When We Feel Forsaken - Psalm 22
A service plan for Good Friday which takes its spirit from Psalm 22 and the cry of forsakenness that was repeated by Christ on the cross. Part of a Lenten series on the Psalms.
Also in this Series
Psalms for a Lenten Journey
This series of worship services for Lent is built around a sampling of the Psalms.
Theme of the Service
This service takes its spirit from the 22nd Psalm and the cry of forsakenness that was repeated by Christ on the cross. The Psalmist experienced such forsakenness in the drama of his living. Christ experienced this forsakenness as the substitute sinner on the cross. The unbearable pain and the eternal hope of this event on the cross form the spirit of this service.
Although some churches observe Christ's passion and death through worship services on both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, many have services on only one of these days. In either case an observance of the Lord's Supper is highly valuable. If your congregation has services on both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the customary practice is to celebrate communion on Maundy Thursday and not Good Friday.
We are grateful for the collaborative efforts of Professor Carl J. Bosma, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary, who is providing helpful information on each of the Psalms during this season. You will find the information he has provided at the end of the worship service.
* * * * *
WE GATHER AT THE CROSS
Prelude: "O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High" [see
“Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended”
The Call to Worship [see
A Reading of Matthew 27:32-36
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
*Song of Adoration: "Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended" PH 93, PsH 386, RL 285, RN 183, TH 248, TWC 231, UMH 289
*God's Greeting and Congregational Amen!
*Song of Faith: "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" PH 98, PsH 383, RL 300, RN 235, TH 247, TWC 221, UMH 286
The Offering of Music: “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” [see
We Offer our Gifts for….
GOD SPEAKS FROM HIS WORD
The Prayer for Illumination
The Reading of Psalm 22 [see
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
Sermon: "When We Feel Forsaken"
[Psalms for a Lenten Journey 8]
The Prayer of Application
WE STAND AT THE CROSS TO WATCH AND LISTEN [see
*Song: "Beneath the Cross of Jesus" PH 92:1-2, RL 310:1-3, RL 311:1-3, TH 251:1-3, TWC 216:1-3, UMH 297:1-3
The Reading of Mark 14:32-42
Response: "Go To Dark Gethsemane" PH 97, PsH 381, TWC 