As the person planning and leading worship, it's often hard to be a worshiper in said services. I'm so often thinking of what comes next, of worrying if everything is going off without a hitch, of making sure everything happens as planned--or at least in a somewhat smooth manner. Sometimes something really rattles me--like a kid throwing up during the children's sermon on Easter, that kind of thing. But sometimes, sometimes, I really get to worship.
I've had two experiences recently--two times I really, really needed it. One was during our Midweek Lenten services. After a rough week early in Lent with my babies, with hubby we decided it was best if they just didn't come. It wasn't worth the headache for us all to deal with them. They are in church ALL the time--a few Wednesdays away wouldn't hurt. And it was so nice to sing the hymns which were some of my favorite and just let them wash over me.
But even that was nothing like Good Friday. I had planned the service using my denominational worship book for the beginning of the service including a reading from Isaiah and used Erica Schemper's Service of Shadows and Stones for the outline of the rest. (It didn't hurt that "What Wondrous Love is This" is one of my many favorite hymns.)
I had bulletins marked up for the pianist and the ushers for how to gradually dim the lights throughout the service. We had a huge cross draped in black with a crown of thorns centrally located with a light behind it. I had that light on a remote switch that I could turn and off. I thought it would be cool to have it completely dark and then just turn that light on remotely as the cue for the soloist to sing her verse. The lay reader had volunteered--folks just do that here, I didn't specifically invite someone for this service. It happened to be the soloist, a trained opera singer--a performer, and a person of deep faith.
It did turn out so amazingly well. People even listened to the instructions to leave in silence! They aren't known for silence here (and that is an understatement!). On Easter morning, one person told me that it was a really meaningful service and that his 8th grade son left and said, "That was really cool." That's a pretty high compliment from a 14 year old boy!!
But that's not what was so good for me. In the span of 45 minutes, I got to have my worship experience of Holy Week and even Easter. By Good Friday, I was emotionally ready for Easter. I was tired of living in Lent, of thinking of death. I was ready for life. But at the same time, I needed Good Friday and the story of Jesus.
So as I sat in the front row, the reader read from Isaiah and I heard the story of Jesus. I heard the crucifixion; I heard the depths of Jesus' suffering, the depths of God's love. Because of the reader's delivery, it was like I was hearing this all again for the first time. God was speaking through these words. It was the promise of love wrapped in the pain of Good Friday. I forgot that I was leading worship; I was lost in worship.
I was able to lead the rest of the service. I read the final passage, said the final prayer, turned out the light behind the cross and took my seat in the front row. I prayed in the dark and silence (and kept track of time a little bit) and pressed my remote to turn the light on. And let the beautiful voice and beautiful words and wondrous love--in haunting form--wash over me.
And in order to help folks leave in silence, I departed to my office. I waited until everyone was out and planned to sit in the sanctuary just a few moments alone before turning off all the lights and locking the building. So I wouldn't have to go back to my office I grabbed my keys and cell phone (all I had with me) and turned lights off as I went. Sitting in the sanctuary not ten minutes after the service, I got a text. "Great service!!" I smiled--and saw the cross in a new light. New life--love, Easter.
It was a good Good Friday!