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 5   “THE SHROUD”

[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 were so pure and stainless, Wrapped in true humility,

That your death makes dying painless, And brings life and joy to me.

Clothed in glory, fading never, I shall live with you forever.

              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: Loving Lord, you persevered to the end, and were laid in a tomb, covered by a shroud, and left for dead. As you went all the way to the grave for me, may your death assure me that my sins are covered for you, my forgiveness is sure, and I can look forward to the Resurrection you experienced, for the shroud and the grave could not hold you.

C: Amen.

FIRST LESSON…………….  Isaiah 53:9-11

And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;[a]
when his soul makes[b] an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[c] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities



PSALM…………….. from Psalm 22

P: The snares of death encompassed me, the horrors of the grave closed in on me.

C: I will tell my people what you have done; I will praise you in their assembly: ”Praise him, you servants of the Lord! Honor him,  you descendants of Jacob! Worship him, you people of Israel!  He does not neglect the poor or ignore their suffering; he does not turn away from them, but answers when they call for help.

P: The snares of death encompassed me, the horrors of the grave closed in on me.

C: In the full assembly I will praise you for what you have done; in the presence of those who worship you I will offer the sacrifices I promised.

P: The snares of death encompassed me, the horrors of the grave closed in on me.


SECOND LESSON…………… 1 Peter 3:8-15

Suffering for Righteousness' Sake

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,


Suffering for Righteousness' Sake
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

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?...

                  Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?...

THE GOSPEL  …………Mark 15:42-46a

Jesus Is Buried

42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died.[a] And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph[b] bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock.

 “SILENT WITNESSES”    Dialogue  “THE SHROUD”


I: (interviewer) Excuse me! As you have already heard, we are gathering information from witnesses to the crucifixion of the one called Jesus. We were told that you played a significant role in the events of those three days. So, if you would be so kind, we’d like to hear from you about what happened as you witnessed it.

S: (shroud) I know that you have already heard it from other silent witnesses. Perhaps you have even found their accounts fascinating. It seems to me that some of them would be hard to believe. I guess I would have difficulty accepting them as accurate, too, except for the fact that I too participated in that historic event. If I hadn’t been so close to the events myself…well, maybe I had better just tell you what happened.

I: Perhaps you could begin, as the other witnesses did, by telling us a little bit about yourself.

S: I think you ought to know that I cam from a very humble beginning. After being scattered along with many other flax seeds, I grew to be a slender, straight flax plant with beautiful blue flowers, if I do say so myself. It’s difficult to match the natural beauty of the flowers of the earth, even the flowers of plants which seem to many to be weeds. It’s amazing, too, what changes can take place that make the common precious, the average valuable, and the simple elaborate. That’s what happened to me.

I: Even though you started as a weed.

S: Yes, I did start as a simple weed in the fields, but I was selected -- along with many,  many others, to be sure – to be carefully prepared for a special purpose. You see, with the proper care and preparation, what seems to be no more than a somewhat pretty weed in the fields can be turned into a gift fit for a queen. I had wondered as I grew if I would become more than I was. How excited I was when I was “picked” (literally!) to be woven into linen. That’s what they do with some flax, you know: they make it into linen.

I: Linen. That is most impressive!

S: It may surprise you to know that linen is often as fine and smooth as silk, and it can have a beautiful shine and amazing strength. That comes about by all of us individual plants of the field being properly prepared and working together. There is a spinning and a weaving that takes place, and the plants become threads and the threads become the beautiful, strong piece of linen.

I: Is there a lesson in all of that?
S: Someone has commented that people could take a lesson from us. It has been said that some people are simply happy to grow tall and let their blossoms bloom for all to see. The sad part is that they are unwilling to allow themselves to be gathered with others in order to become more beautiful, more useful, and stronger. For some it is difficult to give of themselves in that way, but oh, what a fantastic difference when the spinning and weaving are finished! But becoming a piece of linen is only one part of the miraculous change and use made of former flax plants. Once the change has taken place through the skilled hands of spinners and weavers, there are any number of ways we can be used.

I: Used?

S: Many pieces of linen are used to adorn the tables in palaces during the grand banquets which are commonplace among those with much money and in positions of authority. Some of us linen is used to hang and display our beauty for all to see.  Some pieces of linen are used to make clothes to cover the bodies of those who can afford us. (You see, linen is not only very nice and pleasant to the eyes, but linen is cool as well. In this area of the world, cool is in demand!) So, as you can see, it is one thing to be transformed from flax into linen, but then there is the anticipation of how one will be finally used. Personally, I had hoped to be a fine garment wrapped around the body of a king, or a prince, or queen. Then again, I guess I’ve always had high expectations, considering that I began as a simple plant of the field.

