River of Life Lutheran Church
27400 SE Stark Street
Troutdale, OR  97060
Phone: 503.667.3141

Sunday worship service: 9:00am 

LENTEN SERIES   “SILENT WITNESSES”    Week 4   “THE SPEAR”

[You can go through this service alone, but if there is more than 1 person, you could choose 1 person to be “P” (for leader) and the others do the “C” (other people) parts. For the songs, you can sing them if you’re able, or just read the words together without a tune.]


P: In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets,

C: But in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.

                Christ the Life of all the living, Christ the Death of death, our foe.

                Christ, yourself for me once giving To the darkest depths of woe;

                Through your suff’ring, death, and merit  Life eternal, I inherit

                Thousand, thousands thanks are due, Dearest Jesus, unto you.

P: No one has ever seen God.

C: The only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made God known.

P: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

C: We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

P: Therefore we must pay close attention to what we have heard.

C: It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him.

P: while God himself also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles

C: and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his own will.

P: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely,

C: And let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

P: looking unto Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith.
C: For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

                Lord, you suffered men to bruise you, That from pain I might be free;

                Falsely did your foes accuse you, -- thence I gain security:
                Comfortless your soul did languish Me to comfort in my anguish.

                Thousand, thousand thanks are due, Dearest Jesus, unto you.

P: “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

C: We are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.

P: When we cry “Abba, Father,” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.

C: and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.

P: “This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations.”

C: We are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.

P: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be my witnesses.”

C: We are witnesses to all that he did. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;

P: But God raised him up on the third day and made him manifest,

C: not to all the people, but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses.

                Christ, the faithful Witness, sharing   Living words from God above;

                Christ, yourself the Word declaring   All the wonders of God’s love:

                Let your Word, rich fruit now bearing  Be the seed of my declaring

                Grant, O Lord, that I may too, Faithful witness bear for you.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

P: Gracious Lord, you were pierced by a spear that pierced your side and sought to take your life; yet you loved and forgave those who thrust that spear into you. We are so grateful for your gracious forgiveness for our sins that put you on that cross and caused that spear to pierce your side. May we be renewed in our desire to follow your way of the cross in forgiving others and reaching out with love and healing.

C; Amen.

FIRST LESSON…………….  Isaiah 53:7-8

Isaiah 53:7-8 English Standard Version (ESV)

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?


PSALM

P: They shall look on him whom they have pierced.

C: Many enemies surround me like bulls; they are all around me, like fierce bulls from Bashan. They open their mouths like lions, roaring and tearing at me.

P: My strength is gone, gone like water spilled on the ground.

C: All my bones are out of joint; my heart is like melted wax. My throat is a dry as dust, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have left me for dead in the dust.

P: They shall look on him whom they have pierced.


SECOND LESSON…………… 1 Peter 4:7-11

1 Peter 4:7-11 English Standard Version (ESV)

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen


THEME HYMN   “Were You There?”

                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 crowned his head with thorns?...

                Were you there when they mocked the Son of God?...

                Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?...

                Were you there when they pierced him with the spear?...


THE GOSPEL  …………John 19:31-37

John 19:31-37 English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus' Side Is Pierced

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

 “SILENT WITNESSES”    Dialogue  “THE SPEAR”

I: (interviewer) Excuse me!  I wonder if you could give me just a few minutes of your time…(Don’t say it; I know what you’re thinking. I’ve talked to a thorn and a robe and a nail, and now I’m trying to interview a spear!  But you have to admit I got a lot more information from those others than you expected, didn’t I?) Sir, I know you are of position and stature, but please give us a few moments of your time. Please tell us about the events of that dark Friday as you witnessed the whole ordeal.

S: (spear) I don’t have to be here@  I hope you realize that fact! As an official representative of the government, still in active government service, I don’t have to testify if I don’t want to.

I: Yes sir. We understand that.

S: I just thought it would be better if I reminded everyone that I am still an official weapon of the government in power, and that mine is a position of responsibility and authority – in the right hands, that is.

I: Yes sir, we respect that fact.

S: I have fought fierce battles with enemies of superior numbers and force.  I have seen men die fighting for the honor of their country and their king.  I have even brought enemies to their knees – and to their graves – in honor of country and king. I have been held at attention when the governor passed by, and I have held off angry crowds at the gates of the palace.  I have pierced the flesh of would-be anarchists and terrorists, and I have saved the life of my rule on more than one occasion. I have been used by skilled soldiers and I have been used by cowards in uniform.  But no one is using me now. I am here because what I witnessed needs to be told, and it needs to be told accurately.

I: We respect your credentials, sir.

S: I have never been broken.  I was always kept polished and sharpened, and my handle was rubbed with the finest oils to keep it from cracking under the pressure of battle. Whenever I was nicked I was immediately honed to a razor-sharp edge again. If you take proper care of your head, it will take care of you, is what I always say.

