Welcome to this Good Friday Meditation. This year, I had been invited to lead a meditation for a group of local churches, and was hoping to be able to put together something a little like what we have below. Instead, we will be following this meditation online, on Good Friday afternoon, and I believe others will be joining in.
I am posting it early in case you might like to join in too. As we cannot meet together this year, you might want to find a time when you can go through the meditation, perhaps with others. I have put together a very simple structure: a reading from the gospel story, one of my poems based on Jesus’ words from the cross, and a response from Psalm 22.
To that I have added music suggestions, with links to YouTube. The music reflects a variety of styles, so please feel free to go with what you like. If you find YouTube sends you a lot of ads, do remember the “skip Ad” box, bottom right, and the mute button! If YouTube is distracting, you can go through without music, or find something else from another source. The music is to help lead us into prayer, contemplation, worship, so whatever helps you do those things. I anticipate the whole thing taking about an hour, depending how we go with the music. Of course, you can always leave music playing in a tab while reading the next section of words.
I intend to try to put something very simple, without music, on YouTube. If I do, I shall post the link here. That will be shorter, about 15 minutes.
If you’d like to see the poems all in one place, without the framework, you can find those here.
If you would like to use, or share, any of my material, please feel free to do so, saying where it is from.
I hope that’s explained things!
Now, as we prepare for our Good Friday meditation, let us focus our minds on Jesus, who loves us, and suffered for us. May we have a deeper appreciation of that love and suffering this year. May we, despite being apart, become more aware how deeply we are loved, and connected together.
Reading (from Matthew 27 27-37 and Luke 23 33-34)
Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spat on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two criminals were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Father forgive them, for they know not what they do
We don’t know what we do,
from the careless word that
starts a fire of anger,
to the careless killing
of a butterfly –
who knows what
what winds and rains,
begin and end with just one death?
We walk in darkness, so often,
and so often, we close our eyes,
we do not wish to know.
And Jesus, seeing this,
that his life would end
with angry shouts,
with fearful washing of hands,
with indifferent playing of dice,
Knowing all this, even so, he bore
our lawful unthinking violence,
our blundering disregard for consequences.
Another would pay for our actions.
Yet as the ripple of our acts flows out,
through the world, who knows where,
so too, now, flows forgiveness,
following on, spreading and transforming,
watering dry ground, lifting burdens
and carrying them away.
Response from Psalm 22: v3-5
Yet you are holy,
dwelling in the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
Music: Salt of the Sound Lamb of God (and Your Ways) both – 6 mins 28
Reading (from Luke 23 39-43)
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Truly I say to you today you will be with me in paradise
Even as he hung upon the cross,
even with blood from that false crown
running down, not wiped away,
he saw the two men at his side,
One joined in mocking with the
priests and soldiers,
speaking from his pain,
and one did not, this second kept
his eyes on something else – a hope.
A hope the one he looked on was a king,
and of a kingdom where such things
as crosses are not lifted up,
a hope, even, of an end to death and pain –
this pain, this death.
And, ah, his king begins to speak,
What a world to gift him dying there.
A word of such sweetness, freedom, peace.
See – clear water flowing, and flowers,
hear the sound of birds, the lazy
buzz of insects, the flutter of their wings.
What a word, at your end, to hold to,
to capture our beginning, once again.
But even more than this,
to be with him, beside the king,
seen and known,
held in the loving gaze of one who
hung up on the cross.
Might this, even this, be paradise?
Response from Psalm 22:v 27-28
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the Lord.
Music: Gabriel Faure in Paradisum from Requiem 3 mins 50 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvYt-QA9vT0
Reading (from John 19 25-27)
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Son, here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother
And still he sees, looks down
towards the one who bore him, bearing this,
the pain – not her own pain – worse,
the pain of watching one you love
twisting on those wooden beams,
the nails piercing her own flesh too.
The time has come when all the
treasure of her heart is broken open,
scattered, lying in the dirt.
