Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford
Let Your Idols Fall
02nd April 2021
Good Friday - year of Mark 9.30am
Gathering God’s People
Acknowledgement of First Peoples
We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal.
May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.
Call to Worship
Walk with Jesus as he takes his final earthly steps. Observe the ordinary people who cared for the body of the Word made flesh. Find yourself in faith’s most difficult hour.
O God, our God, in you our ancestors trusted, to you they cried aloud.
Since before our mothers bore us, you have been our God.
Do not be far from us, for trouble is near.
Source of refuge come quickly to our aid.
Lest we forget the cost of discipleship, let us remember faith’s hardest story to bear.
With humble and open hearts, let us worship our God.
We have gathered this Good Friday to remember the betrayal, humiliation, and crucifixion of Jesus. We have gathered to experience anew the events that would change the world. May we experience all the pathos of that day, and may we participate in its meaning together.
Hymn TIS 356: Here hangs a man discarded.
(tune – Shrub End)
Give us strength, O God, to bear the cross with you this day. Comforted by your faithfulness and encouraged by the presence of sisters and brothers around us, lead on, O Jesus. Amen.
A Prayer of Confession
O God, our comforter in life and death, Jesus’ last day reminds us of your embodied love and of our own power to do and permit harm. For our sins of commission and omission, we ask your forgiveness, in Christ’s name. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
Beloved, know that God walks with us and remains in covenant with us, saying: “I will put my laws in their hearts and write them in their minds; I will remember their sins no more.” God’s loving heart is greater than any of us can imagine. Know that you are loved. Know that you are forgiven. Amen.
Thanks, be to God!
Hymn TIS 344: Glory be to Jesus.
(tune – Caswall; Wem In Leidenstagen)
The Service of the Word
The First Reading: Isaiah 52.13 – 53.12
The Gospel Reading: Mark 14:53 – 15:47
Isaiah 52.13 – 53.12
52 13 See, my servant shall prosper; he shall
be exalted and lifted up and shall be very high. 14 Just
as there were many who were astonished at him — so marred was his appearance,
beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals — 15 so
he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had
not heard they shall contemplate. 53 1 Who has
believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been
revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young
plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we
should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He
was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with
infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we
held him of no account. 4 Surely, he has borne our
infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck
down by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our
transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that
made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. 6 All
we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the
Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He
was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb
that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is
silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By a perversion
of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was
cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my
9 They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. 11 Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.
Hymn based on TIS 345: Were You There
(verse sung after each Gospel of Mark reading)
(tune – Were You There)
53 They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. 54 Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. 56 For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. 57 Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 But even on this point their testimony did not agree. 60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” 61 But he was silent and did not answer. Again, the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’” 63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses?
Hymn: “Were You There” ... when they came to take my
64 You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death. 65 Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him. 66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt.[b] Then the cock crowed.[c] 69 And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” 72 At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Hymn: “Were You There” . . . when denial came from
15 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” 3 Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. 6 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7 Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8 So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9 Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Hymn: “Were You There” … when they stood my Lord on
16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. 21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 Then they brought Jesus[d] to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take. 25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”
Hymn: “Were You There” . . . when my Lord was beat
27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.
Hymn: “Were You There” ... when the soldiers mocked my Lord?
33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” 40 There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
Hymn: “Were You There” . . . when they crucified my
Preaching of the Word - Let Your Idols Fall
This is really not a day for words. When we grieve, all words are too much.
It is much better for us to take in the facts about how Jesus was treated: the injustice, the spiritual blindness, the narrow thinking, the positioning for power. It is better that we just sit with that grief and blackness, make a space inside of ourselves for the death of Jesus; and just abide in it.
We must abide with Good Friday, not because it leads quickly to the empty tomb, but because Jesus did die. It is better that we do not fill it with too many words and instead marvel at this death and consider our part in it.
In this lengthy Passion narratives, we are not spared any detail. There is a great deal here but the scene when Pilate asks the chief priests if he shall crucify their king is very interesting. The priests answer, “We have no king but the emperor.”
Here we see that the powers-that-be have no compunction with violating their very identities to get what they want. Two things are happening here, and both have to do with idolatry.
The first thing that is happening is that the priests are telling the Empire, manifest in Pilate, that their only king is the emperor. This is in direct violation of God’s explicit dislike of kings. Hundreds of years prior to this scene the people of Israel had asked God for kings so that they can be like the other people in the region.
God warned them then that kings would take their sons for soldiers, tax them to death, and all the other things that come with human kings. God’s desire was that he would be their king; that is what would have distinguished them from the other people in the region. But when the people persisted God allowed kings to rise among the Israelites, provided they carried God’s anointing.
God, it seems, is in the habit of taking a bad situation and improvising some good out of it. But today, in our readings from the Gospels, these priests are denying God’s choice for a king and they are putting their faith in the Roman Emperor so that they can make the political alliance necessary for the assassination of their enemy Jesus.
Along with this political posturing is the fact that since the chief priests have allied themselves with the Emperor for their peace and security, they have replaced God with the Emperor. This is idolatry. Idolatry is when a created thing is put in place of the uncreated source of life and love. Idolatry is when we find our security, power, identity in anything other than God. The priests have committed the sin of idolatry.
