Good Friday Prayer

As you contemplate the cross on this Good Friday, I offer this prayer for you:

Holy God; loving, compassionate and merciful,

we were not actually there when they crucified our Lord, but we were there, for it was our sin that Jesus died to take away. And when I think about this it indeed causes me to tremble and shudder and be ashamed that Your Son would suffer and die as he did so that we could live.

What an awesome show of love; Jesus laying down his life for us all.

And so I ask that if anyone here tonight does not claim Jesus as their Savior, that Your Spirit may speak to their spirit and convict them of their sin and show them the truth of Your mercy and grace. May they run to You and fall into Your loving arms.

For those who have placed their trust in Jesus may they feel drawn ever closer to You and strive to live a life worthy of the Gospel; bringing You praise and glory.

May the cross convict us and may the empty tomb on Easter bring forth joy from our hearts.

In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Holy Friday ~ Good Friday

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It’s Good Friday, a day that has always been very power for me as I contemplate why Jesus did what he did for me. Last night was Maundy Thursday when we traditionally strip the altar at the end of the service. That always get me, too, not just seeing the naked altar and chancel area but being the one who is doing the stripping. It almost feels like I am the one involved in mocking Jesus. And in way, that’s what we do when we sin; we mock God and nail Jesus to the cross.

And so tonight we are going to get involved in contemplating our sinfulness by placing these nails (pictured below) at the foot of the cross (pictured above):

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Throughout the worship service (as we hold these nails) we are going to be hearing about the various ways we “nail Jesus to the cross” through our sin. Then there will be a time of prayer and confession where people are going to be invited to come up, when they’re ready, and place these at the base of the cross. Following worship and as people leave, they will be invited to take another nail but this one they keep. People will be invited to place this nail in their pocket as a reminder of their sinfulness but also of where these nails belong and what they point to:

You are a sinner
Jesus was nailed to a cross
Jesus suffered and died
FOR YOU
Jesus was buried

And then…

…well, the rest of the story (THE Good News) will be coming on the 3rd day ūüôā

Praise be to God!

Merciful God, we are sinners worthy of condemnation but Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. Wow! Now, there is hope. Wow! Thank you, oh God, thank you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen

The Pastor -|—

Sunday is coming

It’s Saturday.

It is the day between Good Friday and Easter.

A dark day.

A bitter-sweet day.

But for those first disciples this had to be a day of deep darkness and hopelessness. ¬†Think about it: ¬†Their teacher, Messiah, friend, hope had been killed and placed in a tomb. ¬†All of their dreams of a new kingdom had been completely destroyed. ¬†Now what? ¬† Their fear of the Jews kept them locked inside but I can’t imagine they would even want to leave anyway. ¬†I would want to stay curled up in bed…forever.

Jesus is dead.

But we are not living in those days.

We know something that they didn’t know then.

It is 2013 and we are living in the days after that first Easter morning.  We are living in the days when we know what happens next.  It is Saturday, but Sunday is coming.

EmptyTomb-50JESUS HAS RISEN!

Dark days come and go in our lives. ¬†Hopelessness enters the scene from time to time. ¬†There may be days when you feel like curling up in a ball and staying in bed. ¬†But know this…

JESUS HAS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

Ever since that day when Jesus defeated Satan and destroyed the grip of death, Satan has been trying to shoot arrows of hopelessness at God’s children. ¬†But know this…remember this…boldly proclaim this…

JESUS HAS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

Satan has been defeated. ¬†His arrows are powerless. ¬†His threats are empty. ¬†Death still remains but death does not have the final word. ¬†Why? ¬†Because…

JESUS HAS RISEN!  HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

Have a blessed Saturday knowing that tomorrow is Sunday; that tomorrow is EASTER ūüôā

The pastor -|—

Keep your eye on the ball

I read a good blog post yesterday titled Distracted. ¬†It addressed a distressing distraction that has been going on this week; something that has (and is) drawing people’s attention away from what is ultimately important. ¬†Do you know what that distraction is? It’s…

…the Supreme Court discussing and considering a ruling about (so-called) same sex marriage.

