Good Friday – A virtual service of shadows

By Rev Elizabeth Raine

Entering mystery through darkness:
A virtual service of shadows

An Easter Reflection

“The community of disciples around Jesus had
the irreducible conviction that:
God makes homecoming in the midst of exile;
God makes creation in the midst of chaos;
God makes resurrection in the face of crucifixion.”
Interpretation and Obedience.,Walter Brueggemann, g 318.

The Coming

And God held in his hand a small globe.
Look, he said.
The son looked.
Far off, as through water, he saw
a scorched land of fierce colour.
The light burned there;
crusted buildings cast their shadows;
a bright serpent, a river,
uncoiled itself,
radiant with slime.
On a bare hill,
a bare tree saddened the sky.
Many people held out their thin arms
to it, as though waiting
for a vanished spring
to return to its crossed boughs.
The son watched them.
Let me go there, he said.
(R.S. Thomas, Welsh, 1913-2000)

Take a minute to sit in silence and ponder the mystery of these words.

INVOCATION (from Lamentations 1:12)
All you who pass this way
Look, and see, the shadow of brokenness.
All you who pass this way
Look, and see, the weight of the world
All you who pass this way
Look, and see, the suffering of the Savior.
All you who pass this way
Look and see, the sorrow of Christ Jesus.
Behold the man, behold the mystery.

PRAYER OF PREPARATION

You call to us in darkness,
in the silence of our souls.
We wait. We watch. We are afraid.
Guide us as we dare to enter into the darkness.
Be with us, as we enter into
the mystery of your presence,
In the paradox that is faith, we learn:
from silence, comes the song of praise;
from darkness, shines forth the light;
from mystery, comes the kingdom of God.
Amen.

HYMN 682 When human voices (vss. 1-3)

When human voices cannot sing
and human hearts are breaking,
we bring our grief to you, O God
who knows our inner aching.

Set free our spirits from all fear –
the cloud of dark unknowing,
and let the light, the Christ-light show
the pathway of our going.

Make real for us your holding love,
the love which is your meaning,
the power to move the stone of death,
the hope of Easter morning.

The words of the hymn state that God always offers hope. Meditate on where hope might be for you.

PRAYER

O Lord, we gather here this day
as your people.
We wait in darkness,
for the light has not yet dawned.
From the darkness,
we contemplate the cross and what it means,
we wonder at the mystery of the sacrifice
that Jesus has made.

We seek to understand
the darkness of this day.
We know this journey will be hard and dimly lit.

We know that there are dark places in life,
dark places which at times engulf the light.

As we begin this journey ,
we open our hearts and minds to you.
We bring ourselves into your presence.
Help us to hear, to see, and to understand,
Help us to find the light in the darkness
and the life in the midst of death.
Amen.

A SERVICE OF SHADOWS

Shadow of Condemnation

Reading – Luke 23:32-34:

32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus[a] there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.

Prayer:
Forgiving Christ,
when the world condemns us, when wrong is done to us, when we carry the weight of things that are too much to forgive, come along side us in the darkness, and give us the grace to be forgiven and forgiving.

Spend a moment thinking about the passage and the prayer.

Shadow of Brokenness

Reading – Luke 23:35-43:

35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Prayer:
Reconciling Jesus,
we are weighed down by a world that is broken.
Despite the darkness of pain, you could still reach out to the brokenness of the thief, reconciling him to God. Come alongside us in the darkness, and help us to bring wholeness to our broken world.

Spend a moment thinking about the passage and the prayer.

Shadow of Sorrow

Reading – John 19:25-27:

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Prayer:
Loving Jesus,
we carry the weight of the people we love,
concern for their sorrows and suffering.
Our care for them is deep, and sometimes there is not much we can do. Come alongside us in the darkness, and cradle the ones we love in the palm of your hands.

Spend a moment thinking about the passage and the prayer.

Shadow of Despair

Reading – Mark 15:33-34:

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land[a] until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Prayer:
Despairing Jesus,
you know what it is to feel that God is far away. You know what it is to call out for God’s presence. Come alongside us in the darkness,
and help us to understand God is with us,
even when we feel abandoned and desolate.

Spend a moment thinking about the passage and the prayer.

Shadow of Suffering

Reading – John 19:28-30:

28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Prayer:
Suffering Jesus,
You thirst for a world that is dark with suffering. You stand beside us in our thirst for justice and peace. You are with us in our pain. Come alongside us in the darkness, and walk with us through our own and others’ suffering.

Spend a moment thinking about the passage and the prayer.

Shadow of Death

Reading – Luke 23:44-49:

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land[a] until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed;[b] and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 47 When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”[c] 48 And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. 49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Prayer:
Dying Jesus,
even in death, you trusted in God. When we mourn,
when we are afraid, when we come to our own end,
the mystery of God means that you have been there, too.
Come alongside us in the darkness,
and help us to understand that through death comes life.

DARKNESS AND MYSTERY

Reading – John 19:30-42:

30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows[a] that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”

38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Spend some time and sit with this story, and think about the meaning and mystery of Good Friday.

Closing Prayer

Loving God,
I fear death,
You embraced it.
I fear and crave intimacy in equal measure,
You make it possible.
I fear commitment,
You commit, again and again.
Christ, make my flesh your home,
my hands your hands.
My faltering love the starting point for your unwavering passion.
That my starving spirit might be renewed.
That the world might change, if only a little.
Even as I hesitate, hear me say:
Christ, into your hands I commit my spirit.

David McNeish (Wild Goose Publications)

Photo of Rev Elizabeth Raine

Written by Rev Elizabeth Raine

Elizabeth was minister at Tuggeranong Uniting, between 2018 and 2023. Elizabeth retired in December 2023 and has moved to Dungog in the Hunter valley, with her husband Rev Dr John Squires.

Over the years, Elizabeth has had a number of diverse and interesting placements, such as a school chaplaincy, a tenancy worker with UnitingCare, a congregational minister, a lecturer at UTC, a Presbytery minister, and as an Intentional Interim minister. 

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