Two Reflections on Jesus Praying in Gethsemane

christ-in-gethsemane-pExtended quote from Max Lucado, The Upper Room Disciplines 2010
It is a stark scene. Jesus praying in Gethsemane, saying, “My heart is ready to break with grief. …” Does this look like the picture of a saintly Jesus resting in the palm of God? Hardly. We see an agonizing, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a “man of sorrows.” We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief.

We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.

My, what a portrait! Jesus is in pain. Jesus is on the stage of fear. Jesus is cloaked, not in sainthood, but in humanity.

The next time the fog finds you, remember Jesus in the garden. The next time you think no one understands, reread the fourteenth chapter of Mark. The next time your self-pity convinces you that no one cares, pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to the pleading among the twisted trees.

Seeing God like this does wonders for our own suffering. God was never more human than at this hour. God was never nearer to us than when God hurt. The Incarnation was never so fulfilled as in the garden.

Jesus, may I watch with you in your pain and so come to understand that you watch me in mine. Amen.

Matthew 26:40-41
Could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

We must have faith during the period of our grief. We think that our afflictions will be greater than we can bear, but we do not know the strength of our own hearts, nor the power of God. – François Fenelon

Stay Awake by Steve Garnaas Holmes
I slip into sleep,
a deadness I seek,
a trance of avoidance,
distraction’s pleasant coma.
I am numb to your world, O Christ,
to your suffering, your love,
unconscious of you here.

Awaken me.
Breathe yourself into me
and rouse me
from my fearful distance.

Let even pain keep me awake,
attentive to your pain
in all who hurt,
your love keep me alert
to love in all your forms.

Grant me this simple gift,
all you ask:
that I may stay awake,
trusting I am not orphaned,
and pray with you,
so earnestly praying for me
and all the world.
just stay awake my little time
and pray with you.

Let all my waking hours
be wakeful hours.

Order of Worship for a Blue Christmas Service (also known as a Longest Night Service)

blue-nativity

A Blue Christmas Service is offered especially for those hurting during the holidays. It’s often offered December 21, the longest night of the year. Some come because they are mourning the death of a loved one. Some are far from home. Some suffer from illness, addiction, or estrangement. Some are lonely, struggling financially, or in conflict with another. Some hurt because of the great pain, need, and violence in our nation and world. The reasons for coming are many. We gather in the midst of suffering to remember God is good. God is strong. God is near. We are not alone and we have every reason to hold on to hope.

Pre-Service Set Up
People to greet and pass out programs
Blue strips of paper in the pews
Evergreen clippings place at the prayer rail
Anointing oil for prayer helpers
Tissues at the prayer rail and in pews
A table with 4 blue pillar candles and 1 white pillar candle
A box of matches
Blue tablecloth or white with blue runner for the table

Gathering Music

Welcome
This might include a brief explanation of the purpose of the service

Opening Prayer
One or all praying
Merciful God,
In this season of rejoicing, we come to you weary and grieving
In this season of feasting, we hunger for healing and relief
In this season of light, our hearts are veiled in sorrow and shadow
Will this season ever end?

“Yes.” We hear your, “Yes.”
Those who are weary will find rest
Those who mourn will be comforted
Those who hunger will be filled
The Light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness will not overcome it.

Lighting the Christ Candle
One person says– We welcome you O Christ, Light of the World. In the midst of our suffering, help us to worship you in spirit and in truth.

Strike a match and light the white candle

Song
Suggestion- a soloist singing Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant

Scripture Isaiah 11:1-5, The Voice Translation
One person reads the Scripture
On this humbled ground,
a tiny shoot, hopeful and promising, will sprout from Jesse’s stump
a branch will emerge from his roots to bear fruit.
And on this child from David’s line, the Spirit of the Eternal One will alight and rest.
By the Spirit of wisdom and discernment He will shine like the dew.
By the Spirit of counsel and strength He will judge fairly and act courageously.
By the Spirit of knowledge and reverence of the Eternal One, He will take pleasure in honoring the Eternal.
He will determine fairness and equity;
He will consider more than what meets the eye,
And weigh in more than what he’s told.
So that even those who can’t afford a good defense
will nevertheless get a fair and equitable judgment.
With just a word, He will end wickedness and abolish oppression.
With nothing more than the breath of His mouth, He will destroy evil.
He will clothe himself with righteousness and truth
The impulse to right wrongs will be in his blood.

