A Service of Readings, Reflection and Prayers for Holy Saturday                                                                            

The Gathering

You are worthy, O Lamb, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom of priests serving our God.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom of priests to stand and serve before our God;

To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour, glory and might, for ever and ever. Amen.

A reading from Matthew chapter 27

The Burial of Jesus

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.



So that’s it. It’s all over. The Jewish religious authorities have got their way, the Roman Governor Pilate eventually agreed to Jesus’s crucifixion. The Son of God has died, nailed to a rough wooden cross, at Golgotha.

In John’s gospel we are told that late on the afternoon of Jesus’s crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea gained Pilate’s permission to remove Jesus’s body for burial. Joseph and Nicodemus, place his body in a new empty tomb nearby. Here, in accordance with Jewish custom, they bound Jesus’s body in linen cloths with a mixture of spices, brought by Nicodemus. The tomb is sealed with a large stone and they leave before the Sabbath begins.

After all the noise and turmoil of the day, stillness and quiet descend on Jerusalem at sunset. The Jews are observing the Sabbath, their streets are deserted.

What of the participants in the events leading to Jesus’s death on a cross?  The crowds who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, a few days earlier, only to turn on him demanding his death? The religious leaders who had achieved their aim of silencing Jesus? Had they dismissed it from their minds? Job done?

What about the disciples, - what were they thinking and feeling? Those who deserted Jesus, Peter who denied his Master three times, the disciples and women who stayed and witnessed Jesus’s slow, cruel death on the cross. The disciples’ world had fallen apart in the space of the few days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Was it all a failure, all for nothing, what of their shattered dreams, their fear, their anger?  Such a whirling mess of questions, thoughts and emotions. The rhythm of their three years of living with and following Jesus, the man they loved and believed in – all they knew,was gone.

I wonder how many of the disciples remembered what Jesus had told them. “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day” Were some of them waiting patiently for the third day?

We shall never know, but they waited until very early on the morning of that third day. Each gospel tells the story slightly differently – the disciples, women discovered the empty tomb and the risen Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene……. His words were true. The Son of God had indeed risen from the dead…. We wait until tomorrow for our celebrations.

The up-ending of the Disciples’ world seems to have added significance for us this year. Over the past weeks, we have watched the Corona virus pandemic slowly unfolding in front of our disbelieving eyes. Who could have imagined that a microscopic virus originating thousands of miles away would spread across the globe? That it would turn our normal everyday lives upside down? We’re in an open-ended period of deep uncertainty of a kind we, in this country haven’t experienced before, with few exceptions physically separated from family and friends. We are in lock-down, where social distancing and obeying the regulations is essential to save lives, to flatten the number of new infections. Key workers of all kinds keep food supplies going, working in essential retail and manufacturing, caring for the sick and dying, maintaining order, to keep all of us safe – at considerable risk to themselves.

 The situation couldn’t be clearer - we all depend on each other. 


A reading from the prophecies of  1 Peter chapter 4

Good Stewards of God’s Grace

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,[a] arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life[b] no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme.[c] But they will have to give an account to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had  been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.

Prayer for Humility

O Father, give us the humility which realises it ignorance, admits its mistakes, recognises its need, welcomes advice, accepts rebuke.

Help us always to praise rather than to criticise, to sympathise rather than to condemn,to encourage rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy, and to think of people at their best rather than at their worst.

This we ask for thy name’s sake. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

With Christians north and south, east and west, Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic, as our saviour taught us so we pray.

Please join me in praying the Lord’s Prayer in its traditional form.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.

May Christ, who bore our sins on the cross, set us free to serve him with joy. Amen.

Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.

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