What use to hold in mind
the words of angels,
the wealthy gifts brought by the wise,
what preparation Simeon’s warning,
when now she sees his agony with her eyes.
But she is not alone, his friend sees too.
John, who writes it down,
bears witness, even here, even so.
They turn their gaze upon each other
and see each other with new eyes –
a mother, and a son.
Gifting them each other –
his one last act of love,
this giving, from an empty cup.
This task of care can be ours too,
to behold each other in our pain,
and in our sorrow, walk each other home
Response from Psalm 22: v 9-11
Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
Music: Salt of the Sound – I’ll meet you where you are/Home to you 3 mins 31 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFlXL3cgI6Q
Reading (from Matthew 27 45-46)
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
You felt your generous heart forsaken,
you felt the absence of the one who helps,
who was beside you, in the beginning,
who knew you from before first light.
We know too well the sparseness
of your isolation, without light,
in the darkness of our own long night.
And yet, within our dark, we find you there,
Find you have waited for us long days, and years,
while our poor eyes have
grown accustomed to the dark,
have learned at last to see you through our tears.
So as you know our pain and feel it,
you break our separation with your own.
Help us see the forsaken all around us,
invisible and in darkness, but seen by you.
May we seek each other in the dark,
May we have courage to cry out,
like you, and so be found.
Response from Psalm 22: v11, 14
Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint,
my heart is like wax
it is melted within my breast
Music: Casting Crowns Praise you in this storm 5 mins 3
Reading (from John 19 28)
Knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.”
The well is deep, and you have nothing to draw with.
Where now that living water?
Where is that spring within you, gushing up
to fullness of life?
Do you remember, now,
the woman by the well?
Your deepening talk of thirst and water,
as now, again, you humbly ask another for a drink –
a sponge of sour wine?
Do you remember too, as the taste dries on your lips,
that wedding feast, where water changed to finest wine?
The richness and fullness of that beginning
soured to this cold bitterness.
You are our source, the spring of all our rivers
and still you thirst like us, need help to drink.
And so give us this grace,
that as we do for the least of these,
we may know we do for you.
May we see you
in each thirsty face.
Response from Psalm 22: v 15
My strength is dried up like a potsherd
and my tongue sticks to my jaws
you lay me in the dust of death
Music: Taise O Lord hear my Prayer 7 mins 43
Reading (John 19 29-30)
A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
It is finished.
All things come to an end.
Even pain like this,
Even the anger and the cruelty of a crowd,
of us all,
even the certainty of those so certain
of God they hang a man upon a tree.
Even the punishment and scapegoating
The work is done.
It has all been borne.
You have poured out your love, your life.
You have carried our sorrows, suffered
under our iniquities.
Your head bowed now, you sink
into the final pain of nails,
your body bears no more,
having borne all.
The work is done.
Response from Psalm 22: v 24
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted.
and he has not hidden his face from him
but has heard, when he cried to him.
Music: Ola Gjeilo Ubi Caritas 3 mins 30
Reading (from Luke 23 44-49)
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit
There is darkness now, deep darkness,
over the face of the deep,
and no hovering like a brooding bird,
instead, the temple curtain torn in two,
from top to bottom,
and the Holy of Holies empty.
God is not found there,
but here, with this dying man
on a tree,
He calls out father, and talks of hands,
and we remember what his own hands have done,
how many were healed by their touch,
raised up and restored from cruelty and death,
and now, he too will be held in loving hands,
a reconciliation beyond our grasp,
a trust even at this moment of last breath.
Dying, he taught us to die,
dying he brought us life.
May we be reconciled, may we know
at our end, the comfort of those hands.
Response from Psalm 22: v 26
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied
those who seek him shall praise the Lord
May your hearts live for ever.
Music: John Tavener Svyati (trans O Holy One) 12 minutes 35
Or a traditional hymn, such as When I survey the wondrous cross.