A brief message of hope is offered based on the Isaiah reading

Candle Lighting
Instrumental underscore- O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Light one of the candles following each passage from Psalms
One person reads what each candle represents
The following passage from Psalms may be read by one or all persons

This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of truth.
There is no need to hide or deny. God welcomes us as we are.

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. ~Psalm 86:1

This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of lament.
We recognize our wounds and cry out to God.
We accept God’s invitation to express every feeling and question.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. ~ Psalm 22:1-2

This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of courage.
Courage to be honest, to seek help, to comfort one another.
Courage to dare to love and dream again.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. ~ Psalm 28:7

This candle represents our suffering and the suffering of the world.
In the light of God’s love, we claim God’s gift of hope.
God is good. God is strong. God is near, leading us to a day without tears and pain, without sin and death. Healing and deliverance are coming; if not now, then on that day.

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. ~Psalm 65:5

Song
Suggestion- a soloist singing Cry out to Jesus by Third Day

Instructions for Prayer Time

  • You are encouraged to write your burdens and sorrows on the blue strips of paper and then place them on the table with the candles
  • Following that, make your way to the prayer rail
  • Persons are available to pray with you as you stand or kneel
  • Anointing oil is also available.
  • Please take an evergreen clipping with you as you return to your seat as a reminder of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness

Instrumental underscore following the instructions

Prayer after everyone is seated.
One person praying as they place their hand on the blue strips of paper.

Jesus, you are full of compassion, you understand our pain. Our suffering changes our experience of you and the celebration of your birth. We are caught between remembering happier times and grieving what might have been. In our loss we feel cut off- disconnected, adrift, alone.

Root us in your steadfast love. Anchor us in your faithful promises.
Hold us, and all who weep this holy season throughout the world-
those who mourn, those far from home, those looking for work,
the lonely, the addicted, the abused,
the estranged, the oppressed, the enslaved,
the poor, victims of war, the sick and dying.
Shelter and sustain us all with your healing and hope, your peace and light.

We love you, we need you, we trust you,
We ask this in your name Jesus, praying as you taught us…

Everyone prays
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen

Song
Suggestion- The Only Real Peace I Have by Allison Speer

Affirmation of Faith for Christmas
Adapted from the poem First Coming by Madeleine L’Engle.

ONE: Christians, what do you believe?

ALL: God did not wait till the world was ready,
till nations were at peace.
God came when the Heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.
God did not wait for the perfect time.
God came when the need was deep and great.
God dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
God did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame,
God came and God’s Light would not go out.
God came to a world which did not mesh;
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh,
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
For to share our grief, to touch our pain,
God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Passing the Peace

Song Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
All singing
Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
All who live in love are thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the mighty chorus which the morning stars began;
Love divine is reigning o’er us, binding all within its span.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife;
Joyful music leads us sunward, in the triumph song of life.

Blessing
Following the blessing, you are welcome to stay as long as you like. Persons are available to speak with you further about your situation. You are also welcome to set an appointment with the pastor or director of congregational care. (give contact information)

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This prayer is printed as a gift for persons to take home.
I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
With Dignity
Humility
Forgiveness

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
With Compassion
Truth
Perseverance

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
Knowing my sufferings are not like his
and not like others
yet shared with the universal longings of all humanity
Real and Painful and Deep
No need for comparison
Only companionship

I pray for the grace to bear my sufferings as Christ bore his for me
As Christ bore his for all
All I will ever suffer
All we all will ever suffer
Will be made known
Will be made whole
Through his love and self giving

In this I believe
and trust
and follow
and hope
In this I am made new
Thanks be to God!
Hallelujah!
Amen!

For Grace to Bear Suffering © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Blue Christmas Service © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording- Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, a Sermon on Courage (Romans 8)

finding-god-in-oz

Sermon Series – Finding God in Oz
The Wizard of Oz is a powerful allegory for so many of our foundational Christian beliefs. Walk with us as we Find God in Oz.

