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Tenebre:  Service of Darkness

The last 7 sayings of Jesus on the Cross

The service of darkness is a reflection of Jesus’s crucifixion and death. The service begins with the lighting of seven candles. As each of Jesus’s last sayings is read, a candle is put out. The service ends in silence and darkness.

There is a Taize chorus that will be sung before each saying. This chorus should be repeated three times.

Taizé song, Jesus Remember Me

Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom

Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom

Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

This phrase could sum up the human dilemma.  We do not know what we are doing.  Not just then but now as well.  There is a question that is used in helping people to understand what we do.  It has to do with rules and expectations.  If you own something, if it is yours, do you have a right to set the rules for its usage?  If the rules are broken and your property is harmed, do you have a right to be angry?  This is God’s world, and we are God’s creation.  He has set his rules and we break them.  Still, God loves us.  In the OT, the psalmist asks the question, “Who are humans that you are mindful of them?” We are earthen vessels (jars of clay) whom God has chosen to place great treasure. (2 Cor. 4:7)  But we are sinners in need of forgiveness, every single one.

First candle is put out. The chorus is sung.

John 19:26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,”

Even in the pain of dying, Jesus’s concern was not directed just at himself, but at those whom he loved.  He calls on his disciple to care for his mother.  Jesus was always fostering relationships of caring.  Now there are many people who worship Mary, and I believe she should be honored, as the highly favored of God, but honored not in a manner that would distract from her Son.  Perhaps the best way to honor Mary is to honor what she said in John 2:5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”   He tells us to deny ourselves, take the cross and follow him.

Second candle is put out. The chorus is sung.

Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Two men were crucified with Jesus.  They were both criminals, duly tried and convicted, facing the justice of Rome.  One was hateful and angry.  He would not go gentle into the night.  He cursed and let his passionate poison flow from himself toward the Lord.  You saved others, save us, he sneered in a mocking and vengeful way.  The other thief had come to realize that he reaped what he had sown.  He knew he was about to face God and he was afraid.  He tried to remind the other thief that this was not the time for remonstration but for repentance.  He was looking for hope and he found it right there next to him.  His life was not one of holiness or service.  He had not been a good person.  Surely his fate was sealed, but when he turned to Jesus.  He found not condemnation but comfort.  Not judgment but grace.  Even in his last hour he is snatched from the evil one and given the gift of God. 

Third candle is put out. The chorus is sung.

Matthew 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”– which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

These words are some of the most troubling in Scripture.  How could Jesus feel abandoned?  How could he doubt his father’s love?  We must be reminded that Jesus is human like us.  He had emptied himself of his divine power in order to face all we face, even the dark night of the soul.

Again we see how much Jesus suffered for us.  Did God abandon him?  No, for Jesus and the Father are one.  God’s silence is a part of God’s suffering, suffering from love as humanity is given hope through the agony of his son.

Fourth candle is put out. The chorus is sung.

John 19:28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

Thirst, is a human need.  Again, we are reminded that this is not an act, this is not a shame, this is real suffering, real agony, real pain.  His thirst is not near as great as our thirst would be if he had not gone through this.  For there is a thirst for God within each of us. Only Jesus and his sacrifice can begin to quench this thirst.

Fifth candle is put out. The chorus is sung

John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

It is finished.  Jesus had won the battle.  The temptation to not go through the cross has passed.  He is beyond the pain.  He is facing the final moments.  Finished.  The debt he did not owe is paid; the debt we could not pay is redeemed.  But what a price he paid.  What a work he did. No great love has anyone than to be willing to give up our life for theirs. Jesus did for us.

Sixth candle is put out. The chorus is sung.

Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last

Folks, God has tasted death.  God has gone through the portal.  God has faced humanity’s greatest fear and foe.  Jesus gives up his life.  It has not been taken, for he could have come down from the cross.  With a word, the angels of heaven would have rushed to his aid, but he would not allow it.  He needed to show us how?  He knows what he must do, what he has always done. Jesus will trust the will of the Father.  Darkness now covers the land.  Jesus has descended into death.  He will preach to the captives. He will await the power of God to bring him out of the grave.  But for now, all seems hopeless.  The disciples are defeated, the crowd pacified, and the leaders still have a little apprehension, but the threat seems over.  But it is not.  We await the sequel.  We await the third day. 

Seventh candle is put out. Chorus is sung.

Depart in silence (if with a group). Spend some time in silence if doing this as a personal devotion.

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