And in a show of support on Facebook, people have been changing their profile pictures to a red-ish/pink-ish equal sign (meaning marriage equality). ¬†As I browsed through Facebook this week I saw a ton of those pictures and a lot of status updates defending “marriage equality”…and all of this in the midst of Holy Week.

The blog post gave¬†kudos to Satan on his brilliant scheme to distract people from the glory of this week. ¬†And I have to agree. ¬†¬†All of the discourse I read on Facebook was about gay marriage and condemning those who would hold a different view. ¬†I read these and I was sadden. ¬†But what saddened me even more was that as I look back on this past week I too was drawn in. ¬†My thinking was caught up in this distraction. ¬†I didn’t post anything on social media indicting my view but I was thinking about it…and being distracted.

So I am here this morning confessing my sin and repenting of my actions.  This week is Holy Week.  Yesterday was Maundy Thursday where we celebrated the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples and then walked to the Garden of Gethsemane to see Jesus arrested and then beaten, mocked, spit upon and tried.  Today is Good Friday where we will walk to the cross and see how our Lord and Savior died to save us from our sins.  He will be buried, but on the third day rise that we may have eternal life.  But instead of pondering what our Lord and Savior did for us we have taken our eye off the proverbial ball.

This is Holy Week. ¬†Look to the cross. ¬†See how Jesus took OUR sin and destroyed the grip of death. ¬†See how Jesus defeated Satan and won the victory for you and for me. ¬†We are ALL sinners…worthy of punishment and condemnation, but through the grace of God we have forgiveness through Jesus Christ. ¬†Let’s keep our eye on the ball people and give glory to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. ¬†Amen!

From the Heart of a Pastor -|—

Where’s the cross?

A few weeks ago my wife and I were chatting with some friends about Holy Week.¬† We were sharing what our respective congregations were planning.¬† Here…we share Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worships with Belmont Lutheran Church (the small county congregation I serve).¬† We each take one of those services and then flip the following year.¬† This year we worship at Belmont on Maundy Thursday and at Salem for Good Friday.

As I was sharing this I was talking about this old rugged cross that a couple Salem guys made a few years back.¬† It stands about 6 feet tall and made from two nice-sized tree branches.¬† They did a very nice job and it’s perfect for Good Friday worship.¬† As soon as I mentioned this I froze.¬† You see…on Ash Wednesday we put a larger cross in Salem’s narthex (we decorate this cross with palm branches and lilies for Easter Sunday).¬† There is a crown of thorns on top and it is draped with a purple cloth.¬† It greets people as they enter the narthex to remind then of Lent and of Jesus’ suffering and death.

Well…the cross was not there in the narthex.¬† I forgot to put it out ūüė¶

How could I possibly forget the cross?¬† My wife was quick to remind me that our custodian always put it out…but here’s the thing…that person is no longer our custodian due to a stroke he suffered last June.¬† I always took for granted that Dave would have the cross out and ready to go for Ash Wednesday and Lent.¬† But that doesn’t absolve me for forgetting that cross.

I mean…think about it.¬† Lent is a time for us to remember why Jesus suffered and died on the cross.¬† We are to remember our mortality and sin.¬† We are to remember that from dust we came and to dust we shall return.¬† We are to remember that without the cross we are condemned to hell.¬† The cross is the focus…and I forgot that narthex cross.¬† But here’s another thing…no one else noticed either (or at least they didn’t say anything to me).¬† I am not sure what bothers me more:¬† Me forgetting or no one saying anything about it.

So the solution was¬† to put it up for Palm Sunday (which we did); marking the beginning of Holy Week.¬† The purple cloth on that cross will be replaced on Maundy Thursday with a black one.¬† The cross will then be put outside for Good Friday to REMIND people of what Jesus did for us.¬† And…the cross will be “decorated” with palm branches and lilies to remind us of the joy that comes through the cross.

Now…when I walk through the narthex I feel a little more complete…with the reality of the cross staring at me.¬† I hope that when Easter is done that I won’t need a large cross in the narthex to remind me of what Jesus did FOR YOU and FOR ME.

May you have a blessed Holy Week and a very happy Easter!

Praise be to God!

-edh-