A Good Friday Reflection

8 Apr 2020 by Veronica & Rev John Thornton in: Latest News

Opening Prayer:

We sit in silence: Lord God, we meet beneath your cross this day. We meet in strange, even fearful circumstances that find us separated and yet still together.
We meet seeking to understand the awful things that happened on this day.
We meet because we want to be with you, alongside you on your cross

And Lord God, in our meeting, we keep silence.
We keep silence in a time when words fail us.
We keep silence with those crucified today, with those who live in darkness, in despair, in pain.

We keep silence with those treated as today’s scapegoats: the homeless, the jobless, the refugees, those who are not like us.

We keep silence with those robbed of a sense of belonging in our society: people living and sleeping rough, loners, people who seem different, strange ...

We keep silence for those mourning the loss of a loved one.

We keep silence with those who are rebuilding their lives after devastating bushfires, who suffer domestic violence.  Those whose names will not make the headlines but the pain and the loss remain.

We keep silence with those known to us today who live in darkness.  Who find it hard to see beyond death, desolation and despair.

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11-13

THE WORD OF GODIsaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25 & John 18:1­-19:42

After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples.

...So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called the place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

The Other Side

Good Friday was named from this side of the cross but was it good on the other side just over 2,000 years ago? Take yourself into the city of Jerusalem to view these events in person:

Life under the Romans is oppressive enough these days without the strict religious laws and requirements laid down by our religious leaders. Just to have some freedom to think for ourselves would be good.

Some people have been talking about this teacher, a Rabbi called Jesus who was in the Temple a few days ago. He became angry and trashed the place, turning over the tables of the money changers and speaking the words of the prophet Jeremiah where he talks about ‘the house which bears my Name becoming a den of robbers’ (Jeremiah 7:11). This same teacher came riding into town a week ago and the people flocked to greet him thinking he was the king come to free us from oppression but he came riding on a donkey not a fine white war horse!?

But didn’t the prophet Zechariah say, ‘Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ (Zechariah 9:9).

Over the past week Jesus has been seen regularly around the temple court, teaching and preaching, and really upsetting the religious leaders, if he’s not careful he is going to find big trouble.

I don’t want to say I told you so, but that trouble came soon enough. I mean, you can’t be stirring up trouble with so many in the city for Passover. After the Passover meal there was a lot of noise and commotion in the middle of the night and I looked outside to see soldiers taking Jesus to Herod. What a commotion! Should I follow and see what is going on? Or perhaps better to stay behind closed doors?

So much has happened over night and the shock of it all is that people are saying that Jesus will be crucified, today!

The city is heaving with people, but I find a place a good vantage point on the route Jesus will take to the place known as Golgotha, but really, it is the local garbage dump.

Here comes Jesus now, surrounded by Roman soldiers and the local religious experts are keeping a close eye on things. He has been beaten and flogged so severely he is hardly recognisable, he has the cross on his shoulders but is so weak from the torture he can hardly walk and keeps stumbling. Oh look, one of the soldiers has pulled out one of the spectators to carry the cross. They are keen to hurry things up.

Moving along with the crowd and now soldiers have stripped Jesus and they have hammered him to the cross with huge nails in his hands and feet and now they are hauling the whole thing up to drop into the hole in the ground; I can’t imagine the pain, the humiliation, the loss of dignity.

The hours drag on and the words of the prophet Isaiah come to mind, ‘See, my servant will act wisely, he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness,’ (Isaiah 52:14-15a)

Father, on this day of horror, of awe of wonder and of deep sadness; may we look at the events of so long ago not with today’s eyes and today’s understanding but with eyes from the other side of the cross. May we see our part in these events, confess our sins, asking your forgiveness.  AMEN

Seven words from the cross

‘Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.’

Before you die, Jesus Christ, and the world goes into deep darkness, take from our lives, from our souls, from our consciences all that has offended you, all that has hurts others, and the intransigence which has made us numb to the plight of those whom we could help or heal.

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world. HAVE MERCY ON US.

‘Today you will be with me in paradise’

Lord Jesus, remember us when you come into your kingdom. Remember us, not for our impressive CV, not for the things which we hope will appear in our obituaries. Remember us, not for the virtues we occasionally display or for any credit we think we have in our moral account.

Remember us, as one of the criminal community who hung at your side, and if life will not let us be in paradise with you today, keep a place for us. AMEN

‘Woman, here is your son ...’

For our families, where they are open, loving, supportive, that their joy might be kept safe. Lord, hear us.

For our families, where they are tense, troubled, fragmented, seething with suspicion, that they may find a way through pain, not a path away from it. Lord, hear us.

For our churches, where they risk welcoming the stranger, where in language, hospitality, evangelism and service, they employ the imagination rather than the rule book, that they might be encouraged and surprised by joy, Lord hear us.

For our churches, where they have become introverted, suspicious of the stranger, obsessed with dead rather than living stones, suffocated by tradition, that they might be redeemed from the pawnshop of past glory and renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit, Lord hear us.

For ourselves, at this time, isolated, yet still together, mindful of people whose journey we have not travelled, whose depth of faith we do not know, whose potentials we cannot imagine, that we might somehow know we belong to each other, Lord hear us.

And before you leave the cross and we move on, if there is one of your family for whom we should care more fondly, direct our gaze to them as you turned Mary toward John. AMEN.

‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

Lord Jesus, by your cry of desperate honesty, rid us of superficial faith which is afraid of the dark.

Not so that we might be justified pessimists, but so that we might discover profound joy, give us when we need it, the courage to doubt, to rage, to question, to rail against heaven until we know we are heard.

We do not ask for easy answers to hard times; there are many who can offer these. We ask for a sense of your solidarity, that will be enough to let us know that we do not walk or cry alone; that will enable us to go through the dark and find light again in the morning. AMEN.

‘I am thirsty.’

You have made us for yourself. We know it even if we cannot name it. We have had these bodies and these minds long enough to learn to live with our limitations. Yet despite this, something in us hankers, yearns, thirsts for something better, something greater which we know is there. Beautiful music ends and we wish it could continue.

We embrace, then refrain from embracing and wish that we could be held forever.

So much of life demands a resolution.

So thank you for this incompleteness, thank you for this yearning, thank you for this thirst.

Thank you for giving us enough of you to want more, and to sense the fullness of eternity within the limits of times. AMEN

‘It is finished.’

Now, Lord Jesus, you can let go of us.

You have convinced us of our sin and you have forgiven it. You have convinced us of your way and have engaged us on it. You have shown us a foretaste of heaven and have made us members of its commonwealth.

You can let go of us now.

Having overcome the sin of the world, death will be a small obstacle. Just as you foretold that you would be handed over to be crucified and this has come true; also as you foretold, on the third day, you will rise again. And we will be your witnesses. AMEN

‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’

Go, silent friend, your life has found its ending. To dust returns your weary mortal frame. God, who before birth called you into being, now calls you back, his accent still the same.

Lord Jesus, we let you go.

You cannot cling to life forever, nor can we cling to a dying frame, nor do we grudge you that peace which passes understanding which you have promised us.

So go to heaven, where you will welcome those who die in your faith, whose death, with your death, we remember.

And cheered by the prospect of a day when there will be no more death or parting, and all shall be well, and all shall be one, may they who have died before us be among the first to welcome us to heaven, where with you enthroned in glory, and with all the saints, we will share the everlasting feast of your family.

Till then, keep us in faith, fill us with hope, deepen us through love, to the glory of your holy name. Amen


The denial of your image - Forgive us, Father, for all the times we label others, forgetting each one of us is made and loved by you.

Forgive us, Jesus, for the little choices that blind us to the pain we cause others to suffer.

Forgive us, Holy Spirit, for silent collusion with systems that deny justice and human need, serve politics or convenience first.

Living God, forgive our inhumanity, the denial of your image set within us; pour your grace on this, our sorrow, that we may find the courage to change and honour your love for us. Amen

Our inhumanity - God forgive us for the inhumanity that makes us bomb and blast and see people as collateral damage.

God forgive us for the inhumanity that imprisons, disappears or kills those who do not fir our point of view.

God forgive us for the inhumanity that makes slaves of other cultures to put food and flowers on our table.

God forgive us for the inhumanity that put Jesus on the cross. And God forgive even when we know what we do. Amen

Religious power abused - Jesus, our friend, your death was contrived by the clergy, twisting events to suit their needs. So write your gospel on our hearts that we may yearn for justice by your laws. And when we betray you to suit our needs, may we hear the cock crowing, turn toward your love and try again to live your gospel every day. Amen

Chris Polhill – from Eggs and Ashes – Ruth Burgess and Chris Polhill - 2004