On Good Friday we would usually have our 3 hour meditation at Hoselaw Chapel to mark the hours on the cross. Usually we would have the seven readings, at the start, then at every half hour and after each people would sit in silence to meditate.
This year is obviously very different, but please feel free to sit from 12 till 3 or from 2 to 5 in the afternoon. Or just for a little time.
A podcast of this meditation can be found on the podcast page of the website.
If anybody wishes to reflect on hymns for Good Friday, the following are appropriate (CH4):
377 – Go to dark Gethsemane
380 – There is a green hill far away
382 – O Sacred head, sore wounded
385 – Here hangs a man discarded
392 – When I survey the wondrous cross
399 – My song is love unknown
403 – Were you there when they crucified my Lord? 405 – We sing the praise..
I am using material in our meditations from Apprentices and Eyewitnesses by Chris Thorpe, ‘All desires known’ by Janet Morley, ‘Seasons with the Spirit’ ed Ruth Harvey and Roots Magazine.
In the shadow of our suffering
is the suffering of Jesus
In the shadow of our weakness
Is the vulnerability of the Christ
In the shadow of our pain
Is the God who cried out.
We are never rejected
We are never abandoned.
First Reading – Mark 14: 32-50
We are in the olive groves of Gethsemane, and it is night and it is dark. Jesus is alone and lonely. The disciples have fallen asleep, and Jesus wrestles with what lies ahead. Humiliation, torture, even death. In Gethsemane Jesus dares to voice his heartfelt desire not to go through with it. ‘Take this cup away from me’.
How many people struggling with the coronavirus have said that. Or ill with cancer or beset with problems. We long for the reality to be different, for a miracle to happen. Especially as Christians, we are supposed to have the spiritual resources to cope.
Jesus was honest about his feelings, but equally he placed himself in God’s hands: But not my will but yours be done.
Then the soldiers are upon them, and he is led away.
Let us pray
Lord Jesus, we wait with you in the darkness.
We will watch with you now, in this moment when you need us.
Help us to learn from your honesty, as we reflect on our own feelings on the challenges we face in life. We don’t want this cup. Why me?
Give us grace to walk through the valley
And come to the dawn of a new day
with you. Amen.
Second reading – Luke 22: 54-71
Simon Bailey reflected on the Women in the Good Friday story and here he imagines the Serving woman:
‘I am the serving woman in the courtyard by the fire. I was serving the men who had arrested Jesus. They wanted a drink while the High Priest worked out what to do with him.
I recognised Jesus’ friend, though he wasn’t saying much, just keeping his distance. I felt sorry for him. I wondered what it was about this Jesus that earned such devotion. I spoke to his friend – to help really., but he swore at me - and at himself – that they were not friends.
I watched as he got more agitated – and I watched Jesus , standing there inside, so silent, so still, so sad. But it was the last moment I will never forget, printed always on my mind, on my heart.. Just after his friend again denied knowing him, just before he ran off into the night, sobbing his heart out, Jesus turned round and looked at him.
I know what that look meant. It meant need and pain, yes, but it also meant mercy, pity and forgiveness. I was shocked, shaken, for he wasn’t just looking at his friend, but at me and everyone else. He was looking at us all with mercy and forgiveness.
Let us pray
Jesus turned round and looked at him. Lord, we see ourselves in Peter. Like Peter, we deny you, like the disciples we run away from you. We fail you, we fail our world, but you speak your words of forgiveness and the look in your eye is that of love. Restore us ever to be your people in the community and in the world. Amen.
Third Reading – Matthew 27: 11-31
Here is a reflection from Roots magazine, imagining how Pilate felt:
It’s all my fault. I’m a weak man. They think I’m strong, but I’m not. They think I have power, but I don’t. The more power you get, the more you are desperate to hold on to it. The higher up the pole you climb, the more people are desperate to push you off. All the decisions I make are about me, about keeping my grasp on power, inching my way further upwards in the eyes of those above me.
It was the same with him. I made that power calculation, but it wasn’t the same. I could sense it – he was like nobody else I’ve ever met – he wasn’t afraid of me. In him was the chance to break that dog-eat-dog cycle. He held it out to me, the chance to act selflessly for once in my life. And for a millisecond I was tempted, but I bottled out. I couldn’t do it. I failed him. I failed myself. I let us both down. I washed my hands.
What if I had pardoned him? Who knows what would have happened. Probably there’d have been a riot. I would have sent out the soldiers and there would have been blood in the streets. Perhaps I would have lost my job, my position, maybe even my life, but could it have felt any worse than this? I have failed him – it’s all my fault.
Oh, my Lord (I can’t believe I’m calling him that) – what have I done? It’s all my fault, I’m so sorry...
Let us pray
Almighty God, look in mercy upon this your family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was content to be betrayed and given into the hands of the wicked and to suffer death upon the cross: who is alive and glorified with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Fourth reading – Luke 23: 26, 32-43
Just after dawn we gathered in Jerusalem, to walk the Via Dolorosa, the way of the cross, and we took it in turns to carry the cross. It wasn’t anything like the size or weight of the cross Jesus would have carried, but it was awkward to carry, and when it was my turn, I was glad when someone helped. Simon of Cyrene was press ganged into carrying the cross for Jesus. It obviously made a big impact on him, and he and his sons were well known to the early church.
Let us pray
Jesus our brother. You followed the necessary path and were broken on our behalf. May we neither cling to our pain where it is futile, nor refuse to embrace the cost when it is required of us: that in losing ourselves for your sake, we may be brought to new life. Amen (Janet Morley)
Fifth Reading – John 19: 16-27
I am Mary, his mother. I did not always understand my son – he never married to give me grandchildren, he left home and job to wander with his friends, he put other loyalties above his family and talked of sharing one father with all the world. I didn’t always understand him.
But this I understand – this suffering and death. As much as it hurts, I know it isn’t unexpected: he knew that living as he did, loving as only he could do, healing, teaching, blessing, giving, would stir a bitter hatred that only he could cure. And only this way could he cure it.
But I am his mother and remember the longing and aching for his birth. And now I long to take him in my arms again and hold him in his anguish. I am learning as he gives his friend into my care, and me to his, that all the future is this nurturing and nursing of each other to a new birth.
Let us pray
Lord Jesus, you draw us into new patterns of relationship and care. You help us to rebuild our broken communities through your generous, inclusive love. Help us now to open our homes and our hearts to find new ways to belong together within the promise of your kingdom. Amen.
Sixth Reading – Mark 15: 29-39 –
Is it nothing to you, all ye who pass by? In my living room wall there is a picture, bought in Namibia, of an African figure, arms outstretched, and it is called ‘Embracing the world’. Jesus on the cross had his arms outstretched to enfold the world in his love as he died on the cross.
Read Isaiah 53: 1-9 and Psalm 22: 1-8
Let us pray
Dying Stranger, your Arms stretch wide and draw my wretched life within the compass of your innocence.
‘Were the whole realm of nature mine that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all’.
Seventh Reading – John 19: 31-42 Burial
Let us pray
your hands now bear the wounds,
your heart now holds the agony
of that appalling cross.
Hold us in your everlasting arms
As we face the little deaths of our daily lives
And the great mystery of our own mortality.
May we find you there beside us,
Light in our darkest night. Amen
You took our worst
You gave your best
You took our hate
You gave your love
You took that cross
You changed everything
We adore you, O Christ
And we bless you