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.

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