At the Cross: A Service of Lament

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By Dr. John Witvliet, a resource adapted for our current circumstance from Reformed Worship in connection with A Time to Weep: Lamenting on Good Friday[See also, A Time to Weep: Voicing Lament Through the Psalms]

Where possible the texts of the hymns/songs are included with links to online resources. You are encouraged to sing but if you are uncomfortable doing that consider reading the texts like you would a poem.

If you are gathered with multiple people invite one person to read the normal font and have everyone join in reading the text in bold.  

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GATHERING FOR WORSHIP

Call to Worship

Who has believed what we have heard?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

Surely he has borne our infirmities

and carried our diseases;

yet we account him stricken,

struck down by God and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,

crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the punishment that made us whole,

and by his bruises we are healed.

—from Isaiah 53:1, 4-5, NRSV

Hymn: "Go to Dark Gethsemane" LUYH 161, PsH 381| Printed Text and Music | YouTube

1 Go to dark Gethsemane,

all who feel the tempter’s power;

your Redeemer’s conflict see,

watch with him one bitter hour:

turn not from his griefs away –

teach us, Lord, how we should pray.

2 Follow to the judgment hall,

view the Lord of life arraigned.

Oh, the wormwood and the gall!

Oh, the pangs his soul sustained!

Shun not suffering, shame, or loss –

help us, Lord, to bear our cross.

3 Calvary’s mournful mountain climb;

there, adoring at his feet,

mark the miracle of time,

God’s own sacrifice complete:

“It is finished!” hear him cry –

save us, Lord, when death draws nigh.

4 Early hasten to the tomb

where they laid his breathless clay:

all is solitude and gloom.

Who has taken him away?

Christ is risen! He meets our eyes.

Savior, teach us so to rise.

—James Montgomery, P.D.

Opening Prayer

King of glory,

we adore you, our Savior and Lord.

You suffered on the cross

and gave your life as a ransom for many.

We bless and thank you for the outpouring of your love

and offer our worship today out of unspeakable gratitude. Amen.

—The Worship Sourcebook, M.1.4.1, p. 614, used with permission

REMEMBERING

Prayer for Illumination

Through God’s Word, O Holy Spirit, 

Bring us closer to our Savior. 

And in response, triune God, prompt our hearts

to offer you sincere thanks for our salvation. 

In the strong name of Jesus, our Lord. Amen

—The Worship Sourcebook, J.3.1.3, p. 576, used with permission

Scripture Readings

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Hebrews 10:16-25

John 18:1-19:42 

Or this dramatic reading

Narrator: They took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out

to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called

Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one

on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an

inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the

King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because

the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was

written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of

the Jews said to Pilate,

Chief Priests: Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but, “This man said,

I am King of the Jews.”

Narrator: Pilate answered,

Pilate: What I have written I have written.

Narrator: When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and

divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his

tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top.

So they said to one another,

Soldiers: Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.

Narrator: This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes

among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is

what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus

were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,

and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple

whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother,

Jesus: Woman, here is your son.

Narrator: Then he said to the disciple,

Jesus: Here is your mother.

Narrator: And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After

this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to

fulfill the scripture),

Jesus: I am thirsty.

Narrator: A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full

of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When

Jesus had received the wine, he said,

Jesus: It is finished.

Narrator: Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

—from John 19:16-30, NRSV

Sermon, Individual, or Group Reflection 

Hymn: “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” LUYH 168, PsH 383| Printed Text and Music | YouTube

1 O sacred head, now wounded,

with grief and shame weighed down,

now scornfully surrounded

with thorns, your only crown.

O sacred head, what glory

and blessing you have known!

Yet, though despised and gory,

I claim you as my own.

 

2 My Lord, what you did suffer

was all for sinner's gain;

mine, mine was the transgression,

but yours the deadly pain.

So here I kneel, my Savior,

for I deserve your place;

look on me with thy favor

and save me by your grace.

 

3 What language shall I borrow

to thank you, dearest Friend,

for this, your dying sorrow,

your pity without end?

Lord, make me yours forever,

a loyal servant true,

and let me never, never

outlive my love to you.

—Latin, Medieval; English tr. James W. Alexander, P.D.

