It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining... Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “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.” Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Matthew 27:45-50; Luke 23:44-47)
Pastor: Jesus entered a world that was broken, suffering, and full of grief. He grieved the loss of his friends; he wept for his people. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He entered into a lonesome, weary world in desperate need of the light of hope and peace, the promise of God's everlasting presence and love.
Congregation: Just as Jesus wept, we, too, weep for the death of loved ones, the loss of opportunities, the fading of hopes and dreams.
Pastor: God, you have given us reason to celebrate, but we often find the days cold and our hearts hard. As we await our resurrection, it’s sometimes hard for us to lift up our hearts. You understand the grief of the world; meet us in our aching hearts we pray. Hold as we walk through darkness.
Congregation: Help us. Embrace us. Heal us.
Reader: “He was despised and forsaken by men, this man of suffering, grief’s patient friend. As if he was a person to avoid, we looked the other way; he was despised, forsaken, and we took no notice of him. Yet it was our suffering he carried, our pain and distress, our sickness-to-the-soul. We thought that God had rejected him, but he was hurt because of us; he suffered for us. Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him. He endured the breaking that made us whole. His injuries became our healing. We all have wandered off, like shepherdless sheep, scattered by our aimless pursuits; The Eternal One laid on him, this silent sufferer, the sins of us all." (Isaiah 53:3-6)
Pastor: Jesus knows the feelings of abandonment, anger, and loneliness we sometimes feel. Jesus knows the depths of our broken hearts, and He alone has the power to bring beauty from the ashes in our lives. We long for the day when His work will be completed in us and in a world that groans as it awaits redemption.
Reader: "O Eternal One! O True God my Savior! I cry out to You all the time, under the sun and the moon. Let my voice reach You! Please listen to my prayers! My soul is deeply troubled, and my heart can’t bear the weight of this sorrow. I feel so close to death…
You crush me with Your anger. You crash against me like the relentless, angry sea. Those whom I have known, who have been with me, You have gathered like sheaves and cast to the four winds. They can’t bear to look me in the eye, and they are horrified when they think of me. I am in a trap and cannot be free…
Are You the miracle-worker for the dead? Will they rise from the dark shadows to worship You again? Will your great love be proclaimed in the grave or Your faithfulness be remembered in whispers like mists throughout the place of ruin? Are Your wonders known in the dominion of darkness, or is Your righteousness recognized in a land where all is forgotten?
But I am calling out to You, Eternal One. My prayers rise before You with every new sun! Why do You turn Your head and brush me aside, O Eternal One? Why are You avoiding me… I am desperate. Your rage spills over me like rivers of fire; Your assaults have all but destroyed me… You have taken from me the one I love and my friend; darkness is my closest friend." - Psalm 88, The Voice
"Say something, I'm giving up on you; I don't know what more that I can do
Anywhere I would've followed you; say something, I'm giving up on you
And I am feeling so small, I am over my head, I know nothing at all
Why have you pushed me aside? Can’t escape from the dark
And helpless to try
Say something, I'm giving up on you; I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you
Anywhere I would've followed you; Say something, I'm giving up on you
And I am shut out in the night, All the ones that I love,
Now I’m saying goodbye
Say something, I'm giving up on you; And I'm sorry that I couldn't get to you
And anywhere I would've followed you (Oh-oh-oh-oh)
Say something, I'm giving up on you
- “Say Something,” by A Great Big World (a modified rendition by Tom and Becky Childs meant to reflect Psalm 88)
Reader: “At different times and in various ways, God’s voice came to our ancestors through the Hebrew prophets. But in these last days, God’s voice has come to us through His Son, the One who has been given dominion over all things and through whom all worlds were made.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
Pastor: God of light and life, you speak even when we do not hear. You are present even when we do not sense you are near. In the midst of darkness and silence, we listen for your voice and long to feel your comforting grace.
Congregation: God of the desperate, draw near us as we draw near to you. Open our eyes so we can see you; open our ears so we can hear.
Reader: “My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick… For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there…? O, that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night…” (Jeremiah 8:18,21-9:1)
Pastor: In this place, we join with the prophets in freely admitting our pain, our loss, our fear. Though the light of God’s mercy illuminates our tears, we mourn without shame. Here, among God’s people, we are welcome even if we're cynical, even if we're angry, even if we scoff at the mention of hope and meaning. Here we can bare our hearts to those who will help us to bear our burden.
Congregation: Here we, the followers of a weeping Savior, bear one another’s burdens.
Pastor: Here, in the company of those who follow the Prince of Peace, let us be at peace.
Congregation: May we, the church, be a sanctuary of God’s peace for those in need of shelter.
Pastor: We will cast our sorrows upon Christ, for He cares for us.
Reader: “My soul is dry and thirsts for You, True God, as a deer thirsts for water. I long for the True God who lives. When can I stand before Him and feel His comfort? Right now I’m overwhelmed by my sorrow and pain; I can’t stop feasting on my tears. People crowd around me and say, “Where is your True God whom you claim will save?” With a broken heart, I remember times before When I was with Your people. Those were better days. I used to lead them happily into the True God’s house, Singing with joy, shouting thanksgivings with abandon, joining the congregation in the celebration. Why am I so overwrought? Why am I so disturbed? Why can’t I just hope in God? (Psalm 42:1-6)
God over the darkness, God over the light
God of those who bring us peace, God of those who fight
God of all the smiling faces, God of those who mourn
God of those in happy families, God of the forlorn
God, we lift up broken hands
And with our broken voices
We lift up a broken praise…
God over the empty hearts, God over the full
God over the kindly faces, God over the cruel
God of all that brings up hope, God of all our fear
God of those who never listen, God of those who hear
God, we lift up lonely hands
And with our lonely voices
We lift up a lonely praise….
