Theme: Reflections on the Cross
Series: Easter 2022
Preachers: Rev Phil Swain & Rev Kevin Kim
A creative and reflective worship service which will focus on the cross of Jesus and the forgiveness, grace and life that we can find through his death. The theme of our service will be Divine Justice & Grace
Welcome and Introduction
Welcome to our Good Friday service. Last Sunday we gathered here and celebrated Palm Sunday with palm waving, candle making, Palm Sundaes and fun. Today is different. Today we gather to focus on the cross and the death of Jesus our saviour. It is like the sunshine of last Sunday is a fading memory as the dark clouds have swept in.
Today is difficult. The story is not pleasant and reminds us of the unpleasant aspects in our lives. It stirs up things – the hurt of betrayal, the pain of injustice, the heartache of grief. Sometime we want to rush to Easter Sunday … to the joy and celebration and fun again … but let’s not do that. Today, let’s stay in the gloom of the day, let’s sit with the hurt of the story, let’s experience again the deep grief of the disciples – for it is in the midst of the darkness of this day that we discover the amazing love & grace that comes through the cross of Jesus.
Over the Season of Lent we have been focusing on the theme of Justice – to be part of the moment to help make things right in this world. Today we are going to have a series of short reflections that takes this idea of justice a step further and consider how God offers to make things right with us through the cross of Jesus. Each reflection is based on a portion of the biblical story of Good Friday. There will be opportunities for you to sing, to ponder, to be engaged through ceativity and to respond. Let us journey together to the cross.
We light this candle to remind us that Jesus, the light of the world, is with us. LIGHT CANDLE. We are going to start this journey with the hymn… There is a green hill far away
Reflection 1 – The reality of Justice – Choices have consequences
Reading: Luke 22:47-62.
Judas betrays/Peter denies ()
Song: Man of Sorrows
Reflection 2 – The Reality of Injustice
Reading: Luke 23:1-12.
Jesus before Pilate and Herod ( )
Kevin just shared with us the reality of Justice – that actions can have consquences. That if we make a poor decision, it can come back to bite us later on. That was true for Judas and Peter in the Easter story and that can also be true for us.
But just as we need to face the reality of justice, there is also a reality to injustice. When the consequences that come to you are not a result of any action that you have done … or even worse, the are the result of what other people have done and yet you are the one who is left to deal with the mess. You know what I am talking about, don’t you? We have all experienced the reality of injustice and had that feeling that it is just not fair.
Jesus in the Easter story encountered the harsh reality of injustice. Jesus modeled his life and his interactions with others on the principle of love, compassion and grace. Jesus in his teaching set the bar high – to be perfect just as God is perfect – and seemingly was the only person who was able to achieve that standard.
The bible in Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus understands the struggles of life that we go through, understands the temptation to turn from God’s way and forge our own way, and yet it says that “Jesus did not sin”.
So when we come in our Bible reading to the trial of Jesus, the question goes through our minds, “How can they possibly find any fault in Jesus”, how can Jesus be guilt of any wrongdoing. Any conviction or condemnation would be an injustice.
And that’s what Pilate thought too in the reading we have just heard. Pilate declared, “I find no basis for a charge against this man”. And yet the chief priests and teachers of the law vehemently accused him of wrongdoing, even though Jesus is innocent.
But if we keep reading in the story, the injustice gets worse. Despite Pilate finding Jesus not deserving of death, the crowd keeps yelliung “Crucify him, Crucify him. Release the murderer Barbabas and crucify Jesus”. Pilate is frustrated, we are frustrated. Release the guilty and crucify the innocent.
This is not right. This cannot be allowed to happened and yet, it does. Pilate gives in and grants their request.
I don’t know about you, but I really get stirred up when I see or experience injustice. I know that there is a lot of grey areas in life that are tricky to navigate, but something like this seems pretty black and white. Justice should have meant that Jesus was realised and Barrabas was made to pay for his crimes. That is what would have been fair. But life isn’t always fair. Life isn’t always just. Jesus was condemned and Barabas walked free.
This part of the Easter story stirs up our emotions. Especially if we also have (or current are) experiencing an unjust situation or something which is just not fair. We see the way that Jesus was treated and we get angry. Angry for Jesus but also angry about our own injustice. We want to yell out “why can’t life be fair”.
This part of the Easter story is dark, but even at this point there are some pinpoints of light coming in. If you are feeling that sense of frustration or anger at injustice, then Jesus understands. Jesus seriously gets it. Jesus has experienced it to and offers to stand with you in the hurt of betrayal, the stings of unfair accustation and the shame of unjust condemnation. Jesus understands, and that can give us hope in a dark time.