Message: Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, a Sermon on Courage
Scriptures: Romans 8:35-39
Offered 11/13/16, the Sunday after the National Election and Veterans Day at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

It takes courage to open up Facebook. It’s still ugly following the election. I hoped it would go back to puppy videos, inspiring quotes, and pictures of my friends.

It takes courage to watch the news. Protesters remind us of our deeply divided country. We hear hate crimes are on the rise.

I just want to go to my favorite chair with my Bible and journal and pray till it goes away. I just want to stay within the walls of this beautiful, safe place- this sanctuary. That’s what God’s house should be. I just want to sit on my couch and grow my veggies and have a chai tea latte and pet my dog. I want to plug my ears and my heart because it hurts too much to see folks scared and mean. Yet, this is what happens when you become a follower of Jesus; when you ask God, “Give me a heart like yours.” It hurts because God’s heart hurts.

It takes a supernatural courage to face the hurt.

Wednesday afternoon, the day after the election, I’m walking to church and I see my friend Miguel. He’s in the 5th grade. I ask him how he is, remembering him being afraid because month’s before during the election he’d heard talk of walls and deportation. He’d thought he and his family belonged, but then he wasn’t so sure. He’s still not sure. I said, “I will fight for you. Not in a violent way. I’ll stand with you should you and your family need it.” (I really wanted what I said to be real. I wanted to be ready to be courageous.)

With complete faith and serenity on his face, Miguel said, “No matter where we are, God is with us.”

Romans 8:35-39
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Miguel knew that in Jesus’ death and resurrection evil is defeated, sin is defeated, death is defeated.

For I am convinced that neither winning nor losing elections, nor pollsters, nor pundits, nor spin, nor lies, nor discrimination, nor prejudice, nor bullying, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Last week we talked about living in the age of loneliness and the essential of friendship, especially spiritual friends. What if, as followers of Jesus, we claimed this as the age of courage? Courage in the face of evil and courage to face evil.

In the Wizard of OZ, Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion have courage in the face of evil; courage when the fight comes to them. Courage when the angry orchard attacks them. Courage when the flying monkeys start carrying off their friends. They also have the courage to face evil, to go to the fight, to go to the wicked witch’s fortress to rescue their friends.

I want to be like Miguel- courageous and confident in Jesus’ victory. Courage in the face of evil and courage to face evil alongside him. I want to be with Miguel because he’s my friend and brother in Jesus Christ.

God to give me a courageous heart to stand with Miguel and with
– peaceful Muslim-Americans fearing for their well being
– persons of color fearing the rise of white supremacy
– gay and lesbian persons fearing loss of their rights
– veterans needing easier access to benefits
– women and sexual assault victims fearing they won’t be heard or believed
– lots of people fearing loss of insurance and basic needs

brene-brown-courage-comfort

We’re going to hurt. Will we be hurting for something worthwhile?

islamophobia-bully-advocate-cartoon

Renewal of Baptismal Vows
On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you:
1. Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
2. Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
3. Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace,
and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

Psalm 31:23-24
Love the LORD, all you his saints.
The LORD preserves the faithful,
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the LORD.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording- A Boat on the Sea (Luke 8:22-25)

Typhoon_in_Hong_Kong

Sermon Series: H2O, Hope to Offer
Messages on the water stories from Surf Shack VBS

Message: A Boat on the Sea
Scripture: Luke 8:22-25
Offered 6/12/16 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

Jesus isn’t your fixer. He’s your Savior. – Lisa Degrenia

Worship Resources for this Message 

I. Prayer- Calm the Storm in Me
Light print one voice, bold print all voices

When the waves rise high above our ability to see your face…
Still my soul, Lord Jesus,
Calm the storm in me

When the howling wind and the pouring rain drown out the sound of your voice…
Still my soul, Lord Jesus,
Calm the storm in me

When the thunder and the lightning distract us from Your presence in every circumstance…
Still my soul, Lord Jesus,
calm the storm in me

moment of silence

II. Prayer- Jesus Speak Peace
Light print one voice, bold print all voices

Jesus, we see You calming storms
Storm tossed seas and stormy lives
Extend Your power and grace again,
Upon us and our fear-filled world

