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Tenebrae Service - 2018

Tenebrae (Dark Shadows)

Welcome to our Tenebrae service. Tenebrae means “dark shadows”.  You’ve no doubt noticed the atmosphere is different. Its by design. As we look at the last week of Jesus’ life we’ll observe how his ministry moved from light into darkness. Of course we know how his story ends. That eventually, he arose and the brightness of his life will forever shine. However, tonight I’ll invite you to put yourselves in the shoes or sandals of Jesus’ disciples and those who were closest to him. I’ll invite you to feel their pain, feel their disappointment, feel the darkness closing in around them as they realize that Jesus so quickly moved to his death.

This service is centered on the reading of scripture and our response.  This is an opportunity to think, feel, and experience the sufferings of Christ; sometimes you will be prompted to a physical response, while other times silent reflection is in order. Several times you will have the chance to actively participate, and I strongly encourage you to do so.  Your responses and emotions will be varied.  I ask that throughout the service you maintain a spirit of genuine worship and reverence.  

John 1:1-5; 14

Every Gospel had a way of talking about the beginning of Jesus. Mark begins with Jesus’ ministry. Matthew and Luke go back further to tell of the days when Jesus was born and the miraculous story that unfolded. But when John wants to tell the story he goes back even further, he goes back to the beginning of everything, the beginning of the universe to tell his readers to tell us that the story we are about to experience is not about just a man. Its not a story about a teacher or a prophet, or simply a good rabbi. This is the story of our creator. This is a love story about your creator and you. Its about how He loved you and I, and how when something got in the way of that love He was the first to make a move to fix it. He sent His Son Jesus. This is how John begins:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The story of Jesus, is the story of how our God, the most majestic, the omnipotent, the all-knowing, the one who is, who was and who will ever be. This God, sent His Son, who had equal status with God, but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status. And when the time came, he set aside the privileges of being God’s Son and took the status of a slave, and put on human flesh. And as a human he didn’t claim special privileges, instead he lived a selfless, obedient life, and then died a selfless, obedient death for you.

Opening prayer

Father, we invite your presence into this service as we remember the final days of our savior. Throughout this service I ask that you nudge our hearts to be open. May we find ourselves lost in Christ. May we recall that our goal is to be more like Christ. That we may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Amen

1st Candle – Mark 14:3-9 – The Shadow of Bethany

In the beginning of Jesus’ ministry his fame began to spread. People had heard about the miracles, the healings, the feeding of 5000. And many of his disciples began to wonder could he be the one the Old Testament prophesied. Could he be the Messiah? The one who had the power to come on the scene and set them free from the Romans. Jesus certainly appeared to fit the description.  But Mark tells us a story that happened in the city of Bethany where his disciples began to wonder. It’s a small village near Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples had stopped by the house of a guy named Simon the leper. They were reclining at the table, meaning they were laying on their elbows and preparing to eat. And Mark tells us:

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. 4Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

They were frustrated that Jesus allowed this lady to waste such an expensive perfume. It could have been sold for a lot of money. They were focused on the money, but Jesus was focused on the heart. They couldn’t get past the waste, but Jesus only saw the gift. And then Jesus says something that shocked them. He said:

6“Leave her alone,”said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.

The disciples were stunned. Jesus what do you mean burial? You can’t die, you’re the Messiah. You’ve got a lot of work to do. Jesus you know how long we’ve been waiting for you? They couldn’t imagine what Jesus meant. They were so busy looking at the signs, they lost sight of who He really was and why he really came.

I’ve been guilty of this. Focusing on the spectacles of Easter, and losing sight of the meaning. Seeing the colorful eggs, but missing the message of the cross. Enjoying the spring flowers and the green grass, but forgetting the death that had to come first. Easter can be so rushed, so busy, so filled with stuff that we can become distracted and before we really know what’s happening it has passed us by without us every really moving closer to Jesus.

So as you begin this Easter week, let this candle be a reminder to slow down, and not be so focused on the signs, the spectacles, the traditions that you lose sight of who Jesus. And when you realize who he really is, you begin to understand His purpose.

Here this woman understood. She worships him, not only for what he did, but for who he is. She responds to His healing power. She responds to his forgiveness and grace. She responds to his love by worshipping.

Has he done something in your life that you are grateful for? Possibly the best way to start this service would be through worship. Right now, would you lift your hands to him and praise him for what He has done.