I: I appreciated your beginnings and certainly agree that expectations don’t always agree with reality, but please, get on with your testimony.

S: Apparently my hopes were too high; I found that out when my use was finally made clear. It as a blow to my ego, if linen can have an ego. Maybe I had better just tell you what happened.

I: I wish you would!

S: A man named Joseph – I believe he was from Arimathea – came in, asking for a piece of linen. At first glance I was excited. I knew it was my turn to be sold for use since I was now on top of the stack. Well, this man Joseph was very well dressed. I assumed he was a person of high position. I found out that he was a member of the Council; that means he was a leader among the church officials. Knowing that, my mind raced with thoughts of adorning a fine table, or hanging to be appreciated by those who gazed at my silken sheen and beautiful weave. I could picture myself draped over the noble body of this man, or his wife. I knew I was about to become famous! I was right…in a way. I was wrong, too.

I: I don’t understand.

S: This man, Joseph, told the shop keeper that he needed a piece of linen to be usd as a burial shroud. Can you imagine the cold, drafty,damp feelings that shot through my fibers at that moment? Here I had seen myself as an important part of nobility or royalty, only to find out that I was to be wrapped around a corpse and buried away in a dark, damp tomb, never to be seen or appreciated again.

I: How humiliating!

S: How utterly degrading! I wished that I had been left in the field to die and go to seed. At least then I would have served a purpose and would have left my mark on the face of the earth. But, to be stuck away in a hole!

I: It’s enough to unravel even the finest linen.

S: I was sold and taken from the shop by the man named Joseph. Shortly, we met up with a man named Nicodemus, another member of the Council. He and Joseph seemed a bit ill at ease. I found out later that what they were about to do could get them into a lot of trouble with the other members of this Council.

I: More humiliation.

S: Anyway, Nicodemus had bought about a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes. It was the custom to wrap a body in linen and place spices and aloes between the wrapped layers. This was supposed to preserve the body somewhat. I’m sure that people will come up with some better means of doing this as the years pass. However, it was certain now that I was to be wrapped around a body, and stuffed with all these spices. (What if I’m allergic to them? No one bothered to think about that!) I finally accepted that my hopes were gone, my usefulness a sham, and my purpose…you call this a purpose? Not me! Then, things got even worse.

I: Worse?
S: That’s right: things got worse!  I was set down on the ground so the two men could get the body I was to be wrapped around. And here’s where it got worse. The body was hanging on a cross! I was to wrap the corpse of a criminal who had been crucified! Why didn’t they just toss him into the pit over there, or let him be prey to th birds the way they did with others who had been crucified? After all, criminals weren’t entitled to a burial! Why was this man special? He didn’t look special; he just looked dead. Well, they got him down and began to wrap me around him. I had to be used in strips; that’s the Jewish custom for burial – strips of linen with layers of myrrh and aloes between.

I: This sounds quite different from the other accounts we have heard. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I’m certainly not doubting what you say. It’s just that what happened to you was very different. Please go on.

S: Remember, please, how I told you that my beginning was unique, in that I had come from being a simple plant into being fine linen.

I: Yes.

S: I also told you that I had high hopes of possibly serving a use for nobility, or even wrapping around a king to dress him in finery to keep him cool.

I: You did.

S: And I also told you that I had given up all hope of any of that happening. I said that, didn’t I?
I: Yes, you did.

S: Well, I don’t know how to get you to understand, but I’m just going to tell you how it was, and you can wrestle with the confusion. That’s what I’ve had to do.

I: O.K.

S: Here’s what happened: when the body of the crucified man first touched me, there was a sensation that passed through all of my strands and bridged the gaps in my weave. It was as though I was being fused into one solid mass, a  mass with strength, beyond the strength of common (or even fine) linen, a mass with a sheen beyond that of the finest silk, a softness to surpass the flesh of an infant. Now, one would expect a different kind of feeling from touching a body, don’t you think?
I: I would.

S: It was clear that this couldn’t be the body of the average criminal who was crucified. This was someone with special powers, or purpose. There was no doubt that the man was dead, yet there was this sensation which made me feel alive and stronger, while he lay dead and weak as I was carefully wrapped around him. Are you still with me?
I: I think so.

