"The God who hides": A Liturgy for Good Friday
|From "Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home," by Richard J. Foster|
The following is a set of comments which my friend Brie Tschoepe offered at the start of the Good Friday service which Hope Chapel and Christ Church shared this past Friday, April 20, 2014, in Austin, Texas. I asked Brie if I could post it to my blog, and she kindly agreed. This service, at which seven lay Christians offer 5-7 minute reflections on the seven last words of Jesus on the cross, has taken place now for fourteen years. It is truly one of my all-time favorite worship services. While I am sad to have missed the past five years, it is my hope that I'll be able to make a similar service happen at some point in the near future.
To begin, I want to offer a couple of thoughts on Good Friday to prepare our hearts and minds for hearing Christ in our speakers.
My three-and-a-half year old son has begun hiding. What I mean is, when he wants to do something I’ve told him not to do, or something he thinks I won’t approve of, he goes into his room and closes the door. Sometimes he simply says, “Mommy, don’t look at me.”
Of course, this has reminded me of the first “hider,” Adam. After eating the fruit God had forbidden, the writer of Genesis tells us that Adam “hid from God among the trees.” And when “God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” Adam replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” Interesting that it’s the nakedness and not the disobedience that made him afraid.
In Mark’s gospel account, Jesus warns that “…everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light.”
But it’s not just a warning. It’s also a promise, because not all hidden things are cause for fear or shame. Matthew tells us in his gospel that, “Jesus always used stories and illustrations...when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using parables. [Which fulfilled] what God had spoken through the prophet: ‘I will speak to you in parables./ I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.’
So Adam wasn’t the first hider. God was. God hides things, too, but he hides treasures. And I want to suggest that perhaps his greatest treasure is hidden in the Cross.
Could it be that all the power of the universe—and I mean every power—the power of creation, the power of love, the power of darkness, the power of forgiveness, the powers of justice and mercy, any power you can imagine was compacted and hidden by God in the event of Christ dying on the cross?
But at the same time that God was hiding all this power of the universe, cramming it inside the cross, the man Jesus was the most un-hidden he could possibly be. Physically, his arms were nailed open. He was as naked as Adam in Eden. His very skin was flayed open. And in that posture of complete vulnerability, complete exposure, complete un-hiddenness, Jesus bore the weight of all the shame of all the brokenness and woundedness and disobedience from Adam to my three-year-old son. He bore it with no possible way to hide.
And in the conjunction of these two mysteries, God established a new way that would be and is and will be the way of his Kingdom: the way of nakedness, un-hiddenness, without shame, because all the shame and humiliation has already been borne by Christ. So tonight, we—that is, you and me, the actual “us” present here—we practice living this somewhat terrifying reality of the kingdom we trust. We practice what it’s like to Not Hide the things that cause us to feel shame or embarrassment in either the telling or the hearing. We’re simply practicing and celebrating and remembering what our life together ought to be like every day of the year – exposed and received in love, which is simply an act of faith that any shame we have or ever will feel has in fact already been borne sufficiently by Christ on the Cross.
So with that hope in our hearts, for the remainder of the evening, we will repeat a pattern of a song, then a personal reflection, and then a moment of silence. Seven times, for each of the sayings of Jesus from the cross.
We’ll go straight through the seven reflections without further comment or introduction. Unless the song is listed as instrumental, we invite you to join the singing and stand if you wish.
Now please join me in praying for our speakers.
Almighty Father, we ask that you graciously bless our friends who speak tonight and those who lead us in song. Have mercy upon them. Strengthen their hearts and give them your Holy Breath to lead us boldly to the foot of the cross where our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death. Glory to Him who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Seven Reflections
I have a final reading from the book of Hebrews that will bring our service to a close. When I finish, the lights will be dimmed, and you are invited to remain here in silence until you are ready to leave. When you do exit, please refrain from talking until you are completely outside of the building.
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings as we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Amen. Let us go in Peace.