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  • Rev. Sandra Larson

Good Friday Prayer Vigil and Service

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

Good Friday Prayer vigil — Worship service — Reflection Questions

Focus during this pandemic: Authentic repentance needed to open us to redemption “May God bless us with discomfort” at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deeply and from the heart (based on a Franciscan blessing). Good Friday blesses us with discomfort and asks us to look at the truth of who we are in relation to God, and to acknowledge our resistance to following God’s vision rather than our own will. “Repentance” means to change—our minds, our lives, our world.


Although we won't have a Good Friday Prayer Vigil in church sanctuary, we can take part in a Vigil by praying from home. Prayer suggestions:

PRAYER for a pandemic and for renewed life by Porter C. Taylor, adapted

  • For a swift end to COVID-19 and renewal

  • For those infected, those who have been exposed and for all who have suffered in body, spirit or mind; grant them strength, healing, and protection

  • For Brittany Brooks and her baby due SOON! And Richard Smith, whose surgery is delayed. And many others among us whose health or circumstances are fragile

  • For the loved ones and caretakers of those infected: grant them peace, comfort, and endurance

  • For those leading nations, communities and organizations: grant them sound minds, courage, endurance and humility

  • For physicians, nurses, technicians, researchers, administrators, and all first responders and healthcare workers around the world; inspire strength in them by your life-giving Spirit; and wisdom and resources to do the work before them without jeopardizing their own lives

  • For those who must work, despite the threat of sickness; grant them strength, protection and continued provision.

  • For Union’s Food Pantry and the Food Bank workers and those purchasing food and supplies and, all people who are working to keep others connected, procure food, protect, educate on media, deliver mail, waste disposal, utilities, transportation...and so many quietly doing their jobs when it is not safe

  • For those whose businesses are closed and those who have become unemployed or underemployed during this pandemic: lead them to new opportunities, comfort, and financial provision

  • For religious leaders: guide them in discernment and creativity to lead and minister in these unprecedented circumstances

  • For skeptics and cynics—that they might find hope and support

  • For parents and families: inspire wisdom, patience and joy

  • For children: protect them from fear…and boredom; and ignite a desire to learn life lessons from this challenge

  • For those who have no home or for whom home is not a safe haven: help them find refuge

  • For those who are alone: inspire new caring relationships and inspire in them a deeper awareness of your nearness and love

  • For visionary advocates to emerge

  • For all navigating and making decisions during this time of uncertainty and fear: implant them with wisdom and calm in the maelstrom

  • For our church and the Pastor Search Committee and search process complicated by shelter in place

  • For ourselves—quell our anxieties and inspire our compassion and action

  • For all the prayers we cannot voice because our language is insufficient or our ignorance too great: Lord, we pray through your Spirit. Amen.


GATHERING MUSIC Gethsemane Prayer Union Chancel Choir

PRAYER Grace-filled Lord—what can we say on this “Good” Friday? Is there any way to express our grief, our penitence, our gratitude or our hope? Bless us with deeper understanding and acceptance of the Passion of Christ. In His name we pray, amen.

MUSIC MEDITATION King of Suffering Union Chancel Choir


Based on Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15 and/or Luke 22-23; John 20.30

Preparation: Lights as low as possible. Candles if available Assign roles: If alone: Read Jesus parts silently and read other roles aloud If more than one person are gathered: Assign Jesus and then all/some other roles. All/some roles can be the same person

THE DEAL Chief Priests and Judas

Chief priests: As you know, the “Son of Man” will be handed over to be crucified. But not during the Passover, or there may be a riot among the people.

Judas: What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you? Extinguish candle (silence)

HYMN Kyrie (sing/recite 2x) for melody Red hymnal 823 or link Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.

AT TABLE Jesus, a disciple, Judas

Jesus: Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth and provides all good gifts. (lights candles) This bread is like my body, broken for you sakes…This wine is like my blood, poured out for the sake of many. (pause) Here with me at this table is the man who betrays me.

A disciple: It certainly is not me! (pause)

Jesus: What you are going to do, do quickly, Judas.

Extinguish one candle or close eyes. Judas leaves quickly (pause)

Jesus: Unless I wash you, you have no part with me. (pause)

Disciple: Lord, you are certainly NOT going to wash my feet?

Jesus: You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.

Disciple: No, you shall never wash my feet.

IN THE GARDEN Jesus and disciple

Jesus: You will all lose faith in me this night.

Disciple: If I have to die with you, I will never disown you.

Jesus: My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me. (short pause) Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine. (short pause) Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Extinguish candle or close eyes (silence)

HYMN Kyrie (sing/recite 2x) for melody Red hymnal 823 or link Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.

THE ARREST Judas, Jesus, Chief Priests

Judas: The one I kiss, he is the man. Take him in charge, and see he is well guarded when you lead him away.

Jesus: Put your swords back into place. Leave off! That will do! (short pause) Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.

Judas: I have betrayed innocent blood.

Chief Priests: What is that to us? That is your concern. Extinguish candle or close eyes (silence)

HYMN Kyrie (sing/recite 2x) for melody Red hymnal 823 or link Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.

THE DENIAL Disciple and Crowd

Crowd member: This man was with Jesus.

Disciple: I don’t know him.

Crowd member: You also are one of Jesus’ disciples.

Disciple: I am not!

Crowd member: Certainly he was with Jesus, for he is from the countryside.

Disciple: I don’t know what you’re talking about!

Extinguish candle or close eyes (silence)

HYMN Kyrie (sing/recite 2x) for melody Red hymnal 823 or link Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.

TRIAL BEFORE PILATE Pilate, Jesus, and Crowd

Pilate: Are you the king of the Jews?

Jesus: It is you who say it. (short pause) I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.

