04-10-20 Good Friday Sermon

Tenebrae Service

April 10, 2020

CALL TO WORSHIP: (Isaiah 53:1-3)

L       The Lord be with you.

C       And also with you.

L       We gather here to worship God.

C      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? 

C      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 suffering.  

C    Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.


L       Let us pray.

C       Merciful God – as we remember how your son Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross, how seven times he spoke, 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.

C       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.”  And when you think about it, they did not.  They hadn’t the faintest idea what they were doing.  They were a stir-crazy mob, mad at something they could not see so they took it out on, of all people, God.  But they did not know what they were doing.

Yes, the dialogue that Friday morning was bitter.  The verbal stones were meant to sting. How Jesus, with a body wracked with pain, eyes blinded by his own blood, and lungs yearning for air, could speak on behalf of some heartless thugs is beyond my comprehension. Never, never have I seen such love. If ever a person deserved a shot at revenge, Jesus did.  But he did not take it. Instead he died for them. How could he do it? I do not know. But I do know that all of a sudden my wounds seem very painless. My grudges and hard feelings are suddenly childish.

Sometimes I wonder if we do not see Christ’s love as much in the people he tolerated as in the pain he endured.  Amazing Grace.

L       Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

C        You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

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  

If anyone was ever worthless, this one was.  If any man ever deserved dying, this man probably did.  If any fellow was ever a loser, this fellow was at the top of the list.

That’s the point.  Listen closely. Jesus’ love does not depend upon what we do for him.  Not at all. In the eyes of the king, you have value simply because you are. You do not have to look nice or perform well.  Your value is inborn. Remember that.

I do.  I smile because I know I do not deserve love like that. None of us do. When you get right down to it, any contribution that any of us make is pretty puny.  All of us—even the purest of us—deserve heaven about as much as that crook did. All of us are signing on Jesus’ credit card, not ours.

And it also makes me smile to think that there is a grinning ex-con walking the golden streets who knows more about grace than a thousand theologians.  No one else would have given him a prayer. But in the end that is all that he had. And in the end, that is all it took. No wonder they call him Savior.

L       Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

C        You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

SPECIAL MUSIC  The Man on the Middle Cross

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  

Question:  What kind of God would put people through such agony? What kind of God would give you families and then ask you to leave them?  What kind of God would give you friends and then ask you to say goodbye?

Answer: A God who knows that the deepest love is built not on passion and romance but on a common mission and sacrifice.

Answer: a God who knows that we are only pilgrims and that eternity is so close that any “Goodbye” is in reality a “See you tomorrow.”

Answer: A God who did it himself.

“Woman, behold your son.”

John fastened his arm around Mary a little tighter.  Jesus was asking him to be the son that a mother needs and that in some ways he never was.

Jesus looked at Mary.  His ache was from a pain far greater than that of the nails and thorns.  In their silent glance they again shared a secret. And he said goodbye.

L       Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

C        You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

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  

The most gut-wrenching cry of loneliness in history came not from a prisoner or a widow or a patient.  It came from a hill, from a cross, from a Messiah.

“My God, my God!” he screamed, “Why did you abandon me.?”  Never have words carried so much hurt. Never has one being been so lonely.  Jesus, who had been with God for eternity, is now alone. It is more than Jesus can take.  He withstood the beatings and remained strong at the mock trials. He watched in silence as those he loved ran away.  He did not retaliate when the insults were hurled nor did he scream when the nails pierced his wrists. But when God turned his head, that was more than he could handle.

I keep thinking of all the people who cast despairing eyes toward the dark heavens and cry “Why?”

And I imagine him.  I imagine him listening.  I picture his eyes misting and a pierced hand brushing away a tear.  And although he may offer no answer, although he may solve no dilemma, although the question may freeze painfully in mid-air, he who also was once alone, understands.

L       Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

C        You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

THE FIFTH WORD   John 19:28

          After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.”

Meditation on the Fifth Word  

Just as his divinity is becoming unapproachable, the phone rings and a voice whispers, “He is human.  Do not forget. He had flesh.”

Just at the right time we are reminded that the one to whom we pray knows our feelings.  He knows temptation. He has felt discouraged. He has been hungry and sleepy and tired. He knows what we feel like when the alarm clock goes off.  He knows what we feel like when our children want different things at the same time. He nods in understanding when we pray in anger. He is touched when we tell him there is more to do than can ever be done.  He smiles when we confess our weariness.

He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the Word of Life.  But there are some hours when we are restored by remembering that God became flesh and dwelt among us.  Our Master knew what it meant to be a crucified carpenter who got thirsty.

L       Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

C        You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

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 stalk of hyssop and lifted up to his lips.  When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished”;    

Meditation on the Sixth Word  

“It is finished.”  A cry of defeat?  Hardly. Had his hands not been fastened down I dare say that a triumphant fist would have punched the dark sky.  No, this is no cry of despair. It is a cry of completion. A cry of victory. A cry of fulfillment. Yes, even a cry of relief.

Are you close to quitting?  Please do not do it. Cannot resist temptation? Accept God’s forgiveness and go one more round.  Is your day framed with sorrow and disappointment? Are your tomorrows turning into nevers? Is hope a forgotten word?

Remember, a finisher is not one with no wounds or weariness.  Quite the contrary, he, like the boxer, is scarred and bloody.  Mother Teresa is credited with saying, “God did not call us to be successful, just faithful.”  

The Land of Promise, says Jesus, awaits those who endure.  It is not just for those who make the victory laps or drink champagne.  No sir. The Land of Promise is for those who simply remain to the end.

Let’s endure.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for teaching us to remain, to endure, and in the end, to finish.

L       Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

C        You suffered and died that we might be made whole.


          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  

Were it a war—this would be the aftermath.  Were it a symphony—this would be the second between the final note and the first applause.  Were it a journey—this would be the sight of home. Were it a storm—this would be the sun, piercing the clouds.  But it was not. It was a Messiah. And this was a sigh of joy.

“Father!”  The voice that called forth the dead, the voice that taught the willing, the voice that screamed at God, now says, “Father!”  The two are again one.  The abandoned is now found.  The schism is now bridged. 

“Father.”  He smiles weakly.  “It’s over.”  Satan’s vultures have been scattered.  Hell’s demons have been jailed. Death has been damned.  The sun is out. The Son of God is out. It’s over.

“Take me home.”  Yes, take him home.  Take this prince to his king.  Take this son to his father. Take this pilgrim to his home.  (He deserves a rest.)

Farewell manger’s infant.  Bless You holy ambassador. Go Home death slayer.  Rest well sweet soldier. The battle is over.

L       Lord Jesus – you gave your life for us.

C        You suffered and died that we might be made whole.

SPECIAL MUSIC  10,000 Angels



L     Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.  

C     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.

C 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.


L      Lord God, you have given us everything.

C      You have not held anything back.  

L      Help us in like manner to give of ourselves

C      Sanctify us in Christ’s name. 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 he taught us to pray:

C      Our Father….

There is no benediction.  The Christ candle is carried out, a gong is sounded, and the candle is carried back in.  the people leave in darkness and silence.


GOOD FRIDAY—4.10.2020—JOHN 18 & 19

Recently I read something interesting about the deaths of royalty. It seems that when the current queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II dies, the people of Britain are banned from being funny on public television. This is true. According to this report the BBC is not allowed to air anything humorous for the 12 days between Queen Elizabeth’s death and funeral.

In the event of the queen’s passing, the BBC will immediately stop what they’re doing, make the announcement of her death, and start airing documentaries about the Queen’s life that have been pre-recorded. The station even has black suits and ties ready to be thrown on at a moment’s notice.  The British really take the monarchy seriously.

This has traditionally been a day when Christians have taken the death of our king, Jesus of Nazareth, most seriously–Good Friday. Many of you, like me, remember a time, similar to what we have been experiencing, when the world shut down on this day. Businesses closed, schools were dismissed, and churches held three-hour long services to commemorate the events of this day. That kind of pause is happening this year only because a worldwide pandemic has force it upon us.

It’s interesting. Our lesson for this Good Friday remembrance begins and ends in a garden. Two separate gardens. The first garden we know as the Garden of Gethsemane. We might call it the Garden of Betrayal, for it was there Judas betrayed the Master.

 The Passover supper was eaten. Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn, they left the upper room, and crossed the Kidron to the Mount of Olives. There they paused at Gethsemane . . . a place where Jesus often went with his disciples for prayer. John adds the ominous note that “Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place.”

Matthew and Luke detail Jesus’ natural reluctance to experience the agony of the cross. In Gethsemane he prays, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” But then he adds, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Luke adds a detail that helps drive home for us Jesus’ agony. He writes, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground”.

Some medical dictionaries have described this condition as “chromidrosis,” a state in which intense emotional stress may actually cause the blood vessels to expand so much that they break where they come in contact with the sweat glands.

This is a reminder to us that Jesus’ suffering was both physical and emotional. God gave His Son no free pass that would allow him to avoid a most painful and degrading death. When you and I go through painful and frightening situations, as we are right now, we need to know that Jesus understands and hurts for us. He’s experienced such a trial himself. We see that plainly in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

John, on the other hand, does not put much emphasis on Jesus’ psychological and emotional struggle, but plunges right into the story of Judas’ betrayal. He reports that Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons, a classic case of overkill. Were they expecting to put down an armed insurrection?

Jesus, says John, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked the small army who had come to take him, “Who is it you want?”

Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

I am he,” Jesus said. John notes that Judas the traitor was standing there with them. Then John notes another curious twist in the story.

When Jesus said, “I am he,” after the soldiers admitted they were come for Jesus, John tells us “his enemies drew back and fell to the ground.” That’s interesting, don’t you think? They drew back and fell to the ground. Maybe they needed all those soldiers after all. Again, Jesus asked them, “Who is it you want?”

Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.

Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go,” referring to his disciples. This happened, John says, so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people. He was speaking of Jesus.

