Good Friday Vespers 2022
April 15, 2022
NO SERMON AUDIO
What we have done today has no real parallel in our day-to-day world. For most part, it is only in Church that we sing together. Most of America doesn’t sing. They listen. Maybe they dance. Maybe they sing alone in the shower or in the car. But they don’t sing together. We do. The Church is also the last place left in this world where people get together to sit and listen to little lectures, without screens, without the ability to check their phone, and so forth. No multimedia. Just a voice crying in the wilderness and ears to hear.
But today we’ve taken it up a notch. This service is much longer than we are accustomed to. I’d be surprised if there was a person here right now who doesn’t feel somewhat mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. But reverence demanded it.
Let’s rehearse what we’ve done so far.
- For most of us, it started last night. We endured the sad ceremony of the stripping. We rehearsed David’s account of the crucifixion from Psalm 22 hearing the context of the mournful cry: Eli Eli Sabachthani.
- In the first hour today we heard prophecies calling us to repentance and the Passion from John with the essential promise: It is finished.
- Parts of the hymns have been gut-wrenching, beautiful and true, but also harsh for those of us who love Jesus.
- The worst, though, was the reproaches. Why did we do this to Our Savior? Is this how we repay love? How is it possible for us to betray Jesus with such callousness? How can it be that we are capable of such crimes.
- But interspersed with that shame was Lamb of God, Pure and Holy. Despair does not reign over us. We know why Jesus died.
- And all those accusations end with the marvelous confession: We adore Thee O Christ and praise and glorify Thy holy Resurrection. It is not like we don’t end why this happened or what it has won for us. We didn’t stumble in here off the street. We came in faith and love, repentance and hope. We know how the story ends. Jesus rises. We live with Him forever.
- Then a sermon and respite in the Holy Communion.
- Now this. Communion is over. But we can’t just leave. Jesus was on the cross longer than that. At the very least, we can sit it a bit longer. We can think a bit more about what has happened, who we are. It requires effort. It causes some discomfort. But what choice do we have? We wouldn’t bind the consciences of others, but this is what reverence demands of us. We, you and I, need to stay to the end. We need to see it through. We can at least sit in Church, without phones, and think about our sins, about Jesus, offering prayers and praise, hearing His Word. We can do this at least once a year. We can do it for as long as He was on the cross.
So it is that this whole last part is a kind of extended Nunc Dimitis, a post-communion canticle. We will leave in peace, but not quite yet. So another prophecy, Isaiah’s account of the crucifixion. Then words of fulfillment in Hebrews. This Man, our Christ Jesus, has offered one sacrifice for sins forever. More hymns. Then one more sermon, the Litany, yet another hymn, a few collects, and it will be 3:00.
That is the hour when Jesus breathed His last and went to His 40 hour Sabbath rest. At 3:00 then, we will quietly shuffle out. We will go with the Peace that passes all understanding, that which the world cannot give, that which has been bought for us at such a terrible cost and in such perfect love.
The war is over. We are relieved. We are full of hope. But it is not quite time for the troops to come home or for the parade.
Most of us will come back tomorrow night. That will be long also. Not as long as this, but significant, more than a Sunday. There will be even more prophecies. More proclamations. More hymns. A Baptism liturgy. A whole different litany. Another sermon. And Holy Communion once again. It will be like this but different, more obviously festive and joyous. The victory will be proclaimed. Because the war is over. Jesus lives. But the rationing continues. The troops haven’t come home. The parade is still delayed.
If it wasn’t we wouldn’t be here today. We’d be in the new heavens and the new earth. But that day comes. Our loved ones return. There will be a parade.
Jesus lives. Those two words are the entire message of the Scriptures and the creed distilled down to its purest essence: Jesus lives. He died, but He is not dead. He was laid into the tomb, but He arose. He is the crucified One who arose. Golgotha has become a garden. The enemy is in retreat. The grave is now a bed.
Tomorrow, if the Lord continues to delay and tomorrow comes, and then again on Sunday, we will get a foretaste of the feast to come. Now it is almost 3. We are getting closer. But let’s not rush. Let’s remember what Jesus has done for us, the high cost He paid for our redemption, with reverence and sincerity. And when it really is 3 then we will go home in peace, even as Jesus went in soul to the Father. There He awaited Sunday. Here we await the Last Day, the reunion, the parade, the unending Feast.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly.