Today, United Methodists from across Tallahassee gathered at Trinity United Methodist at noon for Good Friday worship. I was asked to pray the pastoral prayer in the service:
We are gathered together here as the scattered Wesleyan people from across this southern capital city to sit in the silence of this sanctuary as the pounding of the guards affixing Jesus to the cross echoes through our heads. All of the palm-waving triumphalism of Sunday has retreated into the stark reality of pounding hammer on iron nails. Our sin, not in part, but the whole, is here in this room before us all. This null point of Friday where your power, O God is overcome by the force of temporal power thuds against the hollow places of our self-centeredness and fragile belief.
We confess that we want the dead stillness of this day to pass quickly. Get us to Sunday already! But we have Friday and all day Saturday to become keenly aware that there is nothing that we can do to make this right, to make us whole.
This Friday, this Good Friday, the rhythmic rumble ceases as we stand before the cross.
In the dead stillness of this day, we confess our sins and we pray for the brokenness in our world. We pray for those who suffer from self-centered violence by individuals and nations. We pray for those whose bodies and minds and spirits are tattered and worn. We pray for the poor among us and around our globe. We fall on our knees and pray for your forgiveness, that you would make us whole again.
In the dead stillness of this day, long before we know it to be true, through the weakness and vulnerability of the cross emerges your transforming work. It is the door to new life. In the dead stillness of this Friday there is the truth that suffering love has transformative power that the “executioners” never suspect (1). If we are still enough before the enormity of this moment, we might hear the quiet cadence of your heart beating this redeeming love for all the world.
We join our hearts and voices as we pray together Jesus’ prayer:
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 and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.
(1) As we were working on our Lenten sermon series on the atonement, I ran across this Walter Brueggemann’s statement that I alluded to here in the prayer.