Friday, April 2, 2010

Death on a Friday Afternoon

Good Friday is such an unusual day.  I normally take Fridays off.  And I will take some hours off today but it is not a day off.  I wake up and the house feels different.  I feel different.  I put on the black attire of my work clothing but I do not go right to work.  The work today is not at the office, or appointments with people, or phone calls and emails to follow up... The work today comes in the form of two worship services -- one at noon and one at 7 pm.  Although I hesitate to call them worship services in the sense of what we are accustomed to -- these are very different.

At noon 40 or so will gather to hear the reading of the Passion, to sing a hymn or two, to hear a homily, and to pray in the quiet of such a difference.  The chancel is empty except for a big, rough wooden cross with a real crown of thorns and some dried up palms.  The talk is death.  The death is the Son of God.  The focus is on what it took and who paid the price for what we see in the mirror of our souls.  We will contemplate the Passion of our Lord but in the way that God means for us to contemplate -- with the true worship which is faith in what He did and what He accomplished for us and for our salvation.

In the evening we will gather with several times that number for a service of the Word (the tabernacle door stands open displaying the emptiness within and the eternal light is dark).  This is a full service of the Word with the reading from the Old Testament and New Testament and the longer reading of the Passion, interspersed with choral anthems and hymn stanzas.  And then a sermon that unfolds the Passion story that it may be not just a story but our hope, our foundation, our life...  And then the adoration of the cross, the reproaches, and at last the bidding prayer with its close in the Our Father...  It is a service of shadows with lights dimmed, muted organ, and plenty of silence.

As if this day were not different enough with its focus on death, we got the news of the death of my wife's uncle.  Death and more death on a Friday we dare only by faith to call Good...

        O darkest woe! 
        Ye tears, forth flow!
        Has earth so sad a wonder? 
        God the Father's only Son
        Now is buried yonder.  
        O sorrow dread!
        God's Son is dead!
        But by His expiation
        Of our guilt upon the cross
        Gained for us salvation.        
        O sinful man!
        It was the ban
        Of death on thee that brought Him
        Down to suffer for thy sins
        And such woe hath wrought Him.
        Lo, stained with blood,
        The Lamb of God,
        The Bridegroom, lies before thee,
        Pouring out His life that He
        May life restore thee.
        O Ground of faith,
        Laid low in death.
        Sweet lips. now silent sleeping!
        Surely all that live must mourn
        Here with bitter weeping.
        Oh, blest shall be
        Who oft in faith will ponder
        Why the glorious Prince of Life
        Should be buried yonder.

        O Jesus blest,
        My Help and Rest
        With tears I now entreat Thee:
        Make me love Thee to the last,
        Till in heaven I greet Thee!

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