil we do both knowing and unknowing,
Yet compassion is there in the first words that he utters
He intercedes for us before the Father.

Compassion that called him into being in his mother's womb 
Compassion that compelled him to the cross 
Compassion that brings incredible, unbelievable grace
Compassion that echoes through the centuries 
     to all who participate in the killing of Christ: 
Compassion that cries out from the cross: 
     "Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing"

Extinguishing The Candle
L   Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us.
P   You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

* Anthem:   What Wonderous Love Is This"  (VU 147 verse 1-2) 

THE SECOND WORD                                       Luke 23:39-43
     One of the criminals hanging there threw insults at him:
     "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" The other
     one, however, rebuked him, saying: "Don't you fear God? Here
     we are all under the same sentence. Ours, however, is only
     right, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did;
     but he has done no wrong." And he said to Jesus, "Remember
     me, Jesus, when you come as King!" Jesus said to him, "I
     tell you this: Today you will be in Paradise with me." 
* Meditation on The Second Word
How much are we like the first thief?
Full of anger - because we are not rescued from our sin?
Full of hate - because we suffer because of the sins of others?

How much do we want God to snap his fingers
And make right what we have made wrong?
What we have allowed others to make wrong?

How easy it is to cry "save us"
and to rail against God 
when there is no magic cure
no miraculous recovery
no legions of angels
to take away pain and bring wholeness.

How easy it is to scorn the Messiah,
to mock the goodness of the world
and condemn the light of the world
because we are unwilling to face what we we have done?

Yet there is goodness
There is a cure for sin 
a cure that does not promise magical solutions
but promises that the pain of sin is not the end,
that when all this is over 
when the suffering is finished 
that the final word is not torture and defeat
but life -- life springing out of the ashes 
life transformed and fulfilled in Paradise.

To the compassionate thief 
To the one who could still recognize the good in the world
To the one who tried to comfort and protect that good
To the one who sought good -- Comfort was given

"Today, you will be in paradise with me."

Extinguishing The Candle
L   Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us.
P   You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

ANTHEM:  "Jesus Remember Me" (Choir 2x, Congregation 3x)   - VU 148
	Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom
	Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

THE THIRD WORD                                        John 19:25-27
     Standing close to Jesus' cross were his mother, his mother's
     sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus
     saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there; so
     he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he
     said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that
     time the disciple took her to live in his home. 
* Meditation on the Third Word
Who can grasp the grief?
the grief of Mary watching her son suffer?
the grief of Mary watching him die?

And who can grasp the grief of the son?
The son who must see his mother mourn?

What gift can a man give his mother?
What can he offer when he is gone?
How can he help her?
Hold her?
Comfort her?
Honour her?

"Woman, here is your son"

Here is one I love, to love you, and for you to love.
One who knows me
One who is my brother and who can speak of me.
One Who can hold you,
     comfort you,
     and honour you;
One who shares your grief

"Here is your mother"

Here is one I love, for you to love, and to love you.
The one who taught me,
the one who fed me,
the one who wiped away my tears
the one who hugged me,
the one who grieves with you.

Women, behold your children; children, behold your mothers.

Extinguishing The Candle
L   Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us.
P   You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

ANTHEM:  "At The Cross Her Vigil Keeping" (VU 139 verse 1-5)

THE FOURTH WORD                                       Mark 15:33-34
     And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over
     the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour
     Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Elo-i, elo-i, lama
     sabach-thani?" which means, "My God, my God, why hast thou
     forsaken me?" 

* Meditation on the Fourth Word
Of all the agony of that tortuous day
the lacerations of the scourging
the chafing of the thorns around his head
the convulsions of his tormented, dehydrated body 
as it hung in the heat all the day
Nothing reaches the depth of this anguished cry of desolation
"My God, my god, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Jesus, who found his purpose and strength in the presence of God 
who was sustained by the immediacy of his relationship with God 
and who endured all by the tangible power of God always at work
within him ,
always a centre of vitality and peace,
found himself totally alone on the cross.

Jesus, whose very being was God, 
found himself utterly, 
cut off from all that gives life and breath 
cut off from all that gives purpose and hope 
cut off from the source of his being 
cut off, even from himself 
plumbing the depths of the human condition 
to walk in the place of the utter absence of God,
in the place of sinners
in the place of those who reject God.

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

In these words is the central mystery of the crucifixion 
which cannot be fully comprehended,
that there is no despair so deep
or evil so overwhelming
or place so far removed from joy, light, and love 
from the very heart of God
that God has not been before us, 
and where God cannot meet us 
and bring us home.

Extinguishing The Candle
L   Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us.
P   You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

HYMN:   "O Sacred Head" (Verses 1-4)	                  - VU 145

O sacred Head, sore wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!

Thy grief and bitter passion were all for sinners gain,
mine, mine was the transgression, but thine the cruel pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Saviour, turn not from me thy face;
but look on me with favour, and grant to me thy grace.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

Be near when I am dying, O show thy cross to me;
and for my succour flying, come, Lord, to set me free.
These eyes, new faith receiving, from thee shall not remove,
for all who die believing, die safely through thy love.

