Friday 10th April, 2020
Reflection by The Revd David Kirkwood
We will pray at 2pm, join us at home at if you can, though you can use this service at anytime.
Prayers at the foot of the cross. Using a painting of the cross by the painter Caspar David Friedrich, the Revd David Kirkwood leads us in a meditation on the cross and the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus.
Cross by the Baltic Sea, by Caspar David Friedrich
This service has been uploaded as a video.
Please click on the thumbnail here to watch it:
look with mercy on this your family
for which our Lord Jesus Christ was content to be betrayed
and given up into the hands of sinners
and to suffer death upon the cross;
who is alive and glorified with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Paul’s letter to the Hebrews
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
(Hebrews 4.14-16; 5.7-9)
My song is love unknown, My Savior's love to me; Love to the loveless shown, That they might lovely be. O who am I, That for my sake My Lord should take Frail flesh, and die?
He came from His blest throne Salvation to bestow; But men made strange, and none The longed-for Christ would know: But oh, my Friend, My Friend indeed, Who at my need His life did spend.
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.
Here might I stay and sing, No story so divine; Never was love, dear King, Never was grief like Thine. This is my Friend, In whose sweet praise I all my days Could gladly spend
The passion reading
Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.
Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name.
Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory.
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.
After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ They answered, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’ Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’, they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, ‘For whom are you looking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’ This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken, ‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.’ Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’
So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They answered, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.’ The Jews replied, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’ (This was to fulfil what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, ‘I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ They shouted in reply, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a bandit.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.’
Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’ From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.’
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.” ’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says, ‘They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
(John 18.1 – 19.42)
This is the Passion of the Lord.
No response is made.
Silence is kept.
Meditation on the cross
Reflection by the Revd David Kirkwood.
We look at Caspar David Friedrich’s painting ‘Cross on the Baltic Sea’ or you may also wish to use your own cross at home.
Silence. After all the noise and tumult the to-ing and fro-ing shouts and cries and groans and tears. Silence. ‘It is finished’ Jesus final words before the spent body is taken down and all is cleared away, ‘It is finished’ For me that could be the title for this painting , it is a painting that can move us powerfully and help draw us into that silence.
It is not at all a passion picture of the traditional kind. It doesn’t attempt to depict the whole drama, neither in individual scenes, as in the traditional stations of the cross, nor the a panorama of the whole, as in the great dramatic Flemish and Italian masters. It doesn’t try to shock our emotions with frank disturbing images of suffering or move us to weep tears of pity with a focus on the innocent victim. In this image It is indeed finished. All is done. All is quiet.
Is it even a Passion picture at all? Is it a suitable image for devotion? This is not a new question. This picture is known as ‘Cross by the Baltic’ and was painted around 1815 in Germany by the artist Caspar David Friedrich, a pioneer of the romantic movement in art. A previous painting of his had drawn intense criticism; another stark cross this time set among mountains and fir trees, the archetypal landscape of Northern Europe, but set too in a gilded gothic frame for use in Chapel. Trees, mountains, landscapes, surely they had no place at the altar.
"It is true presumption when landscape painting wants to slink into the church and creep on to the altars". wrote one contemporary critic. But was that fair? Caspar and his friends responded vigorously, but before we hear what they have to say let’s have a closer look for ourselves.
We just heard the story. But now, ‘It is finished.’ An empty set. The Action done. The drama complete. We are Just waiting for the lights to fade and the curtain to close, or in the cinema as the credits start to roll and the temptation may be to head straight for the exit. But this is a picture that encourages us not to go. ‘Stay a while’. Here is an afterglow that wants to draw us in. Of course it’s not always easy to let ourselves be drawn. Silence is hard and most likely been forced on us all too much in these last few days not surprising then if we’d perhaps rather leave it behind and go back to the busy world. Silence is hard, harder still when it comes with echoes. Here there are echoes of the busy world but it is not a comforting or diverting one. The passion story is not forgotten but present even in its absence, the dark earth piled at the foot of the cross ; the Mount of Olives, site of Christs agony; Golgotha, the place of the skull. No skulls here but a spade, traditional insignia of the gravedigger, speaking not just of Christ’s death but our own. The echoes may disturb but they can draw us in too, for they are echoes not only from the past but from the future. Momento mori, remember you must die. Again perhaps these last weeks have brought us too much of death and we would rather not be reminded, but if we can be persuaded to remain, there is more.
