Planning - Good Friday
- Revised Common Lectionary Readings
- Worship Notes
- Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship
- Suggestions from Worship & Song
In context, the speaker of this confessional song of lament is the leadership of Babylon. Here, they realize the peace and unity of their nation (the healing of their wounds) was bought with the blood of the people they had taken into exile and persecuted. As Christians read this text today, we remember our complicity in the death of Jesus.
Psalm 22 (UMH 752).
The psalm falls into two distinct parts. The first part is deep lament with almost desperate begging for healing. The second part, beginning at verse 20b, is thanksgiving for healing. In the version in our hymnal, based on a previous lectionary, the turning occurs at verse 25. Some congregations choose not to use the "healing" verses at all today. If you use them, do not let them be the focus of the rest of the service. Use Response 1 for Good Friday.
The writer portrays the blood of Jesus as covenant blood -- a testimony that God has initiated the new covenant with humanity prophesied by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Because there is a new covenant, those who are its beneficiaries can approach God and give living testimony in the world with holy boldness.
The four sayings from the crucifix that are part of today's account are "Woman, here is your son," "Here is your mother," "I am thirsty," and "It is finished." Let these "four words" stand on their own within the larger narrative of the Passion in John's Gospel, and see where they lead you and your worshiping community.
For Leccionario Comn Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes (pdf), click here.
Also see Estudios Exegtico: Homilticos -- Spanish-language Revised Common Lectionary resources from Instituto Universitario ISEDET in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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Today is called "Good Friday" among people who speak English and Dutch, , but almost nowhere else. For more on the origin of the term for us and a brief overview of other names for this day, see Dan Benedict's article, "Where Does the Term 'Good Friday' Come From?"
Holy Communion is not to be offered at this service, nor at any time again until the Great Vigil or Easter Sunday morning. It is most appropriate to end this service without a benediction, but with a simple dismissal ("Go in peace") and silent departure by all.
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This is the starkest day of the Christian year: no adornments, no gold in sight anywhere, no paraments, nothing at all on the Table, no pulpit Bible, nothing but a simple wooden cross and the font. Although some have chosen to use black as a theme color for the day, the overwhelming ecumenical consensus has been to use no color. While basic vestments are appropriate for worship leaders, many clergy wear no stoles on this day. And in some traditions, music on this day is unaccompanied, or only simply accompanied (piano or keyboard only, not organ, no "special music," no choir anthems).
The utter starkness of this service may present a particular challenge for those accustomed to worship with projected words and images and significant musical accompaniment (whether organ, orchestra, choirs, praise band, or praise team). But more than any other day, this is a time for "worship unplugged" so we can all focus intently on the suffering, desolation and death of Jesus. Today is primarily about letting the spoken words of Scriptures and the liturgy present our complicity, our guilt and our need for repentance.
If you do decide generally to remove "technology" from this service, still plan to keep assistive technologies (live captioning, hearing devices, and the like) in place.
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- Start planning by reading the Scriptures together in your team and listening. The Good Friday service, like the Passion/Palm Sunday service (last Sunday), is a service that especially invites people to listen and enter in to the story of the cross and crucifixion as told by John. The solemnity of this service requires careful selection of readers. Do this well in advance and with good backup plans. Be sure to hold a rehearsal of the reading by all the readers in the worship space well before others arrive for the service.
- Our core worship resource for this day is "A Service for Good Friday" in The United Methodist Book of Worship, 362-365. Start here and build the service that is appropriate for your worshiping community. A sermon may not been needed or helpful. Let those who gather experience the gospel deeply in the readings, prayer and song. If you think it is needed, you might include a short written commentary on each reading for silent reflection in a bulletin or projected onscreen (if you use projection for this service at all); or have your readers offer a short introduction to the Old Testament and Epistle texts that highlights the most significant elements. Let the congregation offer the psalm simply, and let the gospel speak for itself.
- The John text, divided for a Tenebrae "Shadows" Service, is found on 355-361 in The United Methodist Book of Worship.
- For further help with planning, consult The New Handbook of the Christian Year by Hoyt L. Hickman, et. al. (available from Cokesbury ). This book contains a "readers' version" of the John reading divided for multiple readers, pages 181-185.