THE FIFTH WORD                                            John 19:28
     After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said
     (to fulfil the scripture), "I thirst."

* Meditation on the Fifth Word
There is a kind of timelessness about hanging on a cross.
It is not a quiet death, 
over in an instant in one glorious moment of martyrdom
like being torn apart by lions. 
A cross is as much an instrument of torture
as it is a gallows from which to hang, 

And as the day wears on
seconds stretch into minutes which stretch into hours
until there comes a point when time can no longer be measured
except in the gradual weakening of the body
and its ever more insistent demands
for that substance which is so vital to life 
so foundational to all living things 
so basic to existence as we know it: -- water.

Water to moisten a parched mouth 
Water to free a swollen tongue 
Water to open a rasping throat that cannot gasp enough air. 
Water to keep hope alive
to keep life alive just a few moments longer.

Water, to a crucified man, is life.

"O God, thou art my  God, I seek thee,
my soul thirsts for thee;
my flesh faints for thee
as in a dry and weary land where no water is."

Who can tell if these words from Psalm 63 went through Jesus mind
but a thirst for water is a thirst for life
and a thirst for life is a thirst for God
who promises streams in the desert
mighty rivers in the dry land
and living water to wash away every tear.

Here, at the end of it all those promises seem far away, -
And yet Jesus - forsaken by God
still clings to the memory and the hope of life.

"I thirst."

Extinguishing The Candle
L   Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us.
P   You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

ANTHEM:  "They Crucified My Lord"  (VU 141 verses 1-3)

THE SIXTH WORD                                        John 19:29-30
     A bowl was there, full of cheap wine mixed with vinegar, so
     a sponge was soaked in it, put on stlk of hyssop and lifted
     up to his lips.  When Jesus had received the wine, he said,
     "It is finished"; 
* Meditation on the Sixth Word
What a sigh of relief!
What a cry of deliverance,
that finally,
after seemingly endless pain
and gasping torment,
it is over at last.
The suffering is ended.
The ordeal is finished 
and nothing remains
but the blessed peace of the absence of all sensation.

When all there is, is pain
its ceasing is the greatest blessing of all
even when its ceasing comes only with death.

But Jesus' cry is more than just welcoming the ending of pain
it is more than joy at the deliverance death brings.

He does not merely say, "it is over"
he says, "it is accomplished,

Jesus's cry isn't a cry of defeat and despair

It is a cry of success and triumph 
- even at the moment of death -
that the race has been run
that he has endured to the end
that the strife is over
and the battle is won.

Jesus' cry is a cry of relief to be sure
but it is also a cry of victory:

"The work I came to do is complete"
there is nothing more to add
"it is finished"

Extinguishing The Candle
L   Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us.
P   You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

ANTHEM: "They Crucified My Lord                - VU 141 verses 3-5)

THE SEVENTH WORD                                         Luke 23:46
     Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into
     thy hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he
     breathed his last.
* Meditation on the Seventh Word
It is the end, the very end
the end of the ordeal
the end of the suffering
and Jesus
alone on the cross
abandoned by his friends
forsaken by God
gasps for a last breath 
and gathers the strength for one final cry. 

Why would he choose to speak
so close to the end? 
Why would he muster the last energy he had
to cry out with a loud voice? 
Couldn't God have heard his thoughts?

Unless God wasn't the only one intended to hear.
Unless his voice was pitched loud
so that we too might hear this final dedication of his soul.

A dedication made despite the pain,
     despite the mocking,
     despite the agony,
     despite the sense of horrible aloneness he felt.

A dedication made to God
     before the resurrection,
     before the victory of the kingdom,
     before any assurance other than that 
     which faith could bring.

Jesus entrusts his spirit -- his life --
     and all that has given it meaning --
     to God in faith,
even at the point of his own abandonment
when the good seems so very far away
he proclaims his faith in God,
the darkness cannot overcome it.

"Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit"

Extinguishing The Candle
L   Lord Jesus - you gave your life for us.
P   You suffered and died that we might be made whole.


ANTHEM:  "There Is A Green Hill Far Away"                  - VU 152

Responsive Reading: Isaiah 53-4-6,9
L   Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, 
    yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.  
P   But he was wounded for our transgressions and he was bruised
    for our iniquities.  Upon him was the chastisement that made 
    us whole.
L   All we like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to 
    our own way; and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity 
    of us all.
P   He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich 
    in his death, although he had done no violence nor was any 
    deceit in his mouth.

HYMN:  "Were You There" (verse 1-2)	                       - VU 144

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

Prayer of Dedication:
L   Lord God, you have given us everything.
P   You have not held anything back.  
L   Help us in like manner to give of ourselves
P   Sanctify us Christ's name.
P   Bless us and all that we think, feel, say, and do that we, 
    like Jesus, may be a blessing unto others,
L   We ask this and all things that we ask of you through him, 
    saying the prayer that he taught us...
P   Our Father....

HYMN:  "Were You There" (verses 3-5)	                   - VU 144

Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when they laid in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Depart now in peace - and may the Spirit of Christ, go with you,
may his faith and trust abide within you, and may the knowledge
of his love support you both now and forevermore, 

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1999-2006
             please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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