Tell Me, Dear Tree: A Lenten Hymn of Sacrifice

Crucifixion Tree outside the walled city of Mdina. Photo by Antoine Pace via TrekEarth.com

Jesus’ suffering on the cross was a correct diagnosis and revelation of the human dilemma. It was an invitation to enter into solidarity with the pain of the world, and our own pain, instead of always resisting it, avoiding it, or denying it. Lady Julian of Norwich, my favorite Christian mystic, understood it so well, and she taught, in effect, that “There is only one suffering and we all share in it.” – Richard Rohr

Tell me, Dear Tree
A Lenten hymn of sacrifice
Meter- 86.86 double (CMD)
Suggested tune: KINGSFOLD (United Methodist Hymnal #179)

Tell me dear tree on which my Lord, my blessed Lord did hang,
How could you hold the spotless Lamb, be party with the gang?
That cheerless day, that shadowy hour, my blessed Savior died,
to free my soul for heavenly things, O tree, you must have cried.

Yes all your fibers must have screamed for you one time did live
a green and growing tree, alive, but your whole self did give
to be the instrument of death, to be the very tree
to be the place for Christ to die upon dark Calvary

Wait! Do I hear a shout of joy from somewhere deep within?
Your duty done; the battle won so all the world might win.
How beautiful your love for Him. He sewed it long ago
You bore the weight. You took the stain, and now the world must know

The tree of death felt every wound, felt all the pain and loss.
She loved her maker through it all, was glad to be His cross.
Teach me dear tree on which my Lord, My precious Lord did die
To treasure grueling duties done so Christ is lifted high

© 1992, revised 2009 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form. Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to original music.

Worship Resource: Jesus, Remember Me

This worship resource was inspired by Steve Garnaas-Holmes incredibly powerful and beautiful prayer, Jesus, Remember Me and the song of the same name associated with the Community of Taizé.

Worship Resource: Jesus, Remember Me
THE WORD OF GOD: Luke 23:33, 39-43 NRSV
Narrator:
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying,

First Thief:
Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!

Narrator:
But the other rebuked him, saying,

Other Thief:
Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong. Pause Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Jesus:
Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

ALL SINGING:
Jesus, Remember Me (twice)
By Jacques Bethier and the Community of Taizé
United Methodist Hymnal
#488

The music continues during the prayer.
Use a variety of speakers to voice the prayer.

ALL SPEAKERS:
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

ONE VOICE:
When you gather your Beloved into your Realm,
the disgraced and ashamed, the twisted and helpless,
remember me.

ONE VOICE:
When you pronounce your law,
“Blessed are the poor, for the Empire is theirs,”
remember me.

ONE VOICE:
When you raise up the brokenhearted,
forgive the guilty, heal the broken
and redeem those who struggle and fail,
remember me.

ALL SINGING:
Jesus, Remember Me (twice)
By Jacques Bethier and the Community of Taizé
United Methodist Hymnal #488

ONE VOICE:
When you spread your mercy over the land,
and your grace conquers all evil,
your love reigns supreme
and violence, even mine, is conquered,
remember me.

ONE VOICE:
When you take your throne of suffering,
and accept your blood-jeweled crown,
when you marshal your troops armed with self-emptying love,
remember me.

ONE VOICE:
When I must choose between love and comfort,
remember me.

ALL SPEAKERS:
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom

Music stops for time of silent prayer.
The singing which follows is without accompaniment.

ALL SINGING:
Jesus, Remember Me (repeat as desired)
By Jacques Bethier and the Community of Taizé
United Methodist Hymnal #488

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Worship Resource: Jesus, Remember Me reader’s theatre script and compilation © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia. You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting or church setting with proper attribution. Proper attribution would include references to Steve Garnaas-Holmes’ prayer Jesus, Remember Me and Jacques Berthier’s song Jesus, Remember Me (G.I.A Publications, Inc.) They retain the copyrights to their works.

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Prayer: Make Us Intercessors

Intercessor by Jamie Treadwell

1 Timothy 2:1 NRSV
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone

Numbers 21:7 NRSV
The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

John 11:3 CEB
So the sisters sent word to Jesus, saying, “Lord, the one whom you love is ill.”

Mark 2:4 NRSV
And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.

Mark 14:37-38 NIV
Then Jesus returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

Prayer: Make Us Intercessors
One who hears. One who knows. One who cares.
Our lives are full- full of work, worry, apathy, weakness.
Yet, you ask us to watch and wait and pray with you.
We are surrounded by death, but you are Resurrection and Life.
Help us claim your gift of intercession.
Inspire us to join the long line of faithful witnesses
who stand in the gap on behalf of others.
Moses… Mary… Martha… the unnamed determined ones
who tore open the roof to place their broken friend at your feet.
Fill us with determination, too.
An active, strong, persevering trust in your power to make things new.
Fill us Jesus. Fill us and use us for your glory.
Our hope is in you. Amen.