Speak peace and healing over bodies and spirits
overwhelmed by the crashing waves of circumstance

Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and protection over minds and hearts
adrift in confusion or drowning in fear

Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

Speak peace and hope over people, families and communities
swamped by loss after loss

Jesus, speak peace. (Moment of silence)

You are the Prince of Peace.
You are the Resurrection and the Life.
You are strong to save.
Our hope and trust are in You

The congregation is invited to offer prayers of intercession, silently or aloud.
Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Leon and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayer Station- Crown of Thorns

crown of thorns

Prayer Stations are interactive experiences with Scripture or devotional prompts. A simple, creative gesture can help us slow down and listen for what God reveals. The gesture likewise opens us to respond.

For me, utilizing the sense of touch in prayer takes me to a child-like place. I’m reminded of a less complicated time- a time of wonder, imagination, and play. It gets me out of my head and into my heart. I’m often surprised by the ease and depth of God’s interaction in these encounters.

I pray this idea encourages you to set aside some time to meet God in interactive prayer. If you choose to use this idea, or better yet create one of your own, I’d love to hear from you. – Lisa <>< 

Items Needed

  • small grapevine wreath, approximately 6 inches across
  • wooden toothpicks. You could tea dye them if you wanted them to better match the wreath.
  • Scripture with instructions

Matthew 27:27-31 NRSV
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Below you will find several options. Choose one or create one of your own. Whatever you choose, read the scripture first and then pray through the prescribed actions. If you’re writing your own option, be sure to be clear what the gesture represents and what the prop represents.

Option 1- The soldiers mocked Jesus without mercy. He understands our pain. Place toothpicks in the wreath for people or groups of people who are bullied, verbally abused, and stereotyped. Be specific. Remove the toothpicks as you pray healing and new life for the victims and their abusers.

Option 2- The soldiers mocked Jesus without mercy. He was brutally bullied. Place toothpicks in the wreath as you think about instances when you have been the bully and when you have been bullied. Remove the toothpicks as you ask for forgiveness and extend forgiveness. When the wreath is empty, hold it in your hands as you accept God’s gift of new life and pray for an end to all bullying.

Option 3- Place toothpicks in the wreath as you confess your sins. Remove the toothpicks as you ask God to forgive you in Jesus’ Name. When the wreath is empty, hold it in your hands and claim the Good News of 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Option 4- Place toothpicks in the wreath as you name the various ways Jesus suffered. When complete, spend a few moments in wonder and worship at the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice and love. When you are finished, remove the toothpicks to reset the station for the next person.

Option 5- Supply a recording of a song or a person reading the lyrics of a song or a poem. Below are some suggestions. Persons place toothpicks in the wreath as they listen to the recording. When finished, the toothpicks are removed to reset the station for the next person. Here are some suggestions-

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Prayer Station- Crown of Thorns by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia © 2016
You are welcome to use this service with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa directly for publishing and posting consideration.

Prayer Guide: Hourly Scriptures and Prayers for Good Friday

words_from_the_cross_nivIt’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 on Good Friday. 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 <><

Good Friday is not about us trying to “get right with God.” It is about us entering the difference between God and humanity and just touching it for a moment. Touching the shimmering sadness of humanity’s insistence that we can be our own gods, that we can be pure and all-powerful. – Nadia Bolz-Weber

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 make 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

If you would like to extend your prayer time this hour, click here for an incredibly beautiful prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani 

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)

Jesus, The Hen: when it’s time to weep

Detail from Descent from the Cross by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden

Detail from Descent from the Cross by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden

Matthew 23:27; Luke 13:34 NRSV
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Extended quote by Barbara Brown Taylor from The Christian Century (2/25/86)
If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus’ lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. Meanwhile, this is the most vulnerable posture in the world –wings spread, breast exposed –but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand. …

… Jesus won’t be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen, who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first; which he does, as it turns out. He slides up on her one night in the yard while all the babies are asleep. When her cry wakens them, they scatter.

She dies the next day where both foxes and chickens can see her — wings spread, breast exposed — without a single chick beneath her feathers. It breaks her heart . . . but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.

