Why have You forsaken me?

Study for Crucifixion (1947) by Graham Sutherland, CC BY-NC 2.0
you were not only tempted for forty days down by the Jordan 
but constantly all through your ministry.
Not to obvious blatant sins
but to the subtler deflections from the Father’s will;
to cunning compromise which would defeat the Father’s purpose.
As when the presence of the seeking Greeks
suggested the possibility of a wider mission
in which you might have been listened to and welcomed,
without the necessity of the cross.
As when in the Garden of Olives across the valley,
you wrestled with the doubt that death could be the Father’s will.
Or when, in the presence of Pilate
you might have pleaded your case with your accusers;
or in those fiercest moments of pain,
acquiesced to the mocking cry of the crowd to
    ‘Come down from the cross and we will believe,’
Until one temptation remained –
the final test, the last claim of love,
the fiercest attack of evil –
more subtle and shattering than the rest,
when, cloaked in a blanket of darkness
came the whispering doubt:
    What if God too has forsaken you?
And at last, the battle done, the last temptation met,
faith complete, the task finished, evil defeated,
love triumphant, you said:
    ‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit –
    the rest lies with you, Father, dear Father.’
And then it was that by the cross with its limp body
there must surely have sounded the voice from heaven 
    once more:
    ‘This is my beloved Son.’
    Son in call,
    Son in obedience,
    Son in love
    Son in death and in triumphant life.
George Appleton, 1902 – 1993, Anglican Bishop in England and Jerusalem
It was now about noon, 
    and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,
    for the sun stopped shining. 
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 
Jesus called out with a loud voice, 
    “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When he had said this, he breathed his last.

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Help me to live your Gospel

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees, James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum
Lord, it is too late for you to be quiet,
    you have spoken too much;
    you have fought too much;
You were not sensible, you know, 
    you exaggerated, it was bound to happen.
You called the better people a breed of vipers;
You told them that their hearts were black sepulchers
    with fine exteriors;
You kissed the decaying lepers;
You spoke fearlessly with unacceptable strangers;
You ate with notorious sinners,
    and you said that the street-walkers would be the first in Paradise;
You got on well with the poor, the tramps, the crippled;
You belittled the religious regulations;
Your interpretations of the Law reduced it to one little commandment: 
    to love.
Now they are avenging themselves.
They have taken steps against you;
    they have approached the authorities and action wlll follow.
Lord, I know that if I try to live a little like you,
     I shall be condemned.
I am afraid.
They are already singling me out.
Some smile at me, others laugh, some are shocked, 
    and several of my friends are about to drop me.
I am afraid to stop,
I am afraid to listen to men’s wisdom.
It whispers: you must go forward little by little,
    everything can’t be taken literally,
    it’s better to come to terms with the adversary . . .
And yet, Lord, I know that you are right.
Help me to fight,
Help me to speak,
Help me to live your Gospel,
To the end,
To the folly of the Cross.
Michel Quoist,1918 – 1997, French Catholic priest and writer
Prayers of Life

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, 
    it remains only a single seed. 
    But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, 
    while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. 
My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

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O Jesus, crucified, have mercy upon me

image / Luca Giarelli, CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons
O Jesus, poor and abject, unknown and despised,
    have mercy upon me, and let me not be ashamed to follow thee.
O Jesus, hated, calumniated, and persecuted,
    have mercy upon me, and make me content to be as my master.
O Jesus, blasphemed, accused, and wrongfully condemned,
    have mercy upon me, and teach me to endure the contradiction of sinners.
O Jesus, clothed with a habit of reproach and shame,
    have mercy upon me, and let me not seek my own glory.
O Jesus, insulted mocked, and spit upon,
    have mercy upon me, and let me not faint in the fiery trial.
O Jesus, crowned with thorns and hailed in derision;
O Jesus, burdened with our sins and the curses of the people;
O Jesus, affronted, outraged, buffeted,
    overwhelmed with injuries, griefs and humiliations;
O Jesus, hanging on the accursed tree, bowing the head, giving up the ghost,
    have mercy upon me,
    and conform my whole soul to thy holy, humble, suffering Spirit.
John Wesley, 1703-1791, English churchman and founder of Methodism
It was now about the sixth hour,
    and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 
    while the sun’s light failed. 
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said,
    “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” 
And having said this he breathed his last.