But maybe you are a bit like me and also see a bit of myself in Barabas – the one who should have been condemned and yet through circumstances that had nothing to do with him or his actions, ends up free.
Life is not always fair. The world can be unjust. It can be rough … like the rough nails that we are holding in our hands. But we can look to the cross to find a person who understands how we are feeling, and stands with us.
We are going to reflect as we hear a song written by Trevor Warren, more than just a man.
Item: More than a Man
Reflection 3 – Reaching Out for Reconciliation
Reading: Luke 23:32-43
Two Thieves (Stewart B)
Song: When I Survey
Reflection 4 – Solidarity with God’s love and Grace
Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ( )
We have been reflecting on the cross all morning.
Both Kevin and I reflected on the reality of justice for our actions and the frustration of injustice. Kevin also helped us to see our need for forgiveness and grace.
But I thought that the Apostle Paul should have the last word with this amazing passage from 2 Corinthians.
Paul was writing to a small church in Corinth and in this letter, he is helping them to see the difference that the cross of Jesus makes and that the cross invites a response … or even demands a response. Paul says that if Christ died for all, then we should no longer live for ourselves, but live in a way that honours that death. The way we think, act, react … the way we treat other people … in all things we should live in a way that honours Jesus.
For Paul, the death of Jesus, Good Friday, is the thing that should change and influence everything.
Paul says that the cross means that we no longer do things form a worldly point of view anymore.
That old way of living is gone … a new way has come.
Jesus has shown us this new way of living.
A way dominated by love … loving God and loving each other.
Because of the cross – we are invited to leave behind the old ways and step into God’s way. The old has gone, a new way of living has come.
But it is a bit like this nail that we have all been holding.
This nail has the potential to hold things together, to build up to strengthen … but if it not used, then it is just a nail.
It is the same with the cross. The cross has the potential to bring forgiveness and grace, to transform you and your situations, to shine light and love. The cross of Jesus offers to make things right between you and God. But if we don’t embrace that office, it is just a cross.
As a pastor here, as someone who deeply cares for people,
I want everyone to hear that there is nothing more important than being right with God. There is nothing more lifegiving that discovering the grace and love and mercy that we find in the cross.
This is the good news of Good Friday…
God made Jesus who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in Jesus we might become right with God.
The cross has opened up the door so that we can be friends with God. We can have a real relationship with God
As – what does Paul call us – one of Christ’s ambassadors – let me allow God to making this appeal through me. I plead with you, I implore you on Christ’s behalf this morning:
Be reconciled to God.
We have had a number of different reflections today – and now I am going to offer an opportunity to respond. We are going to sing a song, and I am going to invite you to consider your response.
God is offering you today – through the cross of Jesus – forgiveness, grace, love and reconciliation. God is offering to make things right.
We have been holding these nails in our hands for the whole service. If you wish to accept God’s offer, you might like to symbolise this by walking forward and placing your nail on the communion table.
You don’t have to come forward … you might like to take the nail home as a reminder of all that God has done for you.
Either way, I remind you again, Good Friday and the cross invites a response … it demands our life, our love, our all … and so I encourage you to respond to God today. Allow God to make things right with you today.
Song: Amazing Grace
Reflection 5 – Jesus Dies
Reading: Luke 23:44-47 (Marion)
Wrap up (Phil)
Jesus could see the big picture.
He could see that we were separated from God by the things that we have thought and done.
Jesus knew the barriers that separate us from God
– that is why on the cross he cried, “Father forgive them”
Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world. Jesus cried out to God, “why have you abandoned me” with the knowledge that because of the cross, we will never have to say that.
Jesus put his body on the line,
so that we can now find a place of help and hope,
a place of shelter and peace, a place of healing and love.
Jesus died so that we can be made right with God.
I cannot look at the cross and not get emotional that Jesus did all this for me. I grieve that Jesus had to die so that I might live.
But at the same time I cannot look at the cross without a sense of deep thankfulness and gratitude.
Jesus said, “It is finished”
Death had come.
Jesus, God in human flesh, has died.
(blow out candle).
Let us mourn with Mary.
Let us grieve as the disciples grieved.
Let us sit in the darkness of this moment.
May the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Strengthen you and sustain you through the next two days
Until we meet again. Amen.
The service has concluded, but your time of reflection can go on. If you wish chat, we are serving hot cross buns in the lounge area (out the door and to the right), but I ask if you to leave the church in silence. If you want to just sit and reflect, or have some prayer, or talk with God about your relationship, then this time is yours for as long as you need. Amen.