Listening at the Foot of the Cross

A Service on the Seven Last Words of Christ

All four gospels tell us that Jesus quoted from the Old Testament. No Old Testament book is quoted more frequently by Jesus than the Psalms. When we pray the psalms, we are praying the prayers of God’s people throughout the centuries. But, more importantly, we are praying the prayers that Jesus himself prayed.

As we go through this service, we will be recalling the seven last words of Jesus from the cross—words recorded in the gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. The fourth word is the central one of the seven for a reason: it is the only one of the seven that is reported by two gospels—Matthew and Mark. It is also at the center, the heart, of Christ’s redemptive suffering. The fourth word is the cry of dereliction: “My, God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This cry comes directly from Psalm 22. As we go through this service, it should become clear that not only the fourth word, but each of the seven words from the cross is echoed in the anguish and the agony of Psalm 22.

Note: During the service we portrayed art by contemporary Dutch artist Huub Bogaers, who created a painting for each of the seven last words. When put together, these paintings make the form of the cross (see cover). Music director Roy Hopp helped coordinate the music, and Katherine Van Liere, who teaches history at Calvin College, coordinated the artwork.

Prelude: “Jesus, Remember Me” (Berthier)

Cross Processional

Call to Worship

O crucified Jesus, Son of the Father, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, eternal Word of God.

We worship you.

O crucified Jesus, holy temple of God, dwelling place of the Most High.

We adore you.

O crucified Jesus, who humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

We thank you.

Hymn: “Go to Dark Gethsemane” PsH 381, PH 97, TWC 225

Prayer

Introduction to the Service

My God, my God, why . . . did he have to be forsaken?
My God, my God, why . . . did he have to die?
Tonight we will prayerfully ask these questions.
Tonight we will prayerfully listen for answers.
We will listen for the answers at the foot of the cross.
We will listen to the words Jesus speaks.
We will listen to these words of raw honesty.
We will listen to these words that gush forth in grace.
We will listen. . . .

The First Word

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Cantor: Forgive them, Father dear; they know not what they do.

Forgive all those who for my sake forgive as I forgive.

Reader 1: Luke 23:32-33
Reader 2: Psalm 22:16-18
Reader 1: Luke 23:34

Prayer

Before we hear of your death, and the world going into deep darkness, take away all the darkness from our lives, from our souls, from our consciences. Take away all that has offended you, and all that has hurt others. In your mercy, hear our prayer . . .

[time of silent prayer is ended with singing]

Response: “Lamb of God” SNC 253

The Second Word

Today you will be with me in paradise.

Cantor: The day redemption dawns, the world begins anew.

This day you will enjoy with me the peace of paradise.

Reader 1: Luke 23:35-39
Reader 2: Psalm 22:6-8
Reader 1: Luke 23:39-43

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, remember us when you come into your kingdom. Remember us, not for our impressive accomplishments, nor for the virtues we occasionally display. Remember us as one of the criminal community who hung at your side. Remember us as those in need of your mercy and grace. In your mercy, hear our prayer . . .

[time of silent prayer is ended with singing]

Response: “Jesus, Remember Me” PsH 217, SFL 168, SNC 143, TWC 822

[sung first by the soloists and then the congregation]

The Third Word

Woman, here is your son. . . . Here is your mother.

Cantor: Dear woman, tearful one, behold your tearful son.

Claim her to be your very own; behold your mother dear.

Reader 1: John 19:25
Reader 2: Psalm 22:9-11
Reader 1: John 19:26-27

Prayer

O blessed Savior, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, as you cared for your family then, continue to care for your family now, for all our brothers and sisters who live in fear or in hunger or in need. Grant us the compassion to love as you love. In your mercy, hear our prayer .

[time of silent prayer is ended with singing]

Response: “What Wondrous Love Is This” PsH 379, PH 85, SFL 169, TH 261, TWC 212

The Fourth Word

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Cantor: I cry to you, O God, why have you left my side?

Yet you will be with me at last when victory will be mine.

