Reformation Lutheran Church A Congregation of the ELCA

Good Friday, April 10

Pastor Mari Larson

Were You There

Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?


When I arrived at Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church in Arizona, the congregation had already purchased the land on which would eventually be built a beautiful church facility, and I opted to have a Good Friday worship service on that property. It was rustic. We brought our lawn chairs and sun shades to protect us from the desert conditions, and we sang without the benefit of electricity or instrument.


On that first Good Friday, with thirty-five chairs arranged in a circle and the wind blowing sand in our faces, I managed to hold worship together through the seven last words of Christ until I got to the last verse of this song: Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Those gathered on that Good Friday evening probably didnít hear my voice crack as I sang. They probably didnít see the tears escaping from under my sunglasses as we sang the final Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? But I did feel at that moment something I had never felt so strongly before and have never felt so strongly since: that I was there in Jerusalem, hiding in the shadows near Calvary, watching what was being done to my Lord, standing paralyzed with thousands of others, unwilling or maybe even unable to come out of hiding and denounce what was happening.


Into that imagery came the reality that Jesus died for my inability to stand up for justice, my unwillingness to do the right things, and my desire to let someone else ó anyone else ó handle the controversial stuff. He didnít just die for the times I violated the Commandments, he died for the times I failed to love my neighbor in the best and fullest way. Sin is not simply an act or an omission, it is our nature. And Jesus dying on the cross is its cure.


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 (from the Good Friday Bidding Prayers)


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