I: Yes sir. Can we get on with your testimony.

S: I’m on guard duty now; I think it’s more of a semi-retirement than a duty. I’m assigned to “crucifixion crowd control.” I’m not always sure whether that means trying to keep the criminals from escaping, the crowd from killing the criminals before the government can, or if I’m supposed to protect the officials from the crowd and the criminals.  Perhaps it’s a bit of all of those.  Whatever I’m supposed to be doing, I do it the best I can.  That’s what being a military spear is all about.

I: Yes sir.  Now would you please tell us about that day.

S: I guess the best place to start is in the courtyard. That’s where I first came in contact with the accused.  He was on trial for heresy, and he was also being tried for treason.  They said he was a threat to the government because he called himself “king.” Actually, the way I heard it, everyone else – including those who were trying him – called him a king.  All HE said was that if that’s the way THEY saw it, so be it. He agreed with them, but he didn’t flaunt it. I really didn’t see him as much of a threat to any of us. Even at my age I could have handled any of his followers; they weren’t even armed! Well, he was found guilty, and I found that strange.

I: Strange?
S: There were no real charges against him. The witnesses kept telling differing stories and contradicting themselves and each other.  The judges passed him from one to another because none of them wanted this political hot potato.  And when they finally found him innocent, the mob took control of the process and frightened the judges into sentencing him to death. I have been witness to many trials and so I can testify: he got a raw deal! When the sentence was handed down, it was time to start the long walk up the hill again. I’ve been there a number of times. Usually a person only makes the trip once, if you get what I mean!

I: Yes, sir, please continue.

S: The trip up the hill was not uneventful.  It was confusing duty, as it often is. Some of the time I was used to hold back people in the crowd who cried and screamed that he was innocent. Some pushed toward him saying they just wanted to touch him to be healed of some illness. This was not your usual crucifixion crowd.

I: I see…

S: And yet…something made it clear that this was not the usual type of person on his way to be executed. A couple of times I was used to rap him on the back of the legs. He wasn’t in much shape to be carrying a cross.  He’d been through a lot of beatings and his head was still bleeding from the crown of humiliation they put on him.  Actually, it was a crown made of the meanest-looking thorns I’ve ever come across.  As we went along, he fell a few times. Each time he fell, I was used to prod him along. There was no effort to treat him with any respect. In fact,  I’ve never heard such  a variety of noises from a crowd. There was cursing and hateful yelling as he passed by, and then a step or two farther and you’d hear someone praying for him or telling him they loved him.

I: It sounds confusing.

S: If it sounds confusing, that’s because it was! We finally made it to the top of the hill. I assumed that I’d be at attention all the time, but I was in for a surprise. The guard carrying me – and a couple of the other guards – got into an argument over who would get to keep his clothes.  As you may know, soldiers are notorious souvenir hunters.  It isn’t like they were arguing over some fine king’s robe.  It was just a simple cloak. Well, I got tossed to the ground during the argument. They decided to roll the dice to see who would get the cloak (instead of cutting it into enough pieces for each one to have a memento). So, while they were shooting dice, I had to lie unflatteringly in the dirt beneath the cross. Throughout this whole ordeal I have not held my head as high as I used to, but this was most degrading. But then, so is being crucified, I would imagine.

I: Yes sir. Go on.

S: The morning sun was getting hotter and hotter as I lay still in the dirt.  At first I was directly in the sun’s rays and I could feel my staff drying out and my head getting hot enough to scorch anyone who would pick me up carelessly. As the sun shifted, I began to cool…as the shadow of the cross and the body on it passed over me. I was thankful for that relief from the heat of this totally humiliating scene. It seemed odd that I’d be thankful that an innocent man was hanging on a cross, but selfishly I was. Because he was hanging there, I was given relief; I was refreshed, and I was even able to forgive the thoughtless guard who tossed me aside.  It’s amazing how different I felt in the shadow of that cross.

I: Please tell us how it felt. What was it like?
S: As I lay there, I was looking straight up at the one hanging on the cross.  His head hung down, and I could see his agonized expression. He seemed like a person who was deeply “hurt.” I don’t mean hurt from the pain of the whippings, or the long walk, or the puncture wounds of the thorns, or the penetrating nails in his hands; I mean the kind of hurt when you’ve been…oh, what CAN I call it? BETRAYED! That’s it – betrayed. I know that feeling as I serve this crummy crucifixion duty, but that’s nothing to what he’s been through.

I: Oh?
S: I heard that one of his own cabinet members had betrayed him with a kiss, and that another had betrayed him by denying to even know him, and that others betrayed him by running away during all of this. He seemed to have the weight of all the betrayals in the world on his shoulders, and on his face.  But even with that agony clearly on his face, his words were words of love.

