Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,


Here we are.  We are in Holy Week.  This is the most sacred week of our church year.  We don’t just celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, but also is suffering and death.  Our God is a God of love, but his is also a God of perfect justice.  Perfect justice is something we don’t get in our fallen world.  We get little glimpses of justice, but never perfect justice.  


This letter is a continuation of the previous two letters highlighting the special services of Holy Week.  This time we are examining the beauty of Good Friday.  This is the day perfect justice was carried out.  This is the day our accuser, the devil, is silenced.  This is the day death is undone by death.  This is the day our sin, our own most grievous sin, is paid for perfectly.  It is not paid for with our life, but with this life of the Lord of Life.  This is the day when Jesus, fully man and fully God, chooses to die.  He dies perfectly innocent having no sin of his own, but taking the sin of a fallen creation upon himself.  So how is this monumental event reflected in our service of Tenebrae, the service of darkness?


Good Friday continues the sacred Triduum, the three-day observance of Christ’s Passion.  It is not observed as a funeral for Christ.  It is a day of repentance over sin and restrained joy and praise for the redemption Christ accomplished for us on the cross.  The altar is bare of its usual adornments and in their place a black cloth and 7 candles are visible.  The service consists of the extinguishing of the candles and the dimming of the sanctuary lights.  This reflects the darkness that creation experienced when the Lord of life and light gives up his life for us.  


In our service we extinguish one candle after a reading of each of Jesus’ last seven words.  This is a compilation of readings across all 4 gospels.  A brief litany of response from the congregation is given and we use the song “O Lord Hear Our Prayer” as a refrain to reflect our participation in these events through our own sinful actions.  This helps us stay in this repentant posture through the service.  We are not mere observers of the passion but acknowledge our own sin and the confidence we have that indeed the Lord hears our prayers and grants us the fruits of his divine justice in the death of his son.  


Justice is completed on this night.  Perfect justice is completed on this night.  The sin of humanity is paid for.  Our sin is paid for.  Now we wait.  We spend Saturday in anticipation of the Service of the Resurrection on Sunday.  Very early on the first day of the week, Sunday, we gather to celebrate that death could not hold Jesus and that in the waters of our baptism, we receive the fullness of the resurrection as well.  


I love celebrating Holy Week with you all.  May our faith grow stronger and more bold as we gather to receive these blessed gifts Jesus has won for us. I encourage you to prioritize the time to join me in these special services: Maundy Thursday—March 28 at 6:30; Good Friday—March 29 at 6:30; Services of the Resurrection—Sunday March 31. Sunrise service at 7:15 and Divine Service at 10:30.  I look forward to sharing the Gospel with you in these special ways.  


In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust