The Barn Church & St Luke’s Kew
Where all God’s Children are Welcome
Good Friday 2020: Creation Undone
This year, our Good Friday meditation must take a different form. We cannot be together in church, we cannot have the choir sing for us, nor can we sing together. Instead, we have to make do with what is possible. The links between the readings are live: press CTRL and click with your mouse, and the music will play on YouTube – be sure to be connected to the internet for the full experience. The music was chosen by Mary Noyes, the choir had started to rehearse, but things have changed. There are contributions here from Richard Austen and Michael Tonkin, our Readers, so there are many voices that have come together to create this act of worship. Use it however you like, but spend time with God, at the foot of Christ’s cross. Read, sing, pray – and marvel.
At the cross, everything that God has made unravels. The God who created life, dies. The God who made the light dies in darkness. The God who created the heaven and the earth is buried in the rocks he had formed. The God who made land and water dies a thirsty man. Human beings, who were created to crown the whole of creation, kill the author of life.
We have been reading and reflecting through Lent the Church of England’s #LiveLent: Care for God’s Creation series, which seeks to bind into one thought our concerns for our spiritual life and the life of the planet. Care for our spiritual health is intimately linked to our physical health. To understand God’s intervention in the world in the person of Jesus Christ, we have to understand God’s daily interventions in his creation in the intricate details of plants and all living creatures, the subtle balances of air, light and water, warmth and cold, fire and ice. We cannot live as children of God and be disconnected from his world.
On this Good Friday, when we are locked down within the fastness of our homes, we are called to reflect on that awful day, and to put the crucifixion into the context of creation.
Hymn: 509 Morning glory, starlit sky https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUYLm8vSG9M
Prayer: Loving God, you have placed us in a wonderful world. You have created interlocking webs of dependence and fruitfulness, you have given us knowledge and skills to understand all you have made. Too frequently we take your glorious imagination for granted, and we blight your image in which we are made. As we reflect on humanity’s lowest ebb, lift us from the grief of despair and hopelessness to the heights of your extraordinary love for your entire creation. Amen
Land and Plants
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3
O vos omnes by Tomás Luis de Victoria https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX8BUfe8fnQ
In the Booklet ‘Live Lent’ we have been looking at ‘Care for God’s Creation’ and in week 3 we reflected on land and on the tree and plant life it supports. There has probably never been a greater time in human history when we have been made to think of our responsibility for the planet and the need to be more caring towards it.
Now with the coronavirus pandemic we have become even more reliant on what our land can supply us with in the way of food and other produce. We are all guilty, at times, of taking God’s creation too much for granted, and especially in the western world where we are too used to just buying fruit and vegetables as and when we want them.
Another circumstance of this pandemic is that it has taken away from us the ability to hold funerals in the manner to which we have been accustomed and to mourn properly. On this day particularly when we remember our Lord’s death, we remember those now who are unable to stand at the grave side and hear the words, “for dust you are and to dust you will return”.
We pray for all those who mourn, for those who no longer inherit this earth, remembering Christ’s promise to us all, “and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”.
So as we give thanks for this world that God has given us, and for the land that provides for us, let us all be humbled by the sacrifices others make for us, to provide for our every need, and the greatest sacrifice of all made today, and everyday, by our Lord on the cross. Amen.
For those who work the land to provide food for us
For those who watch over the land, to preserve it
For those who are disconnected from their land, as refugees
Hymn: 9 Ah holy Jesu, how hast thou offended https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4MKOP-vhQ0
Stars and Seasons
As they were leading Jesus away they seized a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus. Large numbers of people followed him, including women who mourned and lamented for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me: weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For the days will surely come when people will say, “Happy are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne, the breasts that have never suckled!” Then they will begin to say to the mountains “fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” For if men use the green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry? Luke 23: 26-31
O Domine Jesu Christe by Monteverdi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR6XJMqIVyw
Every procession to Golgotha was accompanied by groups of wailing women. Every group of criminals being led away to their deaths was followed both by people who knew and loved them, and by others who simply came along to grieve. These are the people who walk with Jesus as he makes his painful way from the Praetorium in the centre of Jerusalem out of the city to the place of execution. He is too weak to carry his cross, but he has sufficient breath to warn those who weep around him that worse is to come for them. His task is simply to reach the hilltop, and to die.
“To everything there is a season”, writes the Teacher in Ecclesiastes. A time to live and a time to die. The God who created the seasons, and the heavenly lights to guide us through them, appears to be dying prematurely. He is still young, at the height of his strength and public influence, yet he is going to die. The Passover season, during which these events take place, is marked by a full moon – this year it has been particularly bright, a super pink moon to be precise. It has hung in the clear sky through the tail end of this week, a sign in the heavens of the brightness of its creator. At this season, a season of celebration of liberation, the creator is a prisoner, bound and tethered. At this season, as bread is broken, wine shared, stories retold, Christ’s body is cruelly broken and his blood outpoured. That story has to be retold, again and again, amidst the marvels of his creation and the depravity of our fallen humanity. The paradox of the cross – the creator of the universe dies – calls us to gaze in wonder, to marvel at our God’s extraordinary love, and to examine our own lives, that pale into comparison with his.