S: If you’re finding this hard to understand, imagine how I felt! All of a sudden I felt that being able to touch this man and serve as his shroud was far more important than any other use I could have ever imagined.  I knew that I had been set apart from the time I was shooting up as a sprout in the field.  I was not just one of the flax of the earth; I was a small part of a great plan to accomplish something magnificent. I never imagined, in my wildest dreams, that something as simple as I could be put to such an important use! But I knew that it was true. I didn’t understand it, but I knew it. I could feel it through every fiber of my being.  Finally I was completely bound around the body. I pressed tightly against his lifeless flesh. There was no movement, no breathing, no trace of a heart beating. He was indeed without life. How shameful!

I: Shameful?

S: I had not idea who this man had been, but if in death he had the power to change and affect me as he did, can you imagine what he could have or must have done for human beings when he was alive?
I: If only he could have lived longer and changed more people!

S: It is probably not my place to second-guess the God who created this power-filled man and even created me as simple flax. How thankful I am, though, that God saw fit to allow me, as  a humble piece of linen, to come in contact with such a great, life-changing person as this crucified one. Even though I was confused about all of these events, there was a sense of confidence and security as I was allowed to hold his precious body resting in death. Even though I knew he was truly dead, there was a feeling that it wasn’t over yet, a feeling that there was more to happen, and excitement which replaced the usual depression at a time like this.

I: How do you mean?

S: I no longer felt myself to be a useless rag, wrapping a corpse; rather, I felt as though I was being used for a very special purpose, one that I might never understand. But I was content to accept that and be thankful for it.

I: Oh, how unbelievable that feeling must have been – to be so close to the crucified one!

S: We were moved into a new grave – the crucified one and I, that is – and laid to rest. We were sealed tightly inside by a huge stone. Darkness, quiet, and emptiness surrounded us. We lay motionless for a couple of days, I guess, and then..I don’t know if I should even say it.

I: Say it, please!

S: We were lying as still as death itself…and I felt a movement. I figured that it must be another earthquake; what else could be moving in a grave? The movement was slight. It was a tugging, a straining against me. It was as though the body I held was trying to expand, as it would if breath were to re-enter it. It was a rhythmic movement, as though the silenced heart were pumping once again, pumping life back into the limp body. Yes, that was it --- it was the movement of life! I had no sooner realized what it was when I found myself alone on the slab.

I: Alone?
S: I was in place; I was still wound, I was still filled with spices; but I did not surround a body any more. Something beyond imagination had occurred, something I cannot explain. I can only tell you as an eyewitness: it happened! And I, a simple flax plant transformed into linen, had been transformed into a shroud of life! I didn’t give life to the crucified one, mind you, but I was allowed to serve him by holding him only as long as he chose to be held. He was never really bound. And now, so I hear, neither are you!  He is free from that which held him. And so are you! I used to think death was the end. Obviously, it’s only the beginning.

I: Obviously!

SONG………….”How Deep The Father’s Love For Us”

                Behold the man upon the cross, my sin upon his shoulders.

                Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice Call out among the scoffers.

                It was my sin that held Him there Until is was accomplished;

                His dying breath has brought me life.

                I know that it is finished.


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, by your redeeming love

C: we have been called into your kingdom, gathered as a holy people, enlightened by the Word of your Gospel, sanctified to serve you in our various callings, and kept in your strong care.

P: though we are dust, you shared our life and died for us the death that sets us free.

C: Now cover us with the bright shining garment of your forgiveness.

P: Remove from us all discontent, and make us willing witnesses to this, your cleansing and renewing love.

C: Knit us together, Lord, we pray, and scatter us, according to your calling and the gifts which you provide, to demonstrate by word and deed the mercies which transformed us so.

P:And when the day of resurrection comes—your final calling, gathering, enlightening, sanctifying day—

C: unite us then, we pray by your forgiving grace, with those whom you have clothed in light that never fades.

P: All this we ask in your redeeming name, and as you, Lord, have taught us, we pray:
C: Our Father, who is in heaven, holy be your name. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, now and forever, amen.



BENEDICTION

P: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all,

C: Amen.


SONG…………………………”Lamb of God”

                Your gift of love they crucified, They laughed and scorned him as he died,

                The humble king they named a fraud And sacrificed 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.