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Click here for more information and more excellent work by today’s featured artist, Jamie Treadwell

Make Us Intercessors © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Worship Resource: We Thirst For You

This worship resource originally accompanied a sermon based on John 19:28 NIV:

Later, knowing that all was now completed,
and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled,
Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

It would work well with any scripture with the theme of hungering and thirsting for God.
– Lisa <><

Worship Resource: We Thirst for You
The introduction to the song begins.
The music continues under all the scripture readings.

ONE SPEAKING: Psalm 63:1 NIV
O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
My whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

ALL SINGING:
We Exalt Your Name by Kari Jobe and Matt Maher (CCLI 5866478)
Verse 1 and Chorus 1

ONE SPEAKING: Psalm 63:2-5 NIV
I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I praise you!

ONE or ALL SPEAKING: Psalm 63:4-5 NIV
I will honor you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest of foods.
I will praise you with songs of joy.

ALL SINGING:
We Exalt Your Name by Kari Jobe and Matt Maher (CCLI 5866478)
Verse 2, Chorus 2a, Chorus 2b

ONE SPEAKING: Psalm 63:6-7 NIV
I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.
I think how much you have helped me;
I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings.

ALL SPEAKING: Psalm 63:8a NIV
My soul clings to you
repeat as desired

ALL SINGING:
We Exalt Your Name by Kari Jobe and Matt Maher (CCLI 5866478)
Ending

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We Thirst For You compilation © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia.
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Altar Table: Words from the Cross

Altar table display depicting the words of Christ from the cross by Gail West.

The congregation of Community United Methodist Church of DeBary, Florida was blessed by the artistry of Gail West this Lenten season. Gail designed this altar table display to accompany a sermon series on Jesus’ words from the cross.

Gail West describing her work:
The seven crosses displayed on the altar represent the seven last words of Jesus Christ while on the cross. They are in rugged medium symbolizing Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. The smaller “like” crosses represent the three crosses of Calvary.

I also see…
a homespun cloth representing Jesus’ robe, the one the soldiers gambled for
twisting vines representing the crown of thorns

What else do you see?

Quotes: Honest Prayers

Freedom by Zenos Frudakis

Psalm 15:1-2 NRSV
O Lord, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy hill?
Those who walk blamelessly,
and do what is right,
and speak the truth from their heart.

Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom. – Thomas Jefferson

Walter Brueggemann said: “Churches should be the most honest place in town, not the happiest place in town.” Maybe we have lost the “art of lament,” where complaining to God is part of the deal. Maybe, rather than playing church and make-believe, a vital dimension of the spiritual journey is giving God an earful now and then. Maybe God can handle it. Maybe God likes it, because it means we are being real and not fake. Maybe if you’re angry with God now and then, you’re normal. Maybe that’s part of being the people of God. – Peter Enns, When God is Unfaithful

Dare to be honest when you speak with God: allow your feelings and emotions to find expression. You do not have to be politically or theologically correct; God is big enough to understand where you come from and why you say certain things. … Be quiet and listen, trusting that your prayer is heard. Being in the presence of God in open conversation is God’s gift to you. – Wessel Bentley, Praying Through a Child’s Illness

Psalm 32:5 NRSV
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Immorality is almost always “kept secret”—which is the clearest evidence that we knew it was wrong in the first place. Secrecy is delayed confession that we have sinned. It only reveals what’s been there all along. – Steve Harper, Shepherd’s Care: Morality

I spent the first half of my life in the dark. Hiding parts of my self that I thought were too horrible to let anyone see. Hiding and pretending. This hiding and pretending made me very, very sick. Almost dead- sick. Then I decided that there is nothing shameful about being human. That we are each broken and each beautiful, and that we really do have similar longings, feelings, traumas, flaws, gifts, fears and secrets. And I learned that we stay as sick as our secrets. So I turned my insides out and I started writing. And my truth started setting others free to share their truths. And with that, I did my little part to help the world be free-er. That’s what I do here. I do my part.
– Glennon Melton, There will be no eclipse

1 John 1:9 NRSV
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Often prayer begins as a longing in the heart, a longing for love, a longing for connection, a longing to make contact with a Power greater than ourselves. Sometimes it begins as a desperate need for help, peace, strength, or comfort. Other times prayer’s beginning is a deep hope for others — an ache for suffering to stop, for the earth’s healing, for care of the poor. Sometimes prayer begins in fear. We reach out for something to save us, to protect us, to let us know that we’ll be OK. Sometimes prayer feels like a longing that’s been met, like a deep spring of peace welling up within our hearts, spilling over and filling us with gratitude and love.
– Dorothy C. Bass and Don C. Richter, Way to Live

If we want to go on a journey of transformation, we need to get honest. We take off our halos and say, “God I need you. I bring my prejudice before you, my racism. I bring my addictions, my greed, my need to have more. I bring my fear of not living up to others’ expectations that keeps me stuck in pretense.” We bring it all before Jesus and ask him to heal us, liberate us, transform us. We can never shock God. And the more honest we are, the deeper our experience of God’s love. “Just as I am, without one plea.”
– Trevor Hudson and Stephen D. Bryant,
The Way of Transforming Discipleship Participant’s Book