In his latter years death was never far from Caspar’s thoughts and he painted many evocative images of graveyards, but here the cross is clearly meant as more than grave marker, more than symbol of lonely suffering and painful death. This cross though empty is clearly Christ’s cross and has in itself a solidity and an uprightnees that speaks of dignity and defiance. It holds the central axis of painting but it is not face on, it is central, yet turned towards the setting sun. It is the setting sun that pervades everything. It’s by its light that we behold all that can be seen. It provides the atmosphere for all the emotions we feel. But it is intensely ambiguous. For an age that had wearied of both traditional piety and the strong reaction against it, Nature seemed to have power to speak to the heart and to kindle devotion. Hence the defenders of the landscape altarpiece a defence that could have been framed by Wordsworth himself
‘I have felt
A presence which disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thoughts,
And rolls through all things. ‘
(William Wordsworth, Lines composed above Tintern Abbey)
Clearly something of that is in Caspar’s mind but there is another strand too. In his actual defence of the chapel painting he wrote in much more a melancholic vein, 'the Cross, is turned to the setting sun, here the image of the totally enlivening Father. With Christ dies the wisdom of the old world, the time when God the Father wandered directly on Earth. This sun set and the world was no longer able to apprehend the departed light. The evening glow shining from the pure noble metal of the golden crucified Christ is reflected in gentle glow to the earth.'
The comfort for a world that has lost touch with the Father can come only through this reflected light. Writing in 1805 he continued
'The Cross stands raised on a rock, unshakably firm, as our faith in Jesus Christ. Around the Cross stand the evergreens, enduring through all seasons, as does the belief of Man in Him, the crucified.'
Significantly by 1815 the time of the cross by the Baltic the mood has darkened, both rock and evergreens have gone, and the Baltic has even more of the chill of Dover Beach.
So is it a bleak painting or a hopeful one? Perhaps it is this ambiguity that gives the work its power. Caspar went out of favour in his own lifetime and died unknown in poverty. In the troubled twentieth century his work found fresh appreciation. The ambiguities the coexistence of pain and progress the cruel indifference of nature the absence of justice yet the continuing flickers of hope and human feeling appealed to an age that experienced these things deeply.
But before we leave the painting take one last look. Look carefully at the skyline to the left of the setting sun. There it is the faint grey outline of a skiff about to be blown over the horizon.
‘It is not too late to seek a newer world.' (Alfred Tennyson Ulysses).
Proclamation of the cross
This is the wood of the cross,
on which hung the Saviour of the world.
Come, let us worship.
Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow which was brought upon me,
which the Lord inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.
holy and strong,
holy and immortal,
have mercy upon us.
O my people, O my Church,
what have I done to you,
or in what have I offended you?
Testify against me.
I led you forth from the land of Egypt,
and delivered you by the waters of baptism, but you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
I led you through the desert forty years, and fed you with manna. I brought you through tribulation and penitence, and gave you my body, the bread of heaven, but you prepared a cross for your Saviour.
What more could I have done for you
that I have not done?
I planted you, my chosen and fairest vineyard, I made you the branches of my vine; but when I was thirsty, you gave me vinegar to drink, and pierced with a spear the side of your Saviour.
I went before you in a pillar of cloud,
and you have led me to the judgement hall of Pilate.
I scourged your enemies and brought you to a land of freedom, but you have scourged, mocked and beaten me.
I gave you the water of salvation from the rock, but you have given me gall and left me to thirst.
I gave you a royal sceptre,
and bestowed the keys of the kingdom, but you have given me a crown of thorns.
I raised you on high with great power,
but you have hanged me on the cross.
My peace I gave, which the world cannot give, and washed your feet as a sign of my love, but you draw the sword to strike in my name, and seek high places in my kingdom. I offered you my body and blood, but you scatter and deny and abandon me.
I sent the Spirit of truth to guide you,
and you close your hearts to the Counsellor. I pray that all may be one in the Father and me, but you continue to quarrel and divide.
I call you to go and bring forth fruit,
but you cast lots for my clothing.
I came to you as the least of your brothers and sisters;
I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me,
sick and in prison and you did not visit me.
Prayers of Intercession
God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Therefore we pray to our heavenly Father for people everywhere according to their needs.
Let us pray for the Church of God throughout the world: for Christine and Mark our bishop, and the people of this diocese, for all Christians in this place, for those who are mocked and persecuted for their faith, Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified: hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray for the nations of the world and their leaders: for all who strive for justice and reconciliation, for the Prime Minister and all struggling to overcome the current crisis
Lord, hear us. Lord, graciously hear us.
Most gracious God and Father, in whose will is our peace, turn our hearts and the hearts of all to yourself, that by the power of your Spirit the peace which is founded on justice may be established throughout the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.