Hymn: 820 When I survey the wondrous cross https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_fvFfPqjO4
For those who are ill with Covid 19, those who care for them, and their families who wait anxiously
For those who work to provide tests and vaccines
For those who support the isolated and the vulnerable with practical and spiritual help
It was now the sixth hour and, with the sun eclipsed, a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle; and when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” With these words he breathed his last. Luke 23: 44-46
O Salutaris Hostia by Chrisostomo de Arriaga https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rKOmmZaZ5Y
The first day of creation comes to an end when God separates light from darkness. On the cross, between midday and three o’clock, the light and the darkness are re-united. Christ, the light of the world, is enveloped by darkness. The light which seeks out truth and love, which separates evil from good, is overshadowed by gloom. Three hours of suffering go unseen, as divine light, divine love, hover between life and death.
The silence of the current lockdown has brought natural sound to the forefront of our consciousness, and gradually, the scents of Spring are beginning to fill our senses. The light too is growing, with glorious sunrises for the early risers to later and later sunsets as the evenings draw out. As the normal round of life is restricted, now is the time to value the glories of the creation in which God has set us. It is the light which enables us to see what he has made. It is the light in Christ that opens up our souls to divine love. It is the light of Christ which leads us from darkness to fullness of life.
Yet today that light is extinguished by human cruelty, by human jealousy, by human misunderstanding. In the darkness of these three hours, let us pray for grace to see through the miasma of hatred and anger to the divine love that still shines out on that cross shrouded in darkness, and rejoice in our God who loves us to the uttermost.
For those who have lost hope in their isolation
For those who struggle in reduced surroundings or overcrowded living spaces
For those whose work has gone, who look to a bleak future
Hymn: 576 O sacred head surrounded https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3M4uUJibpvw
Jesus knew that everything had now been completed, and to fulfil the scripture perfectly he said, “I thirst”. A jar of vinegar stood there, so putting a sponge soaked in the vinegar on a hyssop stick they held it up this mouth. After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said, “It is accomplished”, and bowing his head he gave up his spirit. John 19: 28-30
As Jesus hung on the Cross for us and bearing our sins, he again demonstrated his humanity by showing human need. “I thirst”. In his agony, a little cool water might have relieved his misery and pain. But what did he get? A sponge full of vinegar. Once again humankind let him down.
Water plays an essential role not only in our physical life, but in our Christian life too. In our very earliest contact with the church, water is used to baptise us. As Jesus started his ministry, he was baptised in the water of the River Jordan. Later his first miracle was at Cana in Galilee when he turned water into wine.
Later he encountered the Samaritan woman at the well, which I preached about at the Barn only a few short weeks ago – though it seems like a long time now! Jesus told her that whoever drinks of the water of the well would thirst again, but that he gives Living Water that will sustain us to eternal life. In Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels Jesus refer to the basic kindness of giving a cup of water to one who needs it is a mark of our Christianity.
Today at the Communion service, the Priest mixes water with the wine. Why is that? In ancient times, wine was a valuable commodity, often in very short supply, especially outside warmer climes. So, it made logical sense that it should be watered down and it often was. It would be easy for us to accept that as the reason, but actually it is more important than that. From the earliest traditions of the Christian church the wine and water were taken as to represent the two natures of Christ – the wine the divine and the water the human. So in mixing the two we recognise and receive both the human and divine parts of Christ. And other traditions finesse this slightly with the belief that the water represents humanity in general and the mixing of the water and the wine represents our lives being intertwined with Jesus’ as a mark of our Christianity. These both demonstrate the essential importance of Communion as a vital part of our connection with Jesus.
But water is so central to our lives as humans and Christians, it is inevitable that it is not always referred to in quite such positive terms. Jesus walked on the water, but this was when he was coming to help his disciples who were frightened that their boat would be overwhelmed and they would drown. He came over the lake to demonstrate his power over the elements. Pilate washed his hands with water when he handed Jesus over to the Jews. This was a ritual purification, but also demonstrated his weakness and cowardice, perhaps his humanity and fear.
And when Jesus died and the soldier pierced his side with a spear, water and blood flowed from the wound. The water again demonstrating Jesus’s human side.
Water is central to life and to Christianity. When Jesus said “I thirst”, he demonstrated his humanity. We all thirst both physically and spiritually. On this Good Friday let us think of water as another part of our wonderful connection with the human Christ and through that with the Divine Christ.
For those who bring hope in troubled times
For those whose kindness transforms despair
For our role in bringing light, joy and care
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Hymn: 627 Praise to the holiest in the height https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPBE5r3a0UA
St Matthew Passion, final chorale J.S. Bach https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-miQ6_FTtN0
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the + love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us, now, and always. Amen.