03 April 2015

Once again we reach the moment when we meditate on Christ sufferings. The two struggles that we face on this day are, firstly, to avoid trivialising the suffering of Christ by framing it as nothing more than an evacuation plan for Christians, and secondly, to avoid the glorification of suffering to the extent that it becomes, somehow, an end in itself. However, as we reflect on the Scriptures, what shines through is that it’s not really the suffering that is the focus, but the love that drove Jesus to the cross.

May we open our hearts to the crucified love of Christ again this year.

READINGS:
Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12: A song of the suffering servant, who is persecuted and dies for the sake of others (“us”).

Psalm 22: A Psalm of lament, grieving the suffering and abandonment of the writer, but celebrating the inevitable rescue that will come, and praising the God who brings this salvation.

Hebrews 10:16-25: We have confidence to approach God, because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, and can now live in hope, in intimacy with God, and in love-in-action.

John 18:1 – 19:42: Jesus is arrested, tried, crucified and buried – and through it all, reveals the brokenness and lack of integrity of those who face him, while revealing his own truth, integrity and divine character.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
Good Friday is a tough day to prepare for. The story is so familiar, that the shock and impact of it can easily be lost in a “same old, same old” ritualism. However, with a little creativity and thoughtfulness, some powerful themes emerge. First is the question of Jesus’ purpose – did he live to die, or did he die in order to live and bring life to all? This is more than semantics. It opens up our faith to the reality that what Jesus came to do was not about death so much as it is about life in all its forms and possibilities. Jesus died because he refused to allow a lesser life – evil, compromise, expediency – take him over. He died because he embraced a life of love fully and completely, and would not be moved from it. And in so doing, he lived fully, and gave an example for us to follow and a way for us to enter life. The second theme is that of our response. What Jesus did was not simply to give us a ticket to bliss in heaven. Rather he opened the door for us to be forgiven – which requires us to face our darkness and brokenness – and to live fully, as he did, if we will also die to everything that keeps us from real, abundant life, and embrace a life of love. Good Friday, then, confronts us with what life is really meant to be, and with the price we must pay to find it – which, in the end, turns out to be much smaller than it may at first appear.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: In so many ways religion has come to be irrelevant to the big issues of our world. However, what Jesus did in his death goes to the heart of the crises we face. In a world of war, Jesus refuses to take up arms, and gives himself to death. In a world of corruption in the halls of power, Jesus exposes expediency and manipulation, and dies with his integrity intact. In a world of poverty, Jesus gives up everything in order to offer life to others. Jesus makes it clear, whatever the situation, practical, sacrificial, cross-bearing love, is the greatest confrontation and challenge to the broken systems of our world. And, while some view love as ‘wimpy’, the Sunday that is coming reveals it’s true, death-defeating power. What does this say to us about being cross-bearing people in our world today?

LOCAL APPLICATION: A Christianity that is about nothing more than a guarantee of personal forgiveness and a life of eternal bliss is the antithesis of what Christ came to do – it is selfish, escapist and unloving. It removes us from any cost, and deceives us into believing that all we have to do is agree to a set of ideas and sit back until we get to heaven. Good Friday does not leave us with this delusion, however. Jesus confronts selfishness and self-protectiveness at every turn. He challenges us with his willingness to give his life in order to practically love even his enemies. He disrupts our comfort by mirroring back to us the extent of our depravity and collusion in the evil systems of our world. But, he also opens a way for us to find a new life now. He leads us into the abundant life that comes when we embrace the cross, commit to love, and refuse to settle for less than true, authentic, generous living.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Dying To Live
A Day Of Wonders
A Naked Death

Hymn Suggestions:
When I Survey The Wondrous Cross
O Thou Who Camest From Above
Beneath The Cross Of Jesus
Alas! And Did My Saviour Bleed
Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross
O The Wonderful Cross (Link to YouTube video)
Amazing Love (Link to YouTube video)
Amazing Love (You Are My King) (Link to YouTube video)
Once Again (Link to YouTube video)
This Place
Above All (Link to YouTube video)

Liturgy:
A Communion Liturgy for Good Friday

Video Suggestions:
The Cross: A Curse For Us?
The Cross
Easter Part 2: Jesus Crucified
The Wonderful Cross
Wingclips.com Easter Videos

Image Suggestion:
Crucifixion

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