Remember the Loss: A Good Friday Service Opener

Remember the Loss: A Good Friday Service Opener

This is a little long and a bit rough, but I think it would be a great way to open a Good Friday worship service. Bring your lights down, play some soft music in the background and deliver this more as poem than sermon.

Have you ever been watching a game and been so invested in one team that you almost can’t watch the game? Have you ever sat there watching your team pull ahead and thought that maybe this time, this time things would be different, that this time victory would finally be theirs and by extension yours.

Have you ever sat there and watched as the victory that seemed so sure a moment ago began to slip away? Have you ever watched as your team went from leading to tied to trailing and all you can think is “this is not how this is supposed to go” and that sick feeling in your stomach that this is going to be bad starts to build and build until all you can think about is how much you don’t want to watch this, but yet you just can’t turn away?

Have you ever held out hope, even a fools hope that your team would turn it around that they would do the miraculous. Have you ever counted point differentials while you begged the clock to slow down because just maybe your team could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Have you ever sat there when your team lost and felt utterly hopeless? Have you ever looked at the zeros on the clock and the deficit on the scoreboard and felt like you have been punched in the gut because no matter what else happens you were wrong to hope, wrong to dream, wrong to look for victory. Have you ever felt the pain of loosing when you thought for sure that this time you were going to win?

 

If so then take that feeling and multiply it by 1000 and stand next to John at the foot of the cross. Stand there and watch as the one that you were sure would save the world is arrested. Stand there and watch as the one who you were sure would lead the people of Israel to freedom is nailed to a cross. Stand there with John and hope for something beyond possible, hope for the miracle that maybe just maybe He would listen to the mockers and save himself like he saved others. Stand there and listen to his ragged breath as you hold out hope that somehow he will survive this and lead His people to victory and freedom. Stand there and watch the blood collect in pools around the cross and count the time that He has left before the end. Take that feeling of loss, that feeling like nothing is ever going to be right again and multiply it by like a million as you stand there and watch Jesus, the one you called Messiah, the one who healed the sick, raised the dead, and entered the city to shouts of hosanna dies right before your eyes. Stand there and hold out hope that maybe he isn’t really dead until you see his side pierced and the blood and water pour from the wound. Stand there and try to figure out how you could have gotten all of this so very, very wrong.

 

When we look at this day through the lens of the resurrection we can call it good and we can rejoice for the savior has come and chosen to die for us. We can meet here on Good Friday and smile because we know what this cross means; we know that Sunday is coming. But we must not move to quickly past the cross. We must not look past the pain in order to see the victory. We must not ignore the violence in order to see the empty tomb.

Let us linger for a while on the pain, on the feelings of failure, on that deep pain that comes from losing, from choosing wrong, that pain that comes from being sure that God is going to come through for you and then discovering that He doesn’t.

 

Good Friday reminds us that we live in a world of pain. There is hope, because we know that Sunday is coming, but there is pain, and loss, and regret, and tears. That is where we live, that is what this world is.

We don’t want to move to quickly past this day because it is this day, this horrible, horrible day that allows us to say with confidence that this world is not our home. It is this day that allows us to say that even though it looks like we are defeated we know that God has won. It is this day that we can call good because on this day the God of the universe sent his son to die on a cross to pay a debt that we could never pay. On this day Jesus Christ took on himself the penalty for our sins and we can rejoice and call this day good.

So come, look, remember, and open up your heart as we worship together.

A Spoken Word Poem for Christmas

A Spoken Word Poem for Christmas

This was a poem I wrote a few years ago and I decided to put it together in a video. Christianity really is a Rags to Riches story. We were outcasts, alone, and broken and through Jesus we are transformed into royalty. We who were nothing are adopted by God. But this story also has a Riches to Rags twist because the same Jesus who was a king became a baby in a manger for us. 

Here is the full text: 

this christianity thing is a real rags to riches storylike cinderella going from ashes to ball gowns, from servant to princess

It’s like david going from shepherd to king, like gideon transformed from coward to warrior

like annie the orphan becoming annie warbucks like luke discovering the heritage of the force or Repunzle finding out she is the lost princess

There is something that happens with us, in us for us, when we start this

this

this

Life, abundant life that God has given us

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

The true light that gives light to everyone came into the world.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believedin his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believedin his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

and that’s the rags to riches story

those of us who were outcasts are invited in

those who were enemies are made families

those who were orphans are made son

those who had nothing are made heirs

heirs with Christ, co-heirs with the savior

It is a real rags to riches story

that all starts with a riches to rags twist

when God himself came down to us

When God took on flesh and dwelt with us

All hail the incarnate deity

the deity in form as us

and so we stand here at Christmas time and worship God,

because the king took on flesh and became lowly

so that we who are broken could become holy

so that we who were alone could be wholly known.

Known by God and so that we could know him

and so come to him

all who are broken

who are lost

who are alone

who are worried

who are orphans

come to him and hear him whisper to you a new name.

Hear him invite you into his family

Hear him invite you into his family as God himself says you are my child.

Now go, and tell the world.

Thank You for Choosing Me

Thank You for Choosing Me

This is a simple journaling worship element. The theme is how we are all chosen by God. I know that in my own life there have been many times where I haven’t felt chosen, so it is always amazing to think that the God of the universe chooses me. The text is included below or you can download the .pdf from the link.

How It Works:

Play some soft music and pass out the sheets and pens to the participants. Be sure to give them ample time to write.

Download .pdf

The Text:

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

Colossians 1:16

You are a creation of God. The infinitely creative creator crafted you by His own hand. He created you for a purpose. The great God of the Universe knows your name and He has chosen you to follow Him. You were created by Him and for Him.

Right now we are going to spend some time expressing our thanks to God for choosing us. In this time be honest with God. If you don’t feel chosen tell Him that. Then ask Him to show you that you have been picked. If you have questions or doubts then write those here too.

Use the space on the back of this sheet to create a psalm of thanksgiving. Let your psalm be an honest picture of your thanks and your life at this moment. It can be something as simple as just a few words or as complicated as a poem. You can craft a paragraph or take time and draw your thanks. Simply use the space on the back to communicate with God.

Illustrated Concepts

Illustrated Concepts

When you are dealing with a concept that students may have a small understanding of, but would like to see how much they really grasp it give them the opportunity to draw it. You will be able to gauge how much they understand and probably find some good jumping off points for discussing the idea.

Here is how it works:

  • Pass out paper to everyone. (I would suggest half sheets of paper because those of us who can’t draw sometimes feel a little intimidated trying to fill a whole sheet)
  • Group them into groups of no more than 4 to share art supplies. (I normally stock up on packs of crayons at back to school sales)
  • Give them the concept that you would like for them to explore. Some examples include: Love, freedom, sacrifice, hope, or forgiveness. Normally I would add a restriction that makes them think beyond the obvious, for instance when we talked about love I didn’t let them use a heart, or when we talked about forgiveness I wouldn’t let them use a cross. Those small things make the students dig a little deeper and help you get better responses.
  • Let them have an ample amount of time to draw. There will be a few people done in 30 seconds, but this activity isn’t for those people. The people who really respond to a drawing exercise will take their time and dig into it.
  • At the end of your drawing time have them get into different groups of 4 and then share their pictures and why they drew what they drew. Move around the room during this time praising their work and listening for cues to their understanding. Choose a couple of pieces to kick off the rest of your discussion.