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Embodying the Word in Worship: The Reproaches
If you have followed the lectionary, your congregation has had the opportunity to hear and absorb the passion narrative from Mark on Sunday and from John today. No sermon may be needed for either of these. For Passion Sunday, the response to the Scriptures was a penitential form of Holy Communion (Word and Table IV, kneeling). For today, The United Methodist Book of Worship offers another penitential act, the Meditation at the Cross and the Reproaches.
The Reproaches as we have them come from ancient Good Friday litanies in Western Christianity, with manuscript evidence that dates from as early as the sixth and seventh centuries (the Latin text behind the version in UMBOW dates from the ninth century). They are a series of ten statements in the voice of God that confront our failure to respond to God's mighty acts of salvation. It is the church, Christian people, and not Jewish people or any other people, who are being addressed. Each of the reproaches is followed by the ancient Christian hymn response called the Trisagion ( thrice holy) "Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us." (A simple musical setting is available on page 215 in UMBOW; see also The Upper Room Worshipbook, 406.) There has also been a long history of musical settings for the entire Reproaches, mostly in Latin, which continue to be sung in many Roman Catholic parishes. Look up "Improperia" on a search engine, and you'll find some.
Like the reading of the Passion narrative itself, the Reproaches are to be read boldly and directly and given time to sink in so that we can respond in our minds, hearts, and bodies in appropriate ways.
The rubrics in UMBOW suggest that people may "kneel briefly before the cross or touch it" during a period of silent meditation or during the Reproaches. Consider inviting people to do more than a brief bow or a quick touch, but rather to kneel as long or touch the cross as long as they may feel the need to do so. And I'd like to suggest a third way that may be appropriate for some: prostration. This means lying flat, face down on the ground, a sign of complete surrender and submission to God.
The Reproaches are likely to be a very moving experience for some people. Expect and welcome tears, sobs, even loud cries from some, and perhaps profound silence and stillness from others. Others still may display no emotional response, and perhaps little physical response. And still others may find them very uncomfortable. Let the Spirit move and convict as the Reproaches may enable, and seek neither to amplify nor quench the Spirit's work.
After the final Trisagion is the Lord's Prayer. At the right time (you will need to judge this based on what is happening among the people), invite all to stand to pray in unison. This prayer says what needs to be said about forgiveness. We can trust God to forgive as we have forgiven others. Then invite the people to depart in silence as they are ready.
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Embodying the Word in Life: Fast and Pray
These days, from the end of Maundy Thursday to the beginning of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night, have historically been days for fasting, silence, and prayer. While not everyone can fast, for a variety of reasons, perhaps many in your community can.
Justin Martyr in the second century describes Christians spending these days with those who would be baptized on Easter, teaching them to fast and pray by their example. If you have no catechumens (persons intentionally in a process of preparation for baptism at the Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday morning), consider how persons who are more experienced in fasting and a vigil of prayer may "take on" those newer to these practices during these days and journey with them both to keep the fast (however that may need to be accommodated) and to remain steadfast in prayer for the world and its leaders, the church universal, the local community, the earth, the sick and suffering, the outcast, and the dying.
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- For the liturgy for this day see BOW 362-365. The Service of Tenebrae (BOW 354-361) may be used for an evening service following the Holy Thursday Service, or as an additional evening service following a daytime Good Friday service. .
- For additional resources, see Season of Ash and Fire, pages 116-125.
- For resources for "The Seven Last Words," see BOW 365. For more extensive resources for "The Seven Last Words," go to the 1966 Book of Worship.
- Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Continue to remember and pray with our sisters and brothers in Djibouti and Somalia.
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Worship & Song is a new collection of musical and worship resources from The United Methodist Publishing House with the assistance of staff from Discipleship Ministries. It is available in multiple kinds of editions, both print and electronic, and online at the hwww.worshipandsong.com. As we did for The Faith We Sing when it was first released, we will provide suggestions for music and worship resources from this collection as relevant for the season or Scriptures.
3080, "Lord, Is It I?" The text by Dean McIntyre to a 16th century Good Friday tune captures the essence of the question of the disciples and the spirit of the Reproaches. Consider interlacing verses of this hymn within the Reproaches.
3083, "Adoramus te, Christe." This text and tune of this Taiz cyclical song would work well as a response to the first reading from Isaiah, or as a frame around the text. Cyclical songs like this are designed to be sung multiple times in a meditative way, not once straight through.
3084, "O Christ, You Hang upon a Cross." Shirley Erena Murray's haunting text could work well as either a response to the Reproaches or a closing hymn.
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