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 Eternally 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!