Prayer of worship

2nd Candle – Luke 22:14-20 – The Shadow of the Upper Room

One of the final acts of Christ was to celebrate the Passover. The first communion was actually celebrated as the Passover. The Passover is a festival that the Jews celebrate every year to remember when God saved them from slavery in Egypt. Eating the Passover Meal said: God rescued us before and he will do it again. And the night before Jesus was arrested it was time once again to celebrate the Passover. But this time, those gathered around that table were about to witness something extraordinary. They would witness God’s salvation once again. And all would share this meal would be people who testified that Jesus died. But his death had meaning. He died for them. And for us, as we eat the bread and drink from the cup we proclaim that his death changed us and it has the power to change our families, our community and to change our world. That’s the power of his death.

When we celebrate communion, we remember the meal he shared with his disciples. We remember how he loved us. We remember his death. And we remember how he changed our lives forever.

The elements of communion are prepared for you and were given to you on your way in.  If you did not receive them, please quietly and reverently move to get the elements. They are pre-packaged together – wafer on top of the foil covered cup.  Please take a moment and prepare these items and we will partake of them together. 

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.15And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”


20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.


3rd Candle – Luke 22: 39-45 – The Shadow of Gethsemane

After leaving the Upper Room one of them had the idea to walk to the Mount of Olives, to a place known as the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. And its at this place that Jesus’ inner struggle became overwhelming. For he knew why he came. He knew his purpose. He knew the time was drawing near. And its in this moment that he perhaps taught us one of the most powerful lessons. That when you and I overwhelmed with our anxieties, or our inner turmoil, or our inner desires we should turn to prayer. Luke tells us this:

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”41He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Paul told us that Jesus left his “Godness” and put on flesh to become human. And perhaps this verse describes one of his most human moments. That even though he knew his purpose, his flesh screamed out no, I don’t want to die. I don’t want to experience pain. Father, take this away from me. His prayer is one of anguish and pain, begging that he might be spared the humiliating nonsense of death by the hands of the envious, the cowardly, the weak, the powerful, the strong. He enters into the garden weighed down and deeply grieved. Nothing could prepare him for what is about to take place and yet he goes into the garden and awaits it. His prayer is the prayer of all desperate human beings seeing the end approaching rapidly before them: "Let this cup pass from me:" Let there be some other way. Save me the agony, the pain, the embarrassment, the anger, the rage, the shame. And then in the ultimate example of the gospel Jesus does what so few human beings have ever been able to accomplish and he surrenders to God’s purpose. “Not my will, but yours be done.” How often have you and I prayed this prayer and meant it. But in that moment, Jesus did more than stop and surrender to the Spirit, he stopped clinging desperately to the thing that he would eventually lose anyhow, he stopped holding on, he decided not to fight his enemies away and instead he looked at those who hated him, those who were out to kill him, those whom abandoned him and told them “I love you and I’m dying for you.” Even those of us like Judas who so easily betray him. Jesus says to us I’m not going to fight you. And then Luke said:

43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 

And with that, Jesus stepped into the gaping hole created by sin and became the intercessor for mankind.  With a simple, Yes to the Father’s design, He moved forward with the plan.

Let us pray.

God, today we pray the same prayer of Jesus. Although we are inclined to selfish desires and ambitions, we submit our wills to you. Not our will, but yours be done. We know that we can't pray this prayer without an action that follows. And so we ask that you would help us transform this meager prayer of releasing our wills into an action. Let us let go of our need to fight against God, Let us let go of our selfish desires and schemings thoughts. And let us go where you will send. It may be to a place of service within our church. It may be to repair a relationship that has been damaged. Wherever you lead us we will follow. Not our will, but yours be done. Amen. 

