Good Friday Resource for April 22, 2011

art by He Qi

Good Friday is the holy day on which we remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus. At First Church, we will observe this day with a simple time of scripture reading, prayer, and silence at noon. If you are unable to join us at church, we invite you to use this resource as a guide for observance at home. Below are just a few suggestions for practice, reading, meditation, and prayer; please draw from it as you see fit.

READINGS

These are the lectionary readings for Good Friday 2011.

Isaiah 52:13–53:12

This section is the part of the so-called “Servant Songs”—four poems in Isaiah concerning the suffering and redemption of “the servant of God.” This Servant is portrayed as chosen by God to bring justice to the nations; he is abused and suffers for the iniquities of the people; eventually God vindicates the Servant and the people are collectively healed. The New Testament frequently refers to the Servant Songs; as such, Christians traditionally believed that Isaiah was prophesying the death and resurrection of Jesus. In its original context, however, the Servant is a metaphor for Israel.

Psalm 22

This psalm is a lament for deliverance from suffering. Jesus quotes the opening verse from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As such, from a Christian perspective, this psalm serves as a powerful evocation of Jesus’ passion and his faith in God. In Jewish tradition, the rabbis often linked Psalm 22 with the story of Esther and the threat against the Jewish people.

Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

The Book of Hebrews is an anonymous treatise on Jesus Christ. Its central thesis is that Christ is the sole mediator between God and humanity. Many scholars see Hebrews as an attempt to prevent apostasy. That is, the author was concerned that followers of the early Christian church would return to their Jewish or pagan traditions. Both of these passages seek to show that Jesus’ suffering and death created a new covenant between God and humanity.

Matthew 26:14-27:66

This is one account of Jesus’ last hours, one that includes the Passover meal, Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial. This story of the ”passion” troubles modern readers because of its hostility toward Judaism. In the original context, the negative portrayal of Jews reflects in-fighting among various Jewish sects. Also, the phrase translated “The Jews” should more accurately be rendered “the Judean authorities”. Tragically, the passion narratives have been misused for centuries to justify mistreatment and violence against Jews for “deicide.” As modern churchgoers, we are called to wrestle with this legacy of Christian anti-Semitism.

PRAYERS/ POEMS

We will read from these prayers, silently and aloud, during our Good Friday observance at First Church. Given the Good Friday and Earth Day coincide this year, they reflect ecological themes.

by Helvecio Mendes
from Life Prayers, p. 81, HarperSanFrancisco, 1997
 
I want to know why
The rain is falling
I want to know why
There is a rainbow in the sky
I want to know why
The people are hungry
Why
Life in this country is at a
standstill
Why
The days seem to grow longer
And life shorter
Why
The people are forced to
tighten their belts
Watching their harvest
Being shipped off
Why
Children have no milk on their
table
Neither rice to eat
I want to know why
Those children are singing
Why
There is a red moon sleeping in the sea
Why
Soldiers are trained to kill
To hate
To rage
To savage
To steal
Why darkness is coming
As darkness has
Reigned
For so long . . .
But above all
I want to wake up in the
morning and hear
Everybody shouting
WHY? WHY? WHY?
 
***
by Hildegard of Bingen
from Life Prayers, p.83, HarperSanFrancisco, 1997
 
Now in the people
that were meant to be green,
there is no more life of any kind.
There is only shriveled barrenness.
The winds are burdened
by the utterly awful stink of evil,
selfish goings-on.
Thunderstorms menace.
The air belches out
the filthy uncleanliness of the peoples.
There pours forth an unnatural,
a loathsome darkness,
that withers the green,
and wizens the fruit
that was to serve as food for the people.
Sometimes this layer of air
is full,
full of a fog that is the source
of many destructive and barren creatures,
that destroy and damage the earth,
rendering it incapable
of sustaining humanity.
 
***
A traditional African-American spiritual:
 
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
 
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
 
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
 
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
 
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