What follows in John’s Gospel is a litany of familiar if heartbreaking events. That brings us to the second and final garden story in John’s Gospel which we might call the Garden of His Burial. That story goes like this:

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, “but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders.” I know some believers like that. They try to follow Jesus secretly. If you do it because your life is in danger, I suppose that’s all right. However, if you’re doing it simply out of embarrassment, you need to know that does not work for a disciple of Jesus. Joseph was one of those secret followers, out of fear for his life. Nevertheless, with Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.

Here’s something thrilling, though. Joseph had a companion. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night.  Nicodemus, you’ll remember, was a member of the Jewish ruling council, but he wanted to know about Jesus and so one night he sought Jesus out.  Jesus, in turn, told Nicodemus that if he wanted to experience the kingdom of God he would need to be born all over again. Evidently Nicodemus experienced that new birth because here he is after Christ’s death ministering to the Master with an expensive mixture of spices and ointments. This was after all of Christ’s original disciples had fled.

Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them, Joseph and Nicodemus, wrapped the body with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

This happened at our second garden. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was betrayed. In this second unknown garden is where he was buried. John notes that Jesus was buried in a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. This was all in preparation for Easter Day.

That’s why this is the most solemn day in the Christian year. It is a shame we do not observe it as we once did.

Bible scholar William Barclay once told a story that sums up the sort of sacrifice that Jesus made on Good Friday. Some of you will remember it.

In the First World War there was a young French soldier who was seriously wounded. His arm was so badly smashed that it had to be amputated. He was a magnificent specimen of young manhood, and the surgeon was grieved that he must go through life maimed. So, he waited beside the young soldier’s bedside to tell him the bad news when he recovered consciousness.

When the man’s eyes opened, the surgeon said to him: “I am sorry to tell you that you have lost your arm.”

Sir,” said the young man, “I did not lose it; I gave it–for France.”

Barclay goes on to say, “Jesus was not helplessly caught up in a mesh of circumstances from which he could not break free. Apart from any divine power he might have called in, it is quite clear that to the end he could have turned back and saved his life. He did not lose his life; he gave it. The Cross was not thrust upon him; he willingly accepted it—for us.”

That’s what the events of Good Friday are all about. Christ lay down his life in our behalf. The only remaining question is, what is our response?

Dr. Mickey Anders tells about Auguste Rodin, a wonderful French sculptor who one day found an enormous, carefully carved wooden crucifix beside a road. Rodin bought that cross he so admired and had it carted to his home. But when it arrived, he found that the cross was too big to fit inside his house. So, what did he do? He knocked down the walls, raised the roof, and rebuilt his home around that cross.Weareall familiar with small crosses people wear around their necks. Can you imagine a cross too big to fit inside a house—a cross for which you have to knock down the walls, raise the roof, to rebuild your home around that cross? Now imagine such a cross at the center of your heart—a cross that you cannot possibly ignore—a cross that reminds you daily of how much value you are to God. That’s what Good Friday is all about. It’s about building your life around the cross of Jesus Christ as it reminds us of God’s eternal love. AMEN.


The Book of Common Prayer reminds us that if one is unable to actually consume the consecrated bread and wine due to extreme sickness or disability, the desire is enough for God to grant all the benefits of communion (BCP, p. 457). When being present at a celebration of the Eucharist is absolutely impossible, this act of prayer and meditation can provide the means by which you can associate yourself with the Eucharistic Action and open yourself to God’s grace and blessing.

Blessed be God, + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.

Let the power of the Holy Spirit come upon me, O Lord, to mercifully cleanse my heart and defend me from all adversities; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle: Revelation 3:20

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.

The Psalm: Psalm 23:5-6

You prepare a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; you have anointed my head with oil, and my cup is running over. Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

The Gospel: John 15:5

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me, you can do nothing.

If time and circumstances permit, confess your faith with the words of the Apostles’ Creed.

In your own words, pray for your own needs, for those on your heart, for the peace of the world, and for the Church. 

After offering these intercessions, continue with the

Act of Contrition

O God, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you and for all the wrongs I have done and the good I have not done. Especially I confess….Forgive me for Jesus’ sake, and grant me strength and wisdom to amend my life. Amen.

Act of Reception

In union, blessed Jesus, with the faithful gathered at every altar of your Church where your blessed Body and Blood are offered this day, (and remembering particularly my own parish and those worshiping there) I long to offer you praise and thanksgiving, for creation and all the blessings of this life, for the redemption won for us by your life, death, and resurrection, for the means of grace and the hope of glory.

And particularly for the blessings given me…. I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament, and, since I cannot at this time receive communion, I pray you to come into my heart. I unite myself with you and embrace you with all my heart, my soul, and my mind. Let nothing separate me from you; let me serve you in this life until, by your grace, I come to your glorious kingdom and unending peace. Amen.

Our Father…

Come Lord Jesus, and dwell in my heart in the fullness of your strength; be my wisdom and guide me in right pathways; conform my life and actions to the image of your holiness; and, in the power of your gracious might, rule over every hostile power that threatens or disturbs the growth of your kingdom, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep my heart and mind in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ my Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, + the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with me now and always. Amen.

Spiritual Communion is excerpted from Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book.

Permission is given to reproduce this text for use in local worshiping communities.