4th Candle – Mark 14: 43-50 – The Shadow of Arrest

Mark shares the story of Jesus’ arrest. There in the Garden, Jesus and all his disciples had gathered to pray. All except one, Judas Iscariot. Judas had followed Jesus from the beginning. He was there when Jesus walked on water. He saw the feeding of the 5000. He witnessed Jesus heal the leper. He saw him bring life back into the dead body of Lazarus. He saw the signs that pointed to Jesus. But Judas grew tired of waiting for Jesus take off his Rabbinical robe and put on his crown as Messiah. Despite his best efforts to get Jesus to do what Judas wanted, Jesus seemed to only follow His own path. Judas knew Jesus was the Messiah, but why wasn’t he raising up an army, why wasn’t he hating the Romans, why wasn’t he doing what I expected him to do. And there’s a little Judas in all of us. There’s a little piece of us that bargains with God. There’s a liitle piece of us that says, “God if you’ll do this, I promise to that.” God if you’ll heal her, I’ll do this. There’s a little piece of us that wishes God would behave as we wanted him to behave. And Judas decided that he was going to benefit from this relationship somehow, but when he couldn’t get Jesus to do what he wanted, he decided he would go to the temple authorities and hand Jesus over for money. And he worked out a deal, that if he could get Jesus in a quiet place where they could arrest him, the temple authorities would give him 30 pieces of silver. And Mark tells us the story of when Judas led them straight to Jesus. 

43Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. 44Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48 “Am I leading a rebellion,”said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50Then everyone deserted him and fled.

Judas, one of the twelve, traded his relationship with Jesus away for 30 pieces of silver. He gave it away for the cost of a slave. He gave it away, for something that was worthless to him in the end. Think about how many things that you and I have desperately tried to hang on to, that have only ended up hurting our relationship with Jesus. Think about the many times we  pushed God to behave the way we wanted him to behave. And when he didn’t we stepped back and did it our way. Think about the many times we decided that we were going to benefit from this. Think about how many times we’ve asked the question – What’s in it for me? That’s the question that Judas asked. That’s why he made the decision to betray Jesus. He was going to benefit one way or the other. And so he traded away his relationship with Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. And what about you? So what it is for you. What’s that thing for you that you’ve hung on to for far too long but its cost you everything.  But the biggest thing its cost you is your relationship with Jesus. And yet think about Jesus, he knew Judas’ plan, and yet he didn’t stop him. He simply told him to do what he needed to do. And I think this may be the most terrifying thing. That Jesus doesn’t intervene to change our decisions. He still allows us the opportunity to choose. The silver or the relationship. So which will you choose. Join with me as we pray. And as a sign of surrender would you hold your hands open inviting God to take whatever it is from you? 

Let us pray

For some of us its a habit, for some of us its our time, for some of us we need to start a time to pray or read the Scriptures, for some of us we need to adjust our attitudes, for some it’s a relationship, for some of us its our doubt. But tonight we admit our inadequacies, our failures. We admit that we have all forsaken you. And we ask your forgiveness. Amen. 

5 Candle – Lk. 23:33­43 ­ The Shadow of Crucifixion

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The Shadow of Crucifixion is a mystery. As we contemplate the Good Friday mystery, to reflect, to ponder and to pray, we come above all to discover that when we look at the face of the crucified Jesus we are looking into the face of God. We see the one who loved the world so much that he died, not to condemn, but to save. This is the light that shines out at the very moment when the darkness seemed after all to have overcome the light.
This is the light that has the power to change us. This is the light that has the power to change our families, our community, our world.

Tonight you’ve been given a blank slip of paper. What I’d like for you to do is write the name of someone who is away from God. Once you’ve written their name I want you to bring them to the cross. Place their name on one of the nails. And let us pray for them. Then you may head back to your seats as we continue our service. You may take a few moments to pray if you would like, but then return to your seats while the musicians play.

6 Candle – Matt. 27:45­50 ­ The Shadow of Death

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) . When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

The Shadow of death reminds us that when the world hears the word that there is a God who might call it to account, the world does what it always does: mocks and kills. We do more than forsake our Messiah, we nail him to the cross. And John tells us that at the end of the sixth day, "Jesus breathed his last and DECLARED IT IS FINISHED." It is accomplished. Creation is healed. Just as God finished his creation of the universe on the sixth day, his son dies on the sixth day and brings forth a renewing process that is waiting to blossom in every life. We the forsakers, are invited to be renewed through the Messiah's death. May the words, it is accomplished ring true in your life.

5 words, but they cut straight to our hearts. Jesus said, “Why have you forsaken me?” Many in the crowd would quickly recognize that Jesus is quoting from Psalm 22. A Psalm of lament. That Jesus went to the place of loneliness, the place of isolation, the place of death for you. That we all have turned our backs on him. That even though “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

And there in his moment of darkness, we hear him cry out, “Why have you forsaken me?”
And here’s my point. Jesus didn’t hold a press conference in the middle of the city to debate why God allows suffering in the world. He simply puts the suffering upon himself and says I’m in this with you. You’re not alone in your suffering. Even on your darkest journey, Jesus travels with you.

