This service sheet has been prepared for us by Rev. Trish Davies.
In the midst of these strange days we are living through comes our most sacred festival – Easter. I wonder how many followers of Jesus nearly 2000 years ago had to hide away secretly worshipping God – many I imagine, given the extent of persecution in the early church. Let us dwell on some of the words Jesus spoke on the cross…
Take your time over this; stop and pray as you feel led; pause for silent reflection and listen out for God speaking to you.
Psalm 22:1-8 ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. ‘He trusts in the Lord,’ they say, ‘let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’
Reflection 1: Jesus was immersed in the holy scriptures of the Jewish faith. The words we know so well – ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’, recorded by Matthew (ch 27 verse 46), were the opening words of Psalm 22. This is quite a long Psalm (31 verses) – you might like to read it all through for yourself today. We can assume that Jesus knew the whole Psalm – a Psalm that begins with this sense of being separated from or abandoned by God, yet goes on to say: (v. 24)
‘…he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help’.
And ends with the words:
‘ Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!’
If there are aspects of life at the moment that you are really struggling with; stay a while, close to Jesus on the cross. Cry out to God about those things that are dragging you down – personal sadness and struggle; overwhelming concern for the lives of multitudes of people in the face of the changes our world is going through… Ask for a sense of God’s perspective in the face of so much tragedy, but hang on to the hope that we see in this Psalm and the hope that is still ours today in Christ Jesus. Remember that Jesus was immersed in and sustained by God’s Word when he lived and when he died. John records Jesus saying from the cross: ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30) – an echo of the end of Psalm 22: ‘He has done it’.
Hymn: ‘Man of sorrows! What a name’ by Philipp Paul Bliss
Psalm 31:1-8 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. 2 Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the Lord. I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.
Reflection 2: Psalm 31 is another Psalm worth reading right through (24 verses). Again we find words spoken by Jesus on the cross (Luke 23: 44-46) – ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit’.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. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Can we again assume that Jesus was remembering the whole Psalm? Remembering that God is a faithful God; trusting in God’s unfailing love; knowing that God has heard his cry for mercy… Jesus had to trust God at this most desperate of times. Spend some time yourself reflecting on this as we find ourselves in such a strange and difficult place, and ask God to help you trust him more each day. As Jesus took his last breath, perhaps he had the final words of Psalm 31 resounding deep in his heart and mind: ‘Be strong and take heart all you who hope in the Lord’. Let those words strengthen us this Good Friday and beyond.
Before you sing “You laid aside your majesty” or read through these words remind yourself of the words of Philippians 2: 5-11
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
Pray this prayer: Lord, you loved me enough to lose all your glory for me even though you owned the whole world and everything in it. Show your glory afresh to my heart, to my family and to my society as well, that they may all say to you ‘Come in”. Amen
Song You laid aside Your majesty, gave up everything for me,
Prayers:Lord God, you love all you have made and want all to turn to you and live. So show mercy to the many across the world who do not know you, removing any ignorance, hardness of heart and disdain for your Gospel and so bring them home to yourself. Amen. (an adapted Thomas Cranmer prayer).
Pray your own prayers for others leading from this…
Lord Jesus, on the cross you were being betrayed, denied, rejected, and forsaken by almost everyone. Yet you trusted and put yourself in your Father’s hands. If you did all that for my sake, then I can trust and put myself into your hands, for your sake. Amen.
Pray your own prayers for yourself leading from this…
End with the Lord’s Prayer.
‘Be strong and take heart all you who hope in the Lord’.