I am grateful that I have served with three wonderful worship leaders over the twenty-seven years at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church before I retired–Dr. Milburn Price, Dr. Terre Johnson, and Rev. Marty Watts. Thanks to being in a church with these outstanding musicians, we were exposed to some of the great music of the Christian church. Terre Johnson asked me to compose a closing prayer following a presentation of the Requiem by John Rutter, a beautiful and somber remembrance of human sorrow. Before we can hope again, we must grieve honestly to reckon our loss, and the Rutter Requiem is one of the most beautiful I have heard.
As it is Good Friday, it seems appropriate to revisit this prayer. If you object to written prayers, I would simply say the act of writing in quiet is every bit as spontaneous and open to God as free-form prayers, which can become incredibly predictable over time. For me personally, Good Friday is a hard day. And so this prayer feels right for a Tennebrae service, a candlelight series of readings on Good Friday evening. As readings from the gospels are given, candles are extinguished one by one until we end in darkness and leave in reflection on the power of death and our need for the light.
I published this prayer as part of a book several years ago entitled Poems, Prayers and Unfinished Promises.. I hope, whether you share my faith or not, that this prayer might speak to you today.
We came here tonight to wait and to hope
That tombs and sorrow and death and loss
Are only prelude
To seek the Living shepherd,
Beyond our doubts, beyond our fears,
From death into life.
We wait faithfully
You might meet us in our gardens of sorrow as you met Mary,
We wait for unexpected visions in the midst of our tears.
And for you to come to us
As you came to them behind the locked doors of fear
To wait tonight is enough
For tomorrow we will walk to the tomb again
And discover the promise fulfilled yet once more
Tonight it is enough to shed out tears and grieve
For joy comes in the morning
And there is a purpose to the night that cannot
And should not be passed by
For when the morning comes
Its light is ever more brilliant
And our joy everlasting.
We wait as the people of faith. In Jesus’ name. Amen.