Good Friday Holy Hour

Almighty God, who, in your tender love for us all,
sent Jesus your Son to take our human form upon him
and suffer death upon the cross:
grant us grace to follow his example
of patience and humility
and so be brought to the glory of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


All we, born of woman, have but a short time to live; we have our fill of sorrow;
we blossom like a flower and wither away. We slip away like a shadow and do not stay.

Holy God,
holy and strong,
holy and immortal,
have mercy upon us.

In the midst of life we are in death; where can we turn for help?
Only to you, Lord, who are justly angered by our sins.

Holy God…

Shut not your ears to our prayers, but spare us, O Lord.

Holy God…

You know all the secrets of our hearts; forgive us our sins.

Holy God…

Eternal and merciful judge, in life and at the hour of our death,
suffer us not to be separated from you.

Holy God,
holy and strong,
holy and merciful Saviour,
deliver us and raise us up at the last day.

May Almighty God, who sent his Son into the world for our salvation,
grant us pardon and peace, now and for ever. Amen.

Five Wounds of Christ

It has been traditional during a Good Friday meditation, to consider the meaning of the five physical wounds of Jesus – the scourging, the crown of thorns, his hands, his feet and the spear – but he also bears deep wounds to his soul in his arrest, trial and crucifixion, and it is five of these that I thought we might consider in this hour.

1. The Wound of Betrayal

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!”
Is all their breath,
And for His death
They thirst and cry.


We’re tempted to think of Judas as a villain from the start, but that’s not how most of the gospels portray him. John, for sure, spits blood every time he mentions Judas’s name, he is so enraged by him. He cannot comprehend how someone who has walked in the light can choose darkness. But mostly, we see Judas as one of the twelve, close to Jesus, trusted, a disciple, a friend. And that is why the betrayal is such a deep wound. “If it were an enemy who had done this, then I could have borne it; but it was even you, my companion and my own familiar friend.”
And Jesus still addresses him as friend, even at the moment of betrayal, not sarcastically, but genuinely and with the deepest sadness. Though we prove false, Jesus remains true; for he cannot be false to his own nature.
It maybe that you have experienced betrayal, and know what a deep wound it is. We are all aware in our age that we have betrayed the gift of creation, bleeding dry what we should be cherishing and tending. But it is how Jesus bears betrayal that shine out in his passion. No bitterness or resentment, no retribution or revenge; just a deep, deep sadness for one who is lost – who the light can no longer reach.


for all who have been betrayed
for our world in this crisis
for the courage to learn lessons and to change

Silence – till about 2.15

2. The Wound of Injustice


57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.
59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.

Come see his hands and his feet,
the scars that speak of sacrifice.
Hands that flung stars into space,
to cruel nails surrendered.
This is our God, the Servant King,
he calls us now to follow him –
to bring our lives as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.

“The truth is rarely convenient and never flexible”, to mis-quote Oscar Wilde. But the Sanhedrin really, really wanted it to be. The world’s logic goes, “This is where we need to be. This is how we get there. How do we spin the story so that we can achieve it?” It’s become so normal that we almost accept it. And that’s the trouble, the religious leaders think they are doing the right thing – don’t cause a riot, don’t annoy the Romans – and so the low-profile disposal of the fly in their ointment is justified. Justified. “Made just”, or rather, “made to look just”.
Injustice is the burden of most of the human race whose voice is never heard. This pandemic will in many ways amplify the injustices that are present already – the poorest, the disadvantaged, the disabled – all suffer more than the comfortable in this isolation.
Jesus remains silent. He holds his peace. Our challenge is to root out and fight injustice wherever we find it – in ourselves as well as in the world; his cross is to endure it, to absorb it and forgive it, and – as he has always done – hold unflinchingly to the truth, whatever the cost.


for all who suffer injustice
for those for whom the right choice is costly
for all who suffer the hardest burdens of this pandemic

Silence – till about 2.25

3. The Wound of Abandonment

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” 74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.


They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of life they slay.
Yet cheerful He
To suffering goes,
That He His foes
From thence might free.


“Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.”
The last words of the Gospel of the Watch from last night’s service, and haunting words they are.
For all the disciples it’s a wake-up call more shaming than the one Jesus gave them in Gethsemane – and especially for Peter. “Even if I have to die with you…” The clash of our spiritual aspirations and our mortal frailty could hardly be stronger. “The good that I would do, I do not, and the wrong that I would not, I do,” Paul’s lament could easily be Peter’s, or mine, or most folk’s.
But it’s Jesus we’re focusing on here, and there’s a danger that we assume friends didn’t matter too much to him. He had communion with the Father, he was a single man, not needing a spouse, a partner, a lover. And anyway, maybe he didn’t like the disciples very much; he was always saying “O you of little faith!” and such.
But we know that none of that is true. If ever a human needed a friend, it is Jesus, now on Good Friday. If ever it would have been good for just one voice to have said, “He healed me. I own him everything,” it is now. If ever Peter’s usual unswerving loyalty and devotion would have been a balm to Jesus’ soul, it is now.
But it is not to be, for how then would scripture be fulfilled? The scripture, by the way, that says, “God is with us. And so he must be abandoned, forsaken by his friends – or how would God be with us, when we are?”


For all who feel abandoned by those who they rely on
For ourselves in our times of failure and shame
For all whose need for love and tenderness is not met

Silence –till about 2.35

4. The Wound of Mockery


39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.


Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they crucified my Lord.

2 Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

3 Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

4 Were you there when the sun refused to shine?


“A bunch of schoolboys around the lions’ enclosure in the zoo.” Not a bad description of the crowd. It’s safe to taunt and mock because he’s caged now; we’ve got him where we want him. Where’s all the majesty and wisdom of this noble beast now? Where is the power that makes him king? True, we wouldn’t want to meet him out in the wild (and we’re just a little nervous the he might break out) but that makes us feel all the more brave and in control. We can poke him and he doesn’t even growl.
Mockery doesn’t seem at first glance to be the most painful wound, after all that Jesus has already endured. But it is the wound of our faith in our age. Like a young person who mentions on Twitter that they’re off to church, immediately they are seen differently and not taken seriously. The religious person in the TV soaps never listened to. We don’t mind being mocked, but it is the precious things that we hold dear that are counted as worthless in the mockery.
It’s the same for Jesus. Taunts and insults are hardly going to offend his self-esteem.
It is all humanity that is being mocked. It’s the love shining out on the cross, and enduring every human darkness for our sake (and for the sake of those who wag their heads), showing the human spirit at its most glorious and most tender, that is being chewed up and spat out.


For all who endure mockery and distain
For those we have hurt or offended
For this time of crisis to bear fruit of thoughtfulness and new beginnings

Silence – till about 2.45

5. The Wound of Desolation

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
48 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. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

So he is not to be spared anything.

When times had been hard, when he was up against it, Jesus had his most fundamental lifeline. He went up the mountain to pray. He journeyed to a quiet place to pray. He spent all night in prayer. At his baptism, at the Transfiguration, at crucial moments, the approval for his heavenly father gave him strength, gave him validity, gave him encouragement. God was there for him.

Not now.

Yes, he knew it had to happen. Yes, he was prepared for it in his mind. Yes, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground…”

But this is it, and it’s harder than even Jesus imagined. God seems a million miles away.

But that is the one thing our faith gives us that is unique. That is why I am a Christian, and could not conceive of following any other faith. Because, when we feel God is a million miles away – and we sure do feel it – he is not. He is there, because Jesus’ cry “why have you forsaken me?” means everything has gone, all the support and lifelines and escape routes and consolation is gone. He has emptied himself of all but love.

And he does not,

will not,

can never,

forsake us.


For all who feel at the end of their resources
For ourselves, our loved ones and all humanity unable to be there for each other
For all who are near to death today

Silence – till about 2.57


Jesus, Saviour of the World, come to us in your mercy:
we look to you to save us and help us.

By your suffering and trials you set your people free:
we look to you to come to our aid.

By your cross and your life laid down you raise us up:
we look to you to save us and help us.

You saved your disciples when they were ready to perish:
we look to you to come to our aid.

In the greatness of your mercy, loose us from our chains:
forgive the sins of all your people.

Make yourself known as our saviour and mighty deliverer:
save us and help us that we may praise you.

Come now and dwell with us, Lord Christ Jesus:
hear our prayer and be with us always.

And when you come again in your great glory:
make us to be one with you,
and to share the life of your kingdom.



Most merciful God,
by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
you delivered and saved us all:
through faith in him who suffered on the cross,
may we triumph in the power of his victory. Amen.