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sharing in your death

imageMikhail Nesterov Public domain / Wikimedia Commons
My Lord and God, I know that I cannot share in your resurrection 
    without also sharing in your death.  
Strengthen me to take up my cross and deny myself daily; 
    that I may crucify the drives within me that lure me away from loving you 
        and loving my neighbor as I ought.  
Silence the voices within me calling me 
    to self-indulgence, to self-service, and to self-advancement, 
 and let me hear only the voice of your Spirit 
    leading me into the ways of love, peace, and obedience.
I belong to you, Lord Jesus, 
    for you bought me at the price of your own blood.
Help me to live the rest of my life in this body for you,
    and not for my own desires or pleasures.
Make me a new creature who does your will.
David A. de Silva, Methodist professor
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

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O wondrous power of the cross!

Bonnat Crucifixion Detailsdalry / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
O wondrous power of the cross!
O unspeakable glory of the passion 
    which became the Lord’s tribunal, the world’s judgment, 
    and the power of the Crucified!
From Your cross You draw all things to Yourself, O Lord!
When You stretched out Your hands to an unbelieving people that mocked You,
    the whole world was finally brought to confess Your majesty. . . .
In this way type gave way to truth, prophecy to revelation,
    the ancient law to the gospel.
You drew all things to Yourself, Lord, 
    so that what previously was performed 
         in the one temple of the Jews in mystic signs
    is now celebrated everywhere by holy men
         in every country in revealing rites. . . .
Your cross is the font of all blessings, the source of all graces,
    and through it the believers receive strength in return for weakness,
    glory in return for shame, life in return for death.
Pope Leo the Great, c.400-461, influenced the Chalcedonian Creed and Attila the Hun
So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.  So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

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the scene of Christ’s suffering

image / wallpaperuse
Great God, our Father:
As we call to mind the scene of Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane,
    our hearts are filled with penitence and shame
    that we foolishly waste our time in idleness
    and that we make no progress in the Christian life day to day. . . 
We are ashamed that war and lust flourish and grow more rampant every day.
Forgive us for our cruel indifference to the Cross,
    and pardon us that, like the bystanders of old,
    we merely stand and gaze in idle curiosity
    upon the pitious scene.
O teach us, we beseech thee, the good news of thy forgiveness.
Cause humanity, degenerate as it is, to live anew,
    and hasten the day when the whole world shall be born anew.
Toyohiko Kagawa, 1888-1960 Japanese Christian pacifist, reformer, and labour activist
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, 
and he said to them, 
    “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, 
and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 
Then he said to them, 
    “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. 
    Stay here and keep watch with me.”

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We prepare to welcome Christ Jesus, Messiah

Rainbow in Bethelehem by Ami Tesler on Unsplash  
In this season of expectation
We prepare to welcome Christ Jesus, Messiah
Into the bustle of our lives
and the hard to find moments of solitude
We prepare to welcome Christ Jesus, Messiah
Into our homes and situations
along with friends and families
We prepare to welcome Christ Jesus, Messiah
Into our hearts, and those often hidden parts of our lives
We prepare to welcome Christ Jesus, Messiah
For beneath the surface of your story
is an inescapable fact
You entered this world
as vulnerable as any one of us
in order to nail that vulnerability to the cross.
Our fears, our insecurities and our sins
all that can separate us from God
exchanged by your Grace for Love.
We cannot comprehend the reasoning
only marvel that Salvation comes to us
through a baby born in a stable,
and reaches out to a world in need.

In this season of anticipation
We prepare to welcome Christ Jesus, Messiah
John Birch, Methodist Lay Preacher and worship leader in Wales
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
  and the crooked shall become straight,
    and the rough places shall become level ways,
  and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

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a sign of your goodness

Photo by Joachim Riegel on Unsplash  
Father, I’m a man of my time and situation,
Around me, the signs and symbols of man’s fear, hatred, alienation;
a bomb exploding in a market square;
. . . faces on TV twisted in mocking confrontation.
It’s not that we haven’t tried, Father,
to find ways to peace and reconciliation
but always too little, too late;
the forces of opposition were too great . . . 
I am perplexed, angry, hopeless, sick, I want to turn
my back, wash my hands, save myself, my family, get out.
But every time I turn to go
there stands in my way a cross . . .
Lord, make me a child of hope, reborn from apathy,
cynicism, and despair, ready to work for that new man
you have made possible by walking the way of the cross yourself.
I do have hope grounded on your victory over powers
of evil, death itself, focused on your kingdom,
breaking on us now as light out of deep darkness.
And I do see signs of hope immediately around me.
I see a wider sign:
I see a sign – flower growing on a bombed-out site.
The sign – an empty cross.  The burden, Lord, is yours.
Lord, I am a prisoner of hope! There is life before death.
Prayer from Northern Ireland
Turn to me and have mercy on me;
    show your strength in behalf of your servant;
save me, because I serve you
    just as my mother did.
Give me a sign of your goodness,
    that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
    for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

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