“Declare it all” was the advice of the desert fathers, those radical early Christians who took with great seriousness Jesus’ challenge to transform the heart. Declare it all – every thought, every feeling, every cruel intention, every ignoble desire and holy aspiration. Don’t be afraid to present anything to God as it comes into awareness, because you are beheld by a comprehending, compassionate love that knows how to heal your distempers. Everything becomes grist for the mill in spiritual growth, even the hells into which we wander. Some elements will be strengthened, some diminished, but grace can work with it all.
– Robert Corin Morris, Provocative Grace: The Challenge in Jesus’ Words

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For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Prayer Guide: Hourly Scriptures and Prayers for Good Friday

It’s a long standing practice for many Christians to pray from 9am-3pm on Good Friday as they remember the six hours Jesus spent on the cross. Some pray the entire six hours, some pray on each hour, and some pray sometime during the six hours.

Another option would be to pray for 30 minutes, starting when the minute hand reaches 9 and continuing in five minute intervals till the minute hand reaches 3.

The amount of time isn’t as important as the remembering- setting aside time to watch and wait with those few faithful followers who did not abandon Jesus.

Below you will find a guide for praying. It includes the scriptures relating Jesus’ words from the cross plus some sentences to focus your prayer time. The more formal prayers come from the book Listening At Golgotha by Peter Storey. (Click here for a review of the book and purchasing information. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!)

May this guide be a blessing to you as you seek the deeper graces of God this holy season. Your comments for its continued improvement are appreciated. – Lisa <><

PRAYER GUIDE: HOURLY SCRIPTURES AND PRAYERS FOR GOOD FRIDAY
The 9am Reading and Prayers
Luke 23:32-38 NRSV

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Holy Jesus,
Your forgiving love saves and disturbs me.
Without it, I am lost,
yet, if I receive it, I must practice it.
By your mercy, make me merciful;
by your forgiveness, help me to forgive as I have been forgiven. Amen.

Continue by praying for all who are trapped in bitterness, revenge, and resentment so that all may know the freedom of forgiving as Christ did. Include yourself, as needed.

The 10am Reading and Prayers
Luke 23:39-43 NRSV

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Holy Jesus,
Love held you to the cross for my sake, but not mine alone.
Your love is frightening in its breadth and depth;
When I embrace it, it stretches my poor spirit.
Enlarge my heart to made space for your friends;
Let me love as one forgiven. Today. Amen.

Continue by praying for the salvation of family and friends who do not know Christ,
For those living in our community, in our nation, and across the world

If you would like to extend your prayer time this hour, click here for an incredibly beautiful prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Jesus, Remember Me.

The 11am Reading and Prayers
John 19:25-27 NRSV

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Holy Jesus,
I give thanks for your mother
and all like her who have borne the pain of loving too deeply.
Thank you for your gift the church.
Help me receive as your gift all whom I encounter, whoever they are,
And to become family to them in Your name. Amen.

Continue by praying for Christian unity,
For the dividing walls between denominations to come down
For congregations in the midst of misunderstanding, pain and conflict
For protection from the evil one and all that distances God’s people
That your congregation, and every congregation, would love as Christ loves
Embodying the hospitality and welcome only Christ can provide
Sharing His Word and ways with grace, compassion and boldness

The Noon Reading and Prayers
Matthew 27:45-46 NRSV

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Begin by praying for all who are suffering,
For our brothers and sisters across the globe who are persecuted for their faith
For those who are suffering because they do not have access to daily needs-
clean water, housing, education, medical care
For those who are suffering due to war, injustice and tyrannical leaders
For those who are suffering due to mental or physical illness, addiction or grief

Holy Jesus,
There was no suffering like yours.
I am silent in the darkness, Your darkness.
There can be no words, only worship. Amen.

The 1pm Reading and Prayers
John 19:28-29 NRSV

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth.

Holy Jesus,
All the longing of God,
Through all the ages, for all humanity,
Cries out to me from your cross.
Give me a heart to hear that cry
And a longing to be found by your love. Amen.

Pray today for all who are longing,
Longing for love
Longing for answers
Longing for healing
Longing for daily bread
Longing for justice
Longing for hope

The 2pm Reading and Prayers
John 19:30 NRSV

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.”

Silent adoration and wonder

The 3pm Reading and Prayers
Luke 23:44-43 NRSV

Darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

Rest now, Holy Jesus
Hero of the Cross
Your work is done.
The world has done its sinning,
And you have done your loving
Each beyond limit.
And, at the end, limitless love prevails.
Your dying becomes my hope and the hope of the world. Amen.

Offer prayers of surrender, commitment and thanksgiving

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Prayer Guide: Hourly Scriptures and Prayers for Good Friday compilation © 2013 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia. You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting or church setting with proper attribution. Proper attribution would include references to Peter Storey’s book, Listening at Golgotha, the source of the formal prayers. (Published by The Upper Room – October 1, 2004)

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.