Good Friday service - by James Archer

Welcome

 

Opening hymn – There is a green hill far away

 

Dramatised reading medley based on Luke 23, Matthew 27, Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22

Different readers take the parts of narrator, Pilate, crowd (two voices), Jesus, two criminals, Isaiah and the centurion.  The narrator is in the pulpit.  For the trial scene, Pilate is seated behind a table at the foot of the steps, and the crowd where he is facing towards.  All other readers are off-stage with microphones.  There is someone who brings on a bowl of water and a towel for Pilate to wash with, and takes them off.  There also needs to be someone who brings on the cross from the upper south entrance and with nails and a hammer, and the cross goes at the top of the steps

 

Narrator      Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them:

Pilate           You brought this man to me for incitement to rebellion.  I have examined him in your presence and have found no                       basis for your charges against him.  Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us.  As you can see, he has done                       nothing to deserve death.  Therefore I will punish him and then release him.

Crowd 1     Away with this man! 

Crowd 2     Release Barabbas to us!

Narrator      Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city and for murder.  Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate                  appealed to them again.  But they kept shouting:

Crowd 1     Crucify him!

Crowd both Crucify him!  Crucify him! 

Pilate          Why?  What crime has he committed?

Crowd both (louder) Crucify him!  Crucify him! Crucify him!

Narrator      When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that an uproar was starting, (Pilate signals for water to be brought                  on-stage) he took water (acted) and washed his hands (acted) in front of the crowd. (Water and towel taken away)

Pilate          I am innocent of this man’s blood.  It is your responsibility.

Crowd both Let his blood be on us and on our children. (Exit Pilate)

Narrator      Then Pilate released Barabbas to them.  He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.  Two other                        men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.  (Cross is brought on) When they came to the place                    called The Skull, there they crucified him, along with the two criminals, one on his left and one on his right.  (Nails                      are hammered into the cross.  At the third group of hammering, …..)

Jesus           (loudly)  Aaahhh! (quieter, with gasps) Father ….. forgive them ….. they don’t know ….. what they are doing.  (The                    cross is lifted into place)

Crowd 1     You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days – save yourself! 

Crowd 2     Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God! 

Crowd 1     He saved others, but he can’t save himself! 

Crowd 2     We’ll believe in him if he comes down now! 

Crowd 1     He trusts in God – let God rescue him now, for he claimed to be his Son!

Crowd both Ha ha ha ha ha.

 

Narrator    Listen to Isaiah’s eye-witness statement, written down 600 years in advance:

Isaiah       There was nothing beautiful or majestic about him, nothing attractive about his appearance.  He was despised and

rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.  His face was messed up so badly we could not bear to look at it.  But even then, he didn’t complain – he was like a lamb going quietly to the slaughterhouse. 

 

But it was all for us. It was our bad behaviour he was being punished for – because of it, we get off scot free.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned our own way; and the Lord has punished him instead of us for our wrong-doing.  He was killed like a common criminal, even though he had done nothing wrong.

 

Jesus        (loudly)  My God …..  My God ….. Why? …..Why? ….. Why have you abandoned me? (Quiet, delirious muttering)

Why are you so far from saving me?  Why don’t you hear my groans? My God, I cry out to you, but you don’t answer.  But you are the Holy One, the King who deserves all our praise.  Our fathers trusted you, and you delivered them. 

 

But I am a worm, not a man – scorned and despised by the people.  All who see me mock me and hurl insults at me: “He trusts in God – let God deliver him, since he delights in him.”  I’ve trusted you all my life – don’t be far from me, for I’m in desperate trouble, and there’s no-one here to help.  They’re like charging bulls or roaring lions around me, tearing into my flesh with relish.  My limbs have turned to jelly and my bones are all out of joint.  My heart feels like wax, and my tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth. There are nails through my hands and my feet, my bones are sticking out and the people are staring and gloating over me.  Don’t stay away from me.  My God, come quickly to help me, for I am about to die.

 

But even now, I will praise you.  I will tell others about you.  For you have not abandoned me – you see what is going on, and you hear my cry for help.  You are in charge, Lord, and people from all over the earth will turn to you in praise.

 

Criminal 1  (loudly)  Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!

Criminal 2  Aren’t you afraid of God when you are about to die?  We are getting what we deserve, but this man has done                         nothing wrong.  Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Jesus          I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.

Narrator     About midday, the sky turned black, and it was like night for three hours. (Silence)   

Jesus          (loudly and triumphantly) It ….. is ….. finished!  (Quietly)  Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

Narrator     With that, he breathed his last.  And the curtain in the temple was ripped in two from top to bottom; the earth shook                    and rocks split apart.  The soldier in charge, seeing what had happened, praised God and said:

Centurion    Surely this man really was the Son of God!

 

Song: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” (Unaccompanied solo first verse with the soloist coming in from the back to the cross)

 

Drama: (Silence as the singers depart.  The silence is broken by a loud cackle from Wormwood as he and Satan enter for Nailed! by Barbara Sumner, from Drama for All the Family, published by Kingsway Publications)

They are each carrying a bible. You will need permission to perform, and it is not reproduced here.

 

Songs of praise:

            O Happy Day

            Lord, I lift your name on high

Reading from Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan:

 

Now I saw in my dream Christian walking briskly up a highway fenced on both sides with a high wall.  He began to run, though he could not run fast because of the load on his back.  On the top of the hill, he came to a cross.  Just as he got to the cross, his burden came loose, dropped from his shoulders, and went tumbling down the hill.  It fell into an open grave, and I saw it no more.