Extended quote by Jim Harnish from It’s Enough to Make You Cry
Take a good look; a look that penetrates the self-protective shields of social acceptability; a look that goes deeply into the heart; a look that is a finite expression of the infinite love with which God looks out on our world, and it’s enough to make anyone with a heart cry.

It’s what the prophet Jeremiah felt when he looked at his world and wrote, “If only my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for the wounds of my people.” (Jeremiah 9:1)

Read the headlines or watch the evening news and we know why Jesus wept over Jerusalem saying, “If they only knew the things that make for peace.” (Luke 19:42)

We weep for residents of Tel Aviv fleeing to bomb shelters and for Palestinians who have nowhere to hide from the attacks that are destroying their homes in Gaza.

We weep for thousands of children making their way across our border only to be caught up in our hopelessly confused and politicized immigration system.

We weep for millions of people who are homeless refugees because of the conflicts in Ukraine, in parts of Africa, and as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We weep for the lives that have been lost in jets that have been blown out of the sky.

And we weep — the way Jesus wept beside the grave of his friend, Lazarus – for the deeply personal wounds, hurts, disappointments that sooner or late come crashing in on every one of us.

With Jeremiah, we ask, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22)

I also know how Jeremiah felt when he said: “If only I could flee for shelter in the desert/to leave my people and forget them.” (Jeremiah 9:2)

I’d probably not choose the desert. I might take a house on the beach or a cabin in the mountains. I might just turn off the television, cancel the newspaper, go to a movie and stop paying attention to the pain and suffering around me. Sometimes we’d all like to flee.

Weep or flee? Which will it be? The truth is that there are times for both. There are times when I need to weep for the wounds of the world around me. And there are times when I need to accept Jesus’ invitation, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

So, where is God in all of this? It may be when Jeremiah hears God say, “I am going to refine them, for what else can I do with my people?” (Jeremiah 9:7)

I’m not suggesting that God causes the terrible things that happen in order to teach us a lesson. I’m a Wesleyan, not a Calvinist. Most of the things that make us weep are a direct result of human decisions that are an outright contradiction of the will of God. Our sinful choices are enough to make God cry.

Although God does not cause everything that happens, God is able to use anything that happens to refine us, the way gold and silver are refined. Instead of making us bitter, it can make us better.

The Spirit of God is present in our tears to break our hearts with the things that break the heart of God, to show us the ways in which we contribute to the pain of the world, to form us more fully into the likeness of Christ, and to enable us to participate in God’s healing work in this world. If there is a “balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul” it will be found in the hearts, lives and actions of faithful people who become the agents of God’s love in the lives of others.

Perhaps the Christ-shaped alternative is not just to weep or to flee, but to become God’s healing presence in the world. At least it’s worth praying for.

Click here for a deep reflection and call to lament by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled For the Hurt of my People.

Click here for a thoughtful reflecting on the question of suffering by Steve Garnaas-Holmes entitled Suffering.

In Christian symbolism Jerusalem is everyplace and the ultimate place. Jerusalem is the conflicted city within our hearts and the hoped for heavenly city of promise. Jerusalem is Earth herself. We lament over the world and our continual warfare and our ongoing destruction of land and seas and air. We are the holy place that kills prophets, healers, sages and innocents in the complex chaos of our passions.
– Suzanne Guthrie, Lament Over Jerusalem

The tears which flow from our eyes from time to time are illustrations of the tears which Jesus shed as he looked down upon Jerusalem and lamented, “How often I would have gathered you to myself as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not”. They are signs of the pain in God’s heart when even one sheep goes astray. Tears are an acknowledgement of the Fall, but as they flow from a truly-repentant heart, they are also the first signs of hope. The dam of sinful resistance has collapsed and the Water of Life can now flow. – Steve Harper, The Water of Repentance

Prayer: End the Madness by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Hear our cry!
Head our plea!
Hate compounds
Death surrounds
Evil abounds

Relief supplies rotting on docks
Vaccines waiting on shelves
The unsuspecting shot down
Abortions of convenience
The faithful persecuted
Riots in the streets
Human trafficking
Suicide bombers
Genocide
War

End our madness
Deliver us from bloodshed
Deliver us from us

Come quickly
Come in power
Your power, not ours
Rescue your beloved
Lord, where else can we go?

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