The candles and paraments are removed. The table is bare. The cross sits shrouded. This is how we left our sanctuary at the end of our Maundy Thursday service last night. After we shared in the holy supper around our table, we “stripped” our sanctuary of the elements of our worship. You might wonder, where does this practice come from?
So many of the liturgical acts we perform in our worship, especially in these holy days, are designed to draw us deeper into God’s story by creating allegiance with Jesus. We join with Jesus at the table to celebrate this last supper. Like Jesus in the garden, we pray for God’s deliverance. And, like Jesus, we are stripped of the even the most basic of elements that remain familiar or offer some comfort.
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him.They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.” (Matthew 27:27-31)
Many churches use red paraments on the three days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday as a connection to the scarlet robe Jesus wears during this dramatic scene. The red robe to be replaced by a bloodied body. Jesus is being coronated by his persecutors. What they don’t realize is that he is already and will always be the ruler in this kingdom of heaven that has come near.
Perhaps in solidarity with Jesus, whose suffering and death we remember this day, we take on that same coronation robe by wearing some red. To do so is an act of defiance. To push back against the darkness and grief, remembering this sacrificial act, might summon the strength to face what is to come. Stay close, the kingdom of heaven has come near.
May God’s hope embrace you today. -Pastor Peter
Let us pray…
Almighty and eternal God, you give strength to the weary and new courage to those who have lost heart. Heal the sick, comfort the dying, give safety to travelers, free those unjustly deprived of liberty, and deliver your world from falsehood, hunger, and disease. Hear the prayers of all who call on you in any trouble, that they may have the joy of receiving your help in their need. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bidding Prayer for “All Those in Need,” ELW Good Friday Prayers