Minister Prayers

Forsworn- a reflection on Matthew 26

Minister Prayers

for Easter Weekend

Ansty Road & St. Columba’s 

Worship material for Easter Weekend

Maundy Thursday Read Matthew 26

Tune Intercessor (RS 486)

This is the night, dear friends, the night for weeping,

when powers of darkness overcome the day,

the night the faithful mourn the weight of evil

whereby our sins the Son of Man betray.


This night the traitor, wolf within the sheepfold,

betrays himself into his victim’s will;

the Lamb of God for sacrifice preparing,

sin brings about the cure for sin’s own ill.


This night Christ institutes his holy supper,

blest food and drink for heart and soul and mind;

this night injustice joins its hand to treason’s,

and buys the ransom-price of humankind.


This night the Lord by slaves shall be arrested,

he who destroys our slavery to sin;

accused of crime, to criminals be given,

that judgment on the righteous Judge begin.


O make us sharers, Saviour, of your passion,

that we may share your glory that shall be;

let us pass through these three dark nights of sorrow

to Easter’s laughter and its liberty.

Peter Abelard (1079-1142);Trans. Richard Sturch © 1990 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188

This is the only day of the year where I tend to give this Hymn an airing, so if you haven’t joined us on a Maundy Thursday you may not know it. I always find it a very powerful way of taking us back through Matthew’s telling of the story, the good and bad within it, the despair and hope that comes in the same episode. We are living through a period where everything we assumed was normal has been changed. Our plans can only be tentative, perhaps …  maybe … if …. 

Jesus knew what was coming, but his followers thought this was just another episode in the adventure. It was, but not in the way they imagined. And for Judas it was too much, he was ready to change tack, to forswear whatever promise he had made to Jesus, to this new community and throw in his lot with the old power – to the powers-that-had-always-been. They will not be powers in God’s new reign. There was sorrow to come, but Easter’s laughter and liberty was on its way.

O God who is present at Gethsemane and with us now

In this time of many trials may we be awake to your call

and In the dark night of despair may your will be done


Good Friday

Read Matthew 27

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

Were you there when the sun refused to shine?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

I find this a really emotional hymn. But it has to be sung as simply as possible – without music, if there are enough good singers to carry the rest of us. And it is the simplicity that gives this hymn such resonance – it does not tell us what we are to make or believe about Jesus’ crucifixion – we are left to layer it with our own feelings and emotion – and as we do, we may sometimes find we tremble. 

Verse by verse, the song plays with images – “nailed him to the tree” – reminds us that the cross – so often seen as precious metal, was made from wood, such a natural product growing all around us, soaking up carbon dioxide, so that we can breathe oxygen. But now it is re-purposed as a means of torture and death. And that is where, on a Friday, I always leave this hymn – the last verse unsung, hanging in the air. We know it is coming but we need to carry the raw emotion of seeing Jesus’ dead body lying in the tomb before we can begin to hope again. 

I suspect it is Friday that I’m going to miss most over this weekend. I’ve always found it a strange day. I try to keep the Good Friday service as low key as possible. No flowers, No organ voluntary, Psalm 22 to start, the whole of Matthew 27 read, a simple sermon that focuses on whatever pain is foremost at the time, that hints at forgiveness, at the expectation that Sunday is coming – yet leaves people to lament, and know what they must leave at the cross in order to move on. The service will end with no blessing – for how can we be blessed when Jesus, the God-man lies dead.

And then as others plan a Friday out walking somewhere, or meeting up with friends, I will go home and write an Easter sermon – because I’ve found over the years that I just cant plan ahead – I really don’t know how I will approach Easter Day until I have experienced Good Friday. 

I really don’t know what I will do with myself this year – do you?

O God who is present at Calvary and with us now.

In this time of uncertain hopes may we find wisdom in your Word

and stand with those who can declare, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Easter Sunday

Were you there when God raised him from the dead?

Were you there when God raised him from the dead?

Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble:

Were you there when God raised him from the dead?


Read Matthew 28

Christ is alive! Let Christians sing.

The cross stands empty to the sky.

Let streets and homes with praises ring.

Love, drowned in death, shall never die.


Christ is alive! No longer bound

To distant years in Palestine,

But saving, healing, here and now,

And touching every place and time.


Not throned afar, remotely high

untouched, unmoved by human pains

but daily, in the midst of life

Our saviour in the Godhead reigns.


In every insult, rift, and war,

Where colour, scorn, or wealth divide,

Christ suffers still, yet loves the more,

And lives, where even hope has died.


Christ is alive, and comes to bring

Good news to this and every age,

Till earth and sky and ocean ring

with joy, with justice, love, and praise.

Brian Wren  © 1975 Hope Publishing Company

So, what are we to do with this Easter? I’ve seen people mention that the first Easter was not a big celebration, it was the confused reactions of frightened, uncertain people who had been locked in their houses, suddenly being given hope. In Matthew’s account, the guards are fearful, the women who have gone to the tomb are fearful and they leave “fearful and full of joy” to tell the other disciples. And then Jesus appears to them all and says, “Do not be afraid, go and tell…” 

I’ve turned to this hymn because it invites the empty streets to ring with praise. We can not gather in our churches this year, but Christ was never to be bound by empty places, but always where life is happening. So if we are confined to our homes, looking out to the world via television, radio, internet, telephones, video conferences, letters, then that is where Christ will be found this Easter. And if we are suffering or fearful for those we know who suffer, then Christ “loves the more/And lives, where even hope has died.”

This Easter morning it will be very strange not to be with you sharing Communion. But the invitation is to share in the United Reformed Church Daily Devotions in a service led by John Bradbury our General Secretary Elect, during which there will be an opportunity to share bread and wine in our own homes, but connected to friends around the world. Or join with services on television and radio, and be reminded that none of us are alone for:-

Christ is alive, and comes to bring

Good news to this and every age,

Till earth and sky and ocean ring

with joy, with justice, love, and praise.