 

PRAYERS OF LAMENT AND INTERCESSION

This prayer follows the structure of Psalm 22 (NRSV).  You may choose to use one voice throughout or divide between two voices as suggested. At three points in the psalm, the reading pauses for extemporaneous prayers. The repeated use of Hebrews 4:14-16 introducing these prayers rehearses the mystery and significance of Christ's identification with us in suffering. Interspersed throughout the prayer you have the option of singing or speaking the first line of “What Wondrous Love” (LUYH 164, PsH 379).  The psalm ends with an expression of hope, an anticipation of Easter praise.

Voice 1:

My God; my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from helping me, from the

words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;

and by night, but find no rest.

Voice 2:

Yet you are holy,

enthroned on the praises of Israel.

In you our ancestors trusted;

they trusted, and you delivered them.

To you they cried, and were saved;

in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

All Sing:

What wondrous love is this,

O my soul, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this, 

O my soul. 

All:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest 

who has ascended into heaven, 

Jesus the Son of God, 

let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 

For we do not have a high priest 

who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, 

but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—

yet he did not sin. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, 

so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

[Prayers of lament and intercession]

Voice 1:

But I am a worm, and not human;

scorned by others, and despised by the people.

All who see me mock at me;

they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;

"Commit your cause to the LORD; let him

deliver—

let him rescue the one in whom he delights."

All Sing:

When I was sinking down,

sinking down, sinking down,

when I was sinking down, sinking down…

All:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest 

who has ascended into heaven, 

Jesus the Son of God, 

let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 

For we do not have a high priest 

who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, 

but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—

yet he did not sin. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, 

so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

[Prayers of lament and intercession]

Voice 2:

Yet it was you who took me from the womb;

you kept me safe on my mother's breast.

On you I was cast from my birth,

and since my mother bore me you have been my God.

Do not be far from me,

for trouble is near

and there is no one to help.

Voice 1:

Many bulls encircle me;

strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

they open wide their mouths at me,

like a ravening and roaring lion.

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;

my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,

and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

you lay me in the dust of death.

All:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest 

who has ascended into heaven, 

Jesus the Son of God, 

let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 

For we do not have a high priest 

who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, 

but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—

yet he did not sin. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, 

so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

[Prayers of lament and intercession]

Voice 1:

For dogs are all around me;

a company of evildoers encircles me.

My hands and my feet have shriveled;

I can count all my bones.

They stare and gloat over me;

they divide my clothes among themselves,

and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O Lord, do not be far away!

O my help, come quickly to my aid!

Deliver my soul from the sword,

my life from the power of the dog!

Save me from the mouth of the lion!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.

PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

Voice 2:

I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;

in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

You who fear the Lord, praise him!

All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;

stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

All Sing:

To God and to the Lamb 

I will sing, I will sing,

to God and to the Lamb

I will sing. 

Voice 1:

For he did not despise or abhor

the affliction of the afflicted;

he did not hide his face from me,

but heard when I cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;

my vows I will pay before those who fear him.

The poor shall eat and be satisfied;

those who seek him shall praise the Lord.

May your hearts live forever!

All Sing:

And when from death I’m free, 

I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on

and when from death I’m free,

I’ll sing on. 

Voice 1 and 2 together:

All the ends of the earth shall remember

and turn to the LORD;

and all the families of the nations

shall worship before him.

For dominion belongs to the Lord,

and he rules over the nations.

To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;

before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,

and I shall live for him.

Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord,

and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,

saying that he has done it.

Hymn: "What Wondrous Love" LUYH 164, PsH 379| Printed Text and Music | YouTube

1 What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss

to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,

to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?

 

2 When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,

when I was sinking down, sinking down;

when I was sinking down beneath God's righteous frown,

Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,

Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.

 

3 To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing,

to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;

to God and to the Lamb, who is the great I AM –

while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,

while millions join the theme, I will sing.

 

4 And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,

and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;

and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,

and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,

and through eternity I’ll sing on.

—S. Mead’s A General Selection, P.D.

 

Blessing

May the Christ who walks on wounded feet

walk with you on the road.

May the Christ who serves with wounded hands

stretch out your hands to serve.

May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart

open your hearts to love.

May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet,

and may everyone you meet see the face of Christ in you. Amen.

—traditional Celtic prayer

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