Idolatry is the most pervasive and insidious. If Good Friday teaches us anything it is that our notions of what God is and can do need to be cast down like the idols they are.
In the life of the spirit the casting down of personal idols usually follows a pattern. The first idol that needs casting down is the idol of things: thinking that the things that surround you make you a worthy person. You are not your things; our things do not give us worth. Only God gives us worth. That’s why God is worshipped, and things are not.
The next idol that needs casting down is the ego. You are not that great. You are also not all that bad either. Self-deprecation, too, is an activity of the ego. The ego: not the healthy bit that makes you a person, but the ego that manipulates people, things, and facts for your own purposes and power. This idol must come down.
In the life of the spirit these idols have been well within the bounds of good advice and general spirituality.
The next idols that need destruction are within the particular purview of the Abrahamic faiths, and, I think, are especially Christian.
The first of these idols is the idolatry of faith. The idolatry of faith is when we begin to use the story and beliefs of God to judge and separate others, to be exclusive and not inclusive. This is when we carve in stone the stories of our tradition as reality to such a level that we lose sight that they are a chronicle of people’s encounters with our God of love and turn the activity of faith into the judgement seat of faith, separating those who are in and those who are out. The idolatry of faith is broken by true faith, which is trust, trust the stories and traditions about God, they are not God themselves, but instead urge us into truth faith, pointing to God.
The next idol does not have a hold on everyone, but it is still a powerful idol.
This is the idol of doubt. This idol tells us that only doubt and suspicion of the stories of God can bring us closer to the true God. It is an idol that says, “If you would simply think like I think about God, then you will perceive the truth.” None of us possess the full knowledge of the unknowable God, and some beliefs should be doubted, but when doubt becomes the enemy of faith instead of its steward, then it has become an idol.
The final idol that needs to come down is the hardest one of all, but it is the one that Good Friday most explicitly addresses: the idolatry of God. The idolatry of God means that we have set ideas of exactly what God is and can do. If I were to use an everyday word for the idolatry of God, I suppose it would be expectation: high expectations, low expectations, horrible expectations, impossible expectations, immature expectations.
When we destroy the idol of God we truly live by faith; living fully, as one moment unfolds from the last, trusting that God is with us in love, come what may.
In Good Friday we see our image of God literally killed. Good Friday, with the death of Jesus is an enactment of the death of all idols, including, most explicitly the idol of God.
God does not die. Messiahs do not die. Yet, Jesus does die, and in the death of Jesus the final idol is destroyed, and, in this death, we are released from all idols and left with the present moment in Christ, redeemed and free.
This freedom is jarring, and it is appropriate that we commemorate the death of idols as we do today. Grieve for the loss of our idols.
Abide in stillness over the death of your grasping for anything other than God. Let our idols fall at the foot of the cross and sit awhile in death and grief and wait.
Wait, because God has a surprise in store.
Hymn TIS 342: When I survey the Wondrous Cross.
(tune – Rockingham)
Son of God, you died for us, with arms outstretched upon a cross: we pray for the world where you are crucified each day with the destitute, the oppressed the dispossessed.
Jesus Christ, crucified by us, have mercy upon us,
and hear our prayer.
Son of God, you died for us, falsely accused, mocked and condemned to death: we pray for all who govern, those who make and administer law, for all who are denied justice.
Jesus Christ, condemned by us, have mercy upon us,
and hear our prayer.
Son of God, you died for us, denied, deserted and rejected by those you loved: we pray for all who feel the hurt of rejected love, the pain of betrayal and abandonment.
Jesus Christ, betrayed by us, have mercy upon us,
and hear our prayer.
Son of God, you died for us, to fulfil the words of the prophets and bring deliverance to all your people: we pray for the Jewish people, loved by God from ancient time.
Jesus Christ, bruised for us, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Son of God, you died for us, to rescue your people from the power of sin: we pray for the church, for its clergy and ministers, for all who will make or renew baptismal vows.
Jesus Christ, wounded for us, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Son of God, you died for us, to show your steadfast love for your people: we pray for all who live or work in this community, our families, our friends and all whom we love.
Jesus Christ, broken for us, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Son of God, you died for us, to bring healing, wholeness and new life to your people: we pray for those in sickness, sorrow, grief or pain and for all who are close to death.
Jesus Christ, brought low for us, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Son of God, you died for us, with arms outstretched upon a cross: we remember all who have been condemned to die, all who have died in pain and torment. With the women who loved you and ministered to you and with the disciple whom you loved; may we stand with you this day. At our life's end, forgive us our desertions and betrayals and stretch out your arms to receive us, that, with all your saints, we may live with you in Paradise.
Jesus Christ, raised high for us, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
The Lord's Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen
Hymn TIS 341: My song is love unknown V 1,2,3,4 and 7
(tune – Love Unknown)
Hold fast to hope. Hold fast to one another. For God,
who has promised us, is faithful. The day of God
approaches. Go in peace.
The Cross will be unlit, and we will extinguish the Christ
candle. The minister and people depart in silence.