Good Friday

It was a simple service. The sanctuary was stripped – no altar, no pulpit, no greenery. Our magnificent tall candlestand, the Christ candle guttering atop it, was the only adornment in the chancel. A length of black cloth hung from one side of the cross and seven identical, small, pillar candles, sitting on plain glass plates, were spaced on the two plaster counters below the screens.

Don and I and our talented musicians – Chris on piano, Dan on guitar, Paul on trumpet, Anne on oboe and Phil on violin – wore black clothing and quiet expressions. Martha had selected some marvelous crucifixion artwork, one for each of the seven last words, and they graced the screens as each lesson was offered. Don gave me the great gift of assembling this year’s Good Friday service, a task I embraced and deeply appreciated.

The traditional rhythm of lesson and response, coupled with diminishing light as each word was read, filled the room with a sober, respectful and expectant stillness. The musicians were amazing, echoing with rich, mournful sounds.

The words before the extinguishing of the last side candle were these: “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23)

The light of the world is fading, the end has come. Jesus has passed through the pain of fear, of betrayal, of denial, of humiliation, of unjust accusation, of torture, of despair. Love is hung on a cross and left to die alone. Yet, at the end of it all, the valley of darkness has not been the valley of abandonment. The Father of Lights, the Father of Life, the Father is there, ready to receive this gift of love.The room went dark as Don carried the still lit Christ candle out of the building, and the oboe and violin played, “Were You There?”

Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.

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