Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday Tenebrae

During our years as traditional church pastors we loved any kind of service that was out of the ordinary and experiential. I suppose that is why we love Simple Church so much...every gathering is experiential! Good Friday, however, is one of those moments that is difficult to grasp. We so often carry our children and other family members either right from the brightness of Palm Sunday into a shiny and glorious Easter morning with bright colors and new clothes (not to mention eating enough food and junk to get sick on). We so often skip the darkness of the crucifixion and burial and forget that between the triumphal entry and the empty tomb there stood a cross on which our Lord was nailed and died and carried the weight of the sins of all time.

Tenebrae is one of the most intense and effective ways we have found to help us recapture the need to remember the cross and meaning of Good Friday. We start by marking out passages of scripture into eight parts and light eight candles (one of them being the Christ candle which we indicate by using a large white pillar candle). We also use a candle snuffer to extinguish them one at a time during the reading.

The readings from Matthew and order of extinguishing candles are as follows:


First candle extinguished


Second candle


Third candle


Fourth candle


Fifth candle


Sixth candle


Seventh candle


Christ candle is hidden

*this can be done by using some kind of shield like a foam board cut out that stands up in front of the candle or for this occasion we simply walked the candle out of the room and placed it on a bookshelf (be careful of flammable materials!)

*a song (we once used Were You There and stopped at the verse "Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?") on another occasion we just used a loud drum hit several times with a mallet to dramatize the time of Christ in the tomb.

Isaiah 53:4-9

(Song of the Suffering Servant)

Christ Candle is returned

Dismissal Blessing:

Go in Peace. May Jesus Christ who for our sake became obedient unto death, even death on the cross, keep you and strengthen you this night and forever more. Amen.

After this we moved silently out into the living room leaving the Christ candle burning on the dining room table. Then we quietly discussed how, though we usually have open discussion and questions during our regular meeting times, this time was a period of reflection and listening. We explained that sometimes we need to simply let the Holy Spirit speak to us through the scriptures and not interrupt. It was a little harder with a wiry two year old and an eight year old bursting with questions. But it really turned out neat and we look forward to doing it again with some minor changes. Perhaps a new stand to cover the Christ candle with (we lost the one we used at one time) and maybe a song or two throughout the reading.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday Activities

Palm Sunday was always a big day for us in the traditional church and we are still trying to find ways to make it meaningful in a house church setting. We started out with singing and let the kids have some palm branches and their favorite instruments (drums and shakers) with JP on the guitar.

Our songs included:
Blessed Be The Name (Charles Wesley)
Hosanna (Carl Tuttle)
Blessed Be Your Name (Chris Tomlin)
Blessed the Name of the Lord (Don Moen)

After that we read our Scripture reading from a Nazarene Hymnal (Sing To The Lord #216) We also looked at Mark 11:1-10. The roller coaster ride the disciples went on starting here must have been a doozy. They were looking for a different kind of messiah than the one Jesus turned out to be. They wanted freedom from the tyranny of Rome as well as wanting to see Israel become a mighty world power. They watched as Jesus did the miracles, confounded the religious leaders, and fed the multitudes with little or nothing. Then they saw him ride into Jerusalem, the place he predicted he would die, as a conquering hero. The people swearing alliegance to him with palm branches and their garments covering the roads as he rode in on a donkey (a common mount for kings in that time). They probably cheered as he cleared out the Temple courtyard of the greedy money changers and merchants. After all if he conquered the city and the Temple, then Rome would surely be next. Then comes the Last Supper and Jesus, the conqueror, puts on a slave's garment and starts washing feet! He prays in apparent anguish at the Garden of Gethsemane and is then arrested. Imagine the soaring emotions of going from the thrill, glory and adoration of a King to the arrest, trial and prosecution of a criminal!

Following our discussion of the Triumphal Entry we did an activity that symbolized the "roller-coaster ride" of emotions. We took the palm branches that the children waved in our singing and used them to weave crosses and a crown of thorns. (This turned out to be a bit tricky since our palms were not the long branches that the on-line demonstrators used. So we had to trim our branches and staple the short pieces together to make one long strand. The little branches and stems also made it hard to do the crown of thorns but it still came out fairly well.)

Trying to figure out how to weave palm crosses and crowns while expaining it to others at the same time!

Our palm table full of the wrong type of fronds for weaving (though not bad for waving but hey, what are fronds for? yuk yuk!) BTW notice the cool inflatable palm tree?

Our finished projects on a display board.