Reader 1: Matthew 27:45
Reader 2: Psalm 22:1-2
Reader 1: Matthew 27:46

Prayer

Holy God, you always hear our cries and listen to our sorrows. And so we pause to absorb this moment of utter agony when you closed your ears to your Son; this moment when he was forsaken, so that we might not be; this moment when he was abandoned when we deserved to be. We pause, and we pray . . .

[time of silent prayer is ended with singing]

Response: “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed” PsH 385, PH 78, TH 254, TWC 208

The Fifth Word

I am thirsty.

Cantor: I thirst with those who thirst for living streams of grace.

I long to lead my thirsting sheep to springs of endless life.

Reader 1: John 19:28
Reader 2: Psalm 22:14-15
Reader 1: John 19:29

Prayer

O blessed Savior, whose lips were dry and whose throat was parched, grant us the water of life. For all of us who hunger and thirst for righteousness, may we taste of your love and mercy now and evermore . . .

[time of silent prayer is ended with singing]

Response: “Ah, Holy Jesus” PsH 386, PH 93, RL 285, TH 248, TWC 231

The Sixth Word

It is finished.

Cantor: My task is now fulfilled; my Father’s work is done.

The Son may now retire to rest within his Father’s home.

Reader 1: John 19:30
Reader 2: Psalm 22:29

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you finished the work you were sent to do. Now enable us, by your Holy Spirit, to be faithful to our call to follow you. In your mercy, hear our prayer . . .

[time of silent prayer is ended with singing]

Response: “O Perfect Life of Love” PsH 380

The Seventh Word

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

Cantor: Dear Father, I commend my spirit to your care.

With this last prayer at eventide I sleep in perfect peace.

Reader 1: Luke 23:44-46
[moment of silence]

Response: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” PsH 384, PH 101, SFL166, TH 252, TWC 213

[During the singing the congregation moves to the perimeter of the sanctuary to form one large communion circle.]

Service of Communion

Invitation

Come from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south,
and gather around the table of the Lord.

Thanksgiving

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right for us to give thanks, it is our joy and peace to give thanks to you, holy Father, almighty everlasting God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Institution

Remembrance

Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.

Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. Dying he destroyed death. Rising he restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.

Prayer of Consecration

In your love and mercy, Holy Father, give us your Spirit so that through these gifts of bread and wine we may be united more fully with Christ and with each other. Lift our hearts so that in all the troubles and sorrows of this life we may continue in hope for the new life in your eternal kingdom. This we pray in the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Distribution

Doxology: “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” PsH 383, PH 98, RL 300, TH 247, TWC 221

Parting Blessing

Depart in Silence

Excerpt

Notes on the Service

  1. For each of the seven words from the cross, one painting was projected on the screen and stayed there until the next section.
  2. At the beginning of each word from the cross, a cantor sung a stanza of a hymn by James Quinn to the tune gorton, except for the third stanza, which was adapted. The text comes from a collection of Quinn’s texts, Praise for All Seasons (Selah Publishing, 1994), and is used by permission. For permission, use your copyright license or contact Selah at 800-852-6172 or www.selahpub.com.
  3. Prayers from the first two sections are adaptations of prayers found in “Seven Last Words from the Cross” in Stages on the Way (Iona Community; used by permission from GIA Publications. For permission, use your OneLicense.net or contact GIA at 1-800-442-1358.

 

About the Artist

Huub Bogaers (b. 1957) is a painter and religious educator from Tilburg in the southern Netherlands. He attends and preaches in a nondenominational evangelical church in Deurne and is active in various evangelical outreach and missionary organizations. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Studies from the Catholic University of Brabant in Tilburg and earns his living both by painting and by teaching religion in secondary schools. His painting has been exhibited in numerous Dutch churches and galleries. Mr. Bogaers resides in Eindhoven with his wife and two children. Further information about the artist and his work is available on his website: www.dse.nl/~crosswords/krwkrbuk.htm. For permission to use this art in your church, please

e-mail him at hbogaers@zonnet.nl; he requests that contributions for using his artwork be donated to an American missionary friend working in the Netherlands (Daryl DeVries, c/o Robert DeVries, 1203 Steeplechase Dr., Evington, VA 24550).