And maybe you needed to hear this. Maybe you feel completely alone. You’ve experienced a painful year. And you’ve asked “God, where are you?” And what we learn from Jesus is that when we enter into a time of suffering, Jesus was already there. We don’t walk alone, he walks with us and says, “I know what you’re going through.”

7 Candle – Jn. 19:38­42 ­ The Shadow of Burial

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Darkness. That's the Shadow of Burial. They laid the body of the Messiah in the tomb and rolled the stone in front, and in the hearts and souls of his followers there was darkness. Why, his disciples would wonder? And then like us, they begin to review everything that happened. Replaying the events in their minds and asking the question why?

Why did he take us to the Upper Room?
Why did he take us to pray in Gethsemane?
Why did Judas betray him and why was he Arrested?
Why did we Deny him? He did everything for us. And yet when he needed us most we fled.
Why did they Crucify him?
Why did he Die?
And now he’s buried in a tomb with His disciples, His followers left wondering why.
What is the purpose of the shadows? Is there a purpose? Perhaps you may have wondered why.

One of the most famous apostles, Paul, would write a letter and share a brilliant poem explaining the why.

Philippians 2:5-11

Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.

Why? To display how much God loves you. To reveal how passionately he is Pursuing you. Stepping into death and then overcoming death and showing that there is nothing impossible with Him. Your shame, your guilt, your greatest need is not too big for the Lord of all. Because in Him is victory. Victory over death, victory over sin, victory over addiction, victory for your family, victory for our community, victory for our world. Where are you with Jesus?

I think it best to end our service how we began it. In worship to the one who is worthy.

Without the suffering of Good Friday there is no Easter Sunday. Without the obedience of the cross there is no victory over death. He suffered on your behalf. He suffered to free us from Sin. And after his suffering and pain was complete they laid him in the tomb.
Perhaps John says it best:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 

This concludes our Tenebrae service.
May the Light of the World be with you and go with you. May the Light of the World shine through your life. Go in the peace, the love, the power, and the victory of Christ, Amen! 

Worship Set

Death Was Arrested 

- North Point (Adam Kersh, Brandon Coker, Heath Balltzglier, and Paul Taylor)

Verse 1

Alone in my sorrow and dead in my sin
Lost without hope with no place to begin
Your love made a way to let mercy come in
When death was arrested and my life began

Verse 2

Ash was redeemed only beauty remains
My orphan heart was given a name
My mourning grew quiet my feet rose to dance
When death was arrested and my life began

Chorus 1

Oh Your grace so free washes over me
You have made me new now life begins with You

Verse 3

Released from my chains I'm a prisoner no more
My shame was a ransom He faithfully bore
He cancelled my debt and He called me His friend Oh
When death was arrested and my life began

Chorus 2

Oh Your grace so free washes over me
You have made me new now life begins with You
It's Your endless love pouring down on us
You have made us new now life begins with You
Oh yes it does

Verse 4

Our Savior displayed on a criminal's cross
Darkness rejoiced as though Heaven had lost
But then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand
That's when death was arrested and my life began
That's when death was arrested and my life began

Misc 1 (Bridge)

Oh we're free free forever we're free
Come join the song of all the redeemed
Yes we're free free forever amen
When death was arrested and my life began

Misc 2 (Ending)

When death was arrested and my life began
That's when death was arrested and my life began

My Victory 

- Crowder (Darren Mulligan, David Crowder, Ed Cash, and Hank Bentley)

Verse 1

You came for criminals
And ev'ry Pharisee
You came for hypocrites
Even one like me

You carried sin and shame
The guilt of ev'ry man
The weight of all I've done
Nailed into Your hands

Chorus 1

Oh Your love bled for me
Oh Your blood in crimson streams
Oh Your death is Hell's defeat
A cross meant to kill is my victory

Verse 2

Oh Your amazing grace
I've seen and tasted it
It's running through my veins
I can't escape its grip
In You my soul is safe
You cover ev'rything

Misc 1 (Bridge)

Behold the Lamb of God
Who takes away our sin
Who takes away our sin
The holy Lamb of God
Makes us alive again
Makes us alive again

Misc 2 (Ending)

Oh a cross meant to kill is my victory