Pilate: Truth? What is that? What am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ? I find no case against him.

Crowd member: Let him be crucified!

Pilate: Why? What harm has he done?

Crowd member: Let him be crucified!

Pilate: I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern. Extinguish candle or close eyes (silence)

THE WALK Soldiers and Jesus

Soldier: Prophesy, who hit you?

Soldier: Hail, king of the Jews!

Jesus: 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!’; to the hill, ‘Cover us!’ If men use green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?

Extinguish candle or close eyes (silence)

AT THE CROSS Crowd, Criminal, Jesus

Criminal next to Jesus: Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well. Have you no fear of God at all?

Jesus: Today you will be with me in the kingdom. (short pause) Woman, this is your son. Disciple, This is your mother. (short pause) My God, my God, why have you deserted me?

Crowd member: Save yourself. Come down from the cross!

Soldier: He saved others, yet he cannot save himself.

Crowd member: See if Elijah will come to take him down.

Jesus: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. (short pause) It is finished.

Soldier: Truly, this man was the son of God Extinguish candle or close eyes (long silence) ANTHEM Christ, We Do Now Adore Thee Union Chancel Choir

from The Seven Last Words of Christ

PRAYER Faithful and loving Lord, help us to sing together again. Help us to live as your beloved children, celebrating your presence among your people. Help us to live as people whose hope outshines the darkness of the world. Amen

HYMN Were You There? Red hymnal 218

Other hymn possibilities:

Red #212 Blue #85 What Wondrous Love is This

Red #193 Blue #83 O Love How Deep…

Red #216 Blue #92 Beneath the cross of Jesus

Red #213 Blue #100 When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

BENEDICTION (recite) Joshua 1.9

Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed;

for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

* Tune: Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1864Text: Copyright © 2020 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. Email:

* New Hymns: Carolyn gives permission for free use of this hymn by churches.

For reflection: In this self-reflective time of Holy Week, we become more deeply aware that Christ stands with us, and walks with us to Jerusalem and to the cross, and says, "Let us go together toward resurrection.

  • Is there an easy answer in our lives that isn't working?

  • Is there a half-truth that we have been living because full truth feels too difficult?

  • Are we stopping short of vulnerability and authenticity?

  • Are we maintaining any superficial relationships that need to go deeper? Such as a relationship with a family member, someone or a group with whom we disagree? Colleague(s)? Our relationship with the poor or disdained member(s) of our community or nation?

  • What do you think of the Child Helping Jesus photo attached below?

How do you respond to this description of Jesus’ crucifixion?:

Who hung spiked upon a cross? Not one—not three— for there were countless crucifixions on the hill on that day of shame.Pilate—Herod—Judas—Caiaphas—the false accusers—the taunting mob—the passive citizens—were crucifying self (not flesh but spirit)—themselves driving into self the spikes of intolerance, injustice, prejudice, hatred, greed….How MANY crosses on that hill that day? Pilate, Herod, and Caiaphas counted only those who hung there—too blind to see their own crosses. But only One has made his cross a sacred testimony of love’s victory. —Mark A Talney, adapted

Optional: Meditation – Who Is Being Put on Trial? source unknown

Jesus knew that he had come to Jerusalem, not to be enthroned like David or Maccabaeus, but to be killed. Jesus’ understanding was far different from what the crowd expected. What can WE learn from the off-target expectations of Jesus? What do we expect of Jesus? Does Jesus offer something far more valuable than our accumulated wishes?

Most of us turn to God when we REALLY want something. There’s a problem with seeking God only when we’re desperate or filled with a specific desire. Turning to God only in times of need is like trying to learn how to operate a cell phone when we urgently need to call an emergency vehicle. It would have been wiser to find out how to do to operate the phone earlier, when things were calm and it wasn’t so crucial. But we tend to put off things like learning new technology. More critically: we put off establishing intimate connection with God’s holy spirit. The working of God’s Spirit is confusing. It’s daunting. We convince ourselves that we can work on our spiritual connection with God when we’re not so preoccupied or so busy.

But then an urgent need arises. If we need to know how to work a cell phone, we are stopped cold by our lack of ability. The amazing good news is that our lack of spiritual skills does not cut off the power of God’s Holy Spirit. God loves and cares for the inept, the pathetic, and the losers. Sick folks of every sort need God’s healing. Yet God is not a divine genie in a lamp or Santa Claus answers God answers our needs and wants…in divine wisdom and timing.

In Jesus’ time, people wanted a prophet. So Jesus came with a prophetic message. But it was not the message they expected or thought they wanted. Jesus declared that they would face God’s judgment of tough love.

They want the Messiah. All the people could envision was that they wanted to be recued from oppression of the Roman occupation and exploitation by the powerful. Because Jesus says ‘yes’ to their deepest desires, he said ‘no’ to the desires that they yearned for because they couldn’t see beyond those superficial longings. The answers to prayer are often more than we thought we wanted.

Jesus’ grand entry into Jerusalem was a mismatch between the crowd’s surface desires and God’s answers. Jesus pointed out that difference to Peter when Peter refused to accept Jesus’ prophesy that he would be put to death and he would be raised again to life. Peter wanted Jesus to rule. Jesus’ death destroyed Peter’s expectation. When Jesus was brought to trial, Peter could not imagine Jesus’ eternal victory. The ‘Hosanna’s’ of those cheering were justified, though not for the reasons that they supposed.

Faith is recognizing that what we think we want is not necessarily what God wants for us. Faith entails opening ourselves to the possibility that God’s vision is greater than ours. Jesus staked his life on it. As we reflect on the agony of Jesus’ trial and death sentence a question to ask ourselves is: Who is on trial? Jesus or us?

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