 

Now Christian’s heart was light.  He had found relief from his burden.  He said to himself, “He has given me rest by His sorrows, and life by His death.”  He stood gazing at the cross, wondering how the sight of the cross could so relieve one of guilt and shame.  He no longer felt guilty of anything.  His conscience told him that all his sins were forgiven.  He now felt innocent, clean, happy and free. He knew his sins had all been paid for by the death of the One who died on the cross.  They were gone, buried in the Saviour’s tomb, and God would remember them against him no more forever.    He was so thankful and so full of joy that the tears began to flow. 

 

As he stood looking at the cross, weeping for joy, three celestial beings stood near.  They greeted him with “Peace be unto thee.”  The first said, “Your sins are forgiven.”  The second stripped him of his rags and clothed him with garments white and clean.  The third put a mark upon his forehead and gave him a book to read on the way and for identification at the celestial gate.  Then Christian leaped for joy, and went on his way singing.

 

Prayers

There are two alternative versions of prayers.

 

Version 1

The congregation are asked to choose between three gathering places, one at the back, one on the right and one on the left.  One of these is a place of confession and contains a scattering of large nails; the second is a place of supplication and contains a scattering of candles; the third is a place of praise and thanksgiving and contains a scattering of flowers. The congregation are invited to pick up a nail or a flower or to light a candle, which for safety reasons should remain on a metal tray.  At each there is a prayer leader with a microphone. 

 

First the confession prayer leader picks up any remaining nails, and leads that section of the congregation to around the cross.  There, he/she leads a responsive liturgy of confession, with each section finishing, “Lord, have mercy” to which the congregation responds “Christ have mercy”.  Then the prayer leader throws their nails into a metal bucket at the foot of the cross, followed by the others.  The final part of the liturgy is: “See all your sins laid on Jesus, the Lamb of God who gave himself for us.  Lord have mercy.” “Christ have mercy.” That section of the congregation return to their seats and remain standing.

 

Then the supplication prayer leader picks up the tray of lit and unlit candles, and leads that section of the congregation to around the cross.  There, he/she leads a responsive liturgy of supplication, with each section finishing, “Lord, in your mercy” to which the congregation responds “Hear our prayer”.  Then the prayer leader places the tray at the foot of the cross. The final part of the liturgy is, “See all your prayers laid before Jesus, who pleads with the Father on our behalf. Lord, in your mercy.” “Hear our prayer.”  That section of the congregation return to their seats and remain standing.

 

Finally the thanksgiving prayer leader picks up any remaining flowers, and leads that section of the congregation to around the cross.  There, he/she leads a responsive liturgy of praise and thanksgiving, with each section finishing, “Praise the Lord, for He is good” to which the congregation responds “His love endures for ever”.  Then the prayer leader places their flowers at the foot of the cross, followed by the others.  The final part of the liturgy is: “See all your praise offered to Jesus, the Lamb of God who is worthy of all praise.  Praise the Lord, for he is good.” “His love endures for ever.” That section of the congregation return to their seats and remain standing.

 

Version 2

Each of ten people come forward in turn to the foot of the cross.  Looking up at the cross, they say their first three lines, light a candle which they place at the foot of the cross, and start the fourth line, to which the congregation respond

 

Priest        The priests became his bitter enemies.

I too am a priest.

Give me the wisdom to see what you are doing and to join in.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

 

Disciple    His disciples deserted him and fled.

I too am his disciple.

Give me the courage to stand by him when the going gets tough.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

 

Teenager  The crowd preferred a murderer to the Prince of Peace.

I too am one of the crowd.

Give me the conviction to walk in the ways of peace.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

 

Judge      The judge at his trial washed his hands of him.

I too am a judge.

Give me the integrity to do what I know is right.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

 

Black man They asked Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross.

I too have been asked to carry his cross.

Give me the strength not to stumble.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

 

Friend      His friends stood at a distance and watched.

I too am his friend.

Give me the compassion to get involved when I see injustice.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

 

Intellectual Those he came to save mocked him, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

I too am one he came to save – it was my sin which held him there.

Give me the humility to seek his forgiveness.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

 

Mother     His mother stood nearby and grieved.

I too am a mother.

Give me the love to grieve for what is wrong.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

 

Criminal   The criminal was the only one who spoke up for him.

I too am a criminal.

Give me the words to speak up for him.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

 

Soldier     The soldier said, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

I too am a soldier who recognises the Son of God.

Give me the honesty to live my whole life for him.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

 

Child       Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

O, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.

O, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.

O. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us your peace.

 

The congregation are invited to come forward to light candles and to place them at the foot of the cross during the singing of:

 

Songs:

Jesus Christ, I think upon your sacrifice

At the foot of the cross

This is my desire

 

The Lord’s Prayer

 

Collect for Good Friday

Lord Jesus Christ, you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant, and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation.  Give us the mind to follow you and to proclaim you as Lord and King, to the glory of God the Father.  Amen.

 

Closing hymn – When I survey the wondrous cross  

 

Invitation to prayer, blessing and dismissal

In the light of what he has done for us, let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

In the name of Christ, Amen.

 

 

 

Approximate timings

Time 

 1        Welcome

 3        Opening hymn: There is a green hill far away

10       Dramatised reading medley from Luke 23, Matthew 27, Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22

 4        Song: Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

 3        Drama – Nailed! By Barbara Sumner

 6        Songs of praise:

               O happy day

               Lord, we lift your name on high

 3         Reading from Pilgrim’s Progress

 9         Prayers

 9         Songs:

                Jesus Christ, we think upon your sacrifice

                At the foot of the cross

                This is my desire  

 1         Lord’s Prayer

 1         Collect

 3         Closing song: When I survey the wondrous cross

 1         Invitation to prayer, blessing and dismissal

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