A Word about Lamentation
Good Friday faces us with the death of Jesus on the cross of shame. We come to be near him in his suffering. We come also to lament the world’s sin and the fragmentation of our lives. Lamentation is an ancient form of prayer, crying out to God in the midst of senselessness, violence and confusion. It is a way to “hold God accountable,” even as we admit our complicity and helplessness. Lamentation does not contradict faith in God: it arises from the conviction that God wills life, not death; that God’s love is steadfast; and that God’s mercy is over all. We believe that God grieves with us, but we also admit that we do not understand God or ourselves, and so we express doubt, anger and desire for vindication, in God’s hearing. The Bible is full of lamentations. Jesus’ own lament, “Why have you abandoned me?”, echoes especially in our hearts tonight.
Chant Jesus, Remember Me [Taize]
Gathering at the Cross
The peace of Christ be with you.
His cross is our peace forever.
Beloved in Christ,
this is a night of grieving.
In our sorrow, we ask the Spirit to give us hope.
Let us pray:
gather our hurts and losses
and all the world’s grief
into the arms of Christ,
extended to embrace us.
Help us to believe
that living or dying
we belong to God. Amen.
*Hymn 201 They Crucified My Lord
Handing on the Story
Reading Isaiah 52: 13-53: 12
at the cross, the lament of all human history
rises from the soul of Jesus.
We believe that in him
you yourself grieve,
until promised morning comes.
Praise to you in shadow and light,
in gladness and grief,
in every breath,
and at the last breath.
Reading Mark 15: 25-37
Hymn Were You There?
You may remain seated for the hymn.
Reading Mark 15: 42-47
the suffering of the innocent
is a terrible mystery.
We wonder if there is hope
for our world – any hope at all,
even in you.
Answer us, O God,
and by the tears of Jesus
keep our hearts safe and our hope alive
as we lament our losses,
speak our anger,
grieve our disappointments
and release our pain. Amen.
A Time for Lamentation
Expressing Our Grief, Questions, and Laments
[A Note to worship planners: In this service, a center table is set with bare branches and baskets filled with iron nails. In another place in the room, to which there should be easy access, a large cross is either standing or lying on the floor. Other symbols of the passion may be at the cross—hammers, nails, thorns, rope… whatever the artistic imagination suggests. A bucket or other resonant container is also placed there, to receive people’s lamentations.
At the time of the ritual, people are invited to reflect on the world, its need, pain and sorrow, and to allow the deep questions about the “why’s” of human suffering to surface. Ample time should be given for people to reflect in silence, or with music playing softly “beneath” their reflections.
They may come to the table at any time during this period, take a nail or several from the baskets on the table, then move to the cross and pray silently. When they are finished, they may deposit their nails in the container and return to their seats. [Some participants should be prepared ahead of time to go first and model what is to be done.]
Instructions for this time of lament should be printed in the bulletin and delivered aloud, briefly and concisely by the leader of the service. Sample written instructions are given below. When all who wish to participate have done so, a hymn is sung, and the service continues.
It should go without saying that other rituals suited to a congregation’s culture and imagination may be substituted for this one.]
Participating in the Ritual
During this time, if you are moved to do so, you may take nails from the table, approach the cross and express your questions and lamentations in silent prayer, then place your nails in the container at the foot f the cross. You may also choose not to take nails, but simply to go to the cross and pray silently. If you wish to remain after the service and pray near the cross, please stay as long as you like.
*Hymn 190 When Jesus Wept
The Good News of Consolation
Reading Romans 8:18-39
Let us pray.
Spirit of Life, thank you
for the healing power of the cross.
Thank you for not abandoning us in our sins.
Thank you for praying in us when,
in grief and anger,
we do not know what to say.
Thank you for joining us forever to Christ,
who bears our pain and the world’s great sorrow.
Thank you for the life that is to come.
Hasten the day when lament will be no more.
Now make us your tender mercy
upon the world’s suffering.
Do not leave us when the light wanes
and the road disappears,
but bring us through all our nights
to the clear shining of Easter.
We ask this, trusting you,
in Jesus’ name. Amen.
*Blessing and Peace
Go now in peace.
Bear the weight of the cross
and the hope of resurrection
to all who yearn for life.
Night and day,
may the blessing of God be upon us.
*Hymn Dona Nobis Pacem
*A SIGN OF PEACE
When you have offered one another a sign of Christ’s peace, you may leave quietly.
*[Note to worship leaders: * The asterisk indicates all the places where the people may stand. In this service all that is needed to get them to stand is example—the leaders should know when to stand and sit and do it decisively—and clear hand gestures. Try not to interrupt the flow of the service with constant invitations and instructions.]
Images: Pieta, Roy de Maistrel Deposition, Ludwig Karsten