God over the living, God over the dead
God over the hungry, God over the fed
God of all the crucifixions, God of all the graves
God of all the resurrections, That haven’t happened yet today….
God, we lift up open hands
And with our lonely voices
We lift up a broken praise….
- Original song
Reader: “Despite all my emotions, I will believe and praise the One who saves me and is my life… in the light of day, the Eternal shows me His love. When night settles in and all is dark, He keeps me company—His soothing song, a prayerful melody to the True God of my life.” (Psalm 42:7-8)
Pastor: As we lift our broken hands toward the only One who can heal us, we light the darkness of our memories with candles that help us to remember that though our grief is real, our hope burns brightly with the light of the True God of life.
We light our first candle to acknowledge the pain of loss: the loss of relationships, the loss of jobs, the loss of health. We take the pain of the past, offering it to God from whose nail-scarred hands we may receive the gift of peace. We light this candle for the light of love to illuminate that which was lost in the darkness of our history.
Congregation: Renew us, God of light and joy.
Pastor: We light the second candle to remember those who have died. We remember their name, their face, their voice, the memory that we carry with us. We remember the times we laughed, argued, loved, hugged, smiled, and wept. The valley of the shadow of death can seem relentless, so we light this candle to commemorate the memories of a life once shared, and to illuminate with comfort the path that those of us who mourn.
Congregation: May the light of a dying and risen Savior’s eternal love surround us.
Pastor: We light the third candle to our attitudes, our mindset, our hidden, inner times of darkness. We acknowledge the times of disbelief, anger, despair, and frustration, the times we have compromised our integrity and lost our innocence. We bring God’s pure light to the depth of our flawed mortality. With this light, we also remember the family and friends who have stood with us, and the Savior who is faithful even when we are not.
Congregation: Let us remember that Christ brings the light of life.
Pastor: We light the fourth candle to remember those who feel alone, who feel isolated from loved ones, far from home, far from friends, far from a God they believe is unconcerned with their suffering. We light this candle to remember that the God who guided His people through a wilderness with fire can illuminate the way of those captive to the darkness of loneliness and disillusionment.
Congregation: O God, who was despised and rejected, comfort the lonely and brokenhearted.
Pastor: We light the fifth candle to remember those who are in the midst of hardships that threaten to overwhelm them. For the poor, the persecuted, the hungry, and the homeless, the sick. We lift up those who suffer the pain, indignity, and bewilderment that accompany a broken body, spirit or soul. We pray that God, who lit up the night to guide wise men to the healing Christ, will light the way today to a Risen Savior.
Congregation: O God, light our path; bring hope to the hopeless; make us new.
Pastor: We light the sixth candle to remember our faith and the gift of hope. We remember that God promises those who love him a world with no more pain and suffering. We light a candle for courage in the darkness. We confront our sorrow, our loss, our confusion. With God’s Spirit and the presence of his people, we bring the light of comfort to each other, bearing each other’s burdens, and praying for hope in our broken world.
Congregation. Let us remember the One who draws beauty from ashes, brings the truth, and offers us hope.
Reader: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
Pastor: It is through the suffering of Christ that we find comfort in the midst of our suffering as well. On the night Jesus offered himself up for us he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: "Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." When the supper was over he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said: "Drink from this, all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Congregation: Because of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, we have been delivered from the power of sin, death, and despair. In the light of Gods’ Word, the sacrifice of Christ, and the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, may we endure with hope and faith.
Pastor: It was in His parting sorrow that Jesus asked His disciples to remember Him. In remembrance of all that has been accomplished through the life and death of Jesus Christ, we partake of the symbols of Christ's sacrifice for us. In the breaking of this bread and the drinking of this wine, may we experience in a new way the presence of the resurrected Christ.
Congregation: May we, the church, be united in the fellowship of his suffering so we can experience the power of his resurrection.
Pastor: (Invitation to Communion and Commemoration)
In the morning, when I rise, Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus.
Oh, When I am alone, Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Give me Jesus.
Oh, When I come to die, Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Give me Jesus.
Reader: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ (Revelation 21:1-5)
Pastor: In Christ, we find comfort in the midst of sorrow. In the promise of God’s never-ending love from which nothing can separate us, we claim peace. We long for the day when there shall be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more sickness, no more death. Even when we see only a glimmer, we know the light of your love is overcoming all darkness.
Congregation: Christ himself is with us. He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Pastor: Hear the good news: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life. One day, Christ who died and rose again will wipe all tears from our eyes. He will make all things new.
Congregation: All Honor and glory to the only One who can bring us peace.
Pastor: As we wait for Resurrection, we lift up our broken hearts.
Congregation: We offer them to the Lord of Life.
Pastor: May the God of Comfort be with you.
Congregation: May the God of Resurrection be with us all.
NOTE: I had never written a liturgy or a lament before this one. I found four or five online, read them for a week, then wrote this one. In other words, I could not have written this without learning from others. I think one of those can be found at Blue Christmas Resources; another at A Service for Longest Night. Unfortunately, I have no idea where I found the rest of them. I tried hard not to plagiarize; I hope I succeeded.