I: Love?
S: Now I’m not a judge of character, but if I were a human being and was treated like that, you’d not hear words of love coming from my mouth – things like “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”! Now, that’s something only a very special someone could say – and really mean – at a time like this! And do you know what? He meant what he said. He really, truly meant it! You could tell it in his voice and you could see it on his face.  When he spoke those words of forgiveness, the agony on his face turned to a smile of assurance as though he knew that his request was granted. He looked at peace then. He was no criminal! He was no threat to the government! What this world needed was more like him. Can you imagine what the world would be like if his kind of love could be found in more people?...My guard came and picked me up. I thought we were going to leave, but I heard the others mention that the bodies couldn’t be left on the crosses because of some religious days. So, it was decided to “help” the men die a little faster. The soldiers were instructed to break the criminals’ legs. They often used a heavy mallet to do that; if anything could crush their bones, it could. Well, they took care of the other two criminals as they were instructed, and then they noticed that the one called “king” had already died. So, instead of breaking his legs, it was decided to check and make sure he was dead. That’s where I came in. I was lifted toward him. My first thought was that I wanted to get another look at the face of this forgiving philanthropist. I wanted to be close to his gaze, and to his heart. But his gaze was gone. His eyes were closed in death. His heart had stopped beating. Yet it seemed as though his forgiveness was still there. At any rate, I did get closer to his heart than I had expected. You see, in order to make sure that he was dead, I was forced into his side with a thrust that felt as though all of mankind was pushing me in, not just one lone guard.

I: And what did you find there?
S: What I found there was a broken heart, a heart which once beat for love and seemed to have been beaten by hate. But I quickly found out that that was only partly true.

I: Partly?
S: Yes, his heart had beaten out of love; his whole being was love. But hatred had not beaten him. I know that for a fact. Let me tell you how I know. As I was pulled from that lifeless side, both blood and water flowed out with me.  As that blood poured over me, I had a feeling shoot from the tip of my pointed head to the foot of my staff.  I felt sharper than I had ever been. I felt polished to a flawless sheen. I felt as though my staff were alive as if rooted in healthy soil again. And then, as the water engulfed me, I knew that if I had been a person, I too would have been forgiven for my role in all of this.

I: Well, you certainly can’t blame yourself. After all, you’re only a…I mean, you were just an instrument in the hands of others. It certainly isn’t your fault.

S: I assume that you know that YOU had a very active role in all of this too.  It was the sins of everyone – and that includes you – that broke his heart and caused him to suffer and die.  That’s why he hung there…because someone had to, and he didn’t want it to be you. So he took your place.

I: Yes, sir; we are aware of that.

S: The most important part of what I witnessed was made clear a couple of days later…but that’s another story. In the meantime, though, we all can share the assurance that the blood and water which flowed from the wound I caused --- the wound YOU caused – flowed forth with the power to cleanse, to purify, to restore, and to renew! Isn’t it interesting that a painful wound was used by God to allow his love and forgiveness to flow out for all the world? Do you get the point?

SONG ………… “How Deep The Father’s Love For us”

                How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure

                That He should give His only Son  to make a wretch His treasure.

                How great the pain of searing loss. The Father turns His face away

                As wounds which mar the Chosen One  bring many sons to glory.


THE APOSTLES CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy Christian church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.


PRAYER

P: Lord Jesus Christ, we have betrayed You.

C: Called into Your service and commissioned by Your Spirit, we have proved unfaithful and often cowardly.

P: We plead the merits of Your faithful suffering and death.

C: the witness of the water and the blood.

P: your promise of forgiveness and renewal to all who truly trust and follow you.

C: Forgive our guilt, we pray.

P: And give us grace to hear Your Word, to take up our own crosses daily

C: And follow you.

P: Give us the strength to bear whatever hardships we endure

C: As those who follow you.

P: Give us the courage to condemn all evil and to defend the right and the good

C: as those who follow You.

P: Give us the love to reach out to the suffering and needy, in compassion,

C: As those who follow You.

P: Lord, make us faithful witnesses to this,

C: Your cleansing and renewing love.

P: Give to our nation and its leaders, and to all whose call is to serve and to defend, the wisdom to perform their duties in ways that are wise and good;

C; And keep them safe from harm.

P: All this we pray in Your good name, and as You, Lord, have taught us to pray:
C: Our Father…

BENEDICTION

P: The Lord bless us and keep us; the Lord make his face shine on us and be gracious to us; the Lord look upon us with his favor, and grant us peace.

C: Amen.

SONG………………….”Lamb of God”

                Your only Son, no sin to hide  But you have sent Him from your side

                To walk upon this guilty sod, And to become the Lamb of God.

                Chorus: O Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God, I love the Holy Lamb of God,

                O wash me in His precious blood, My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

DISMISSAL
P: Go in peace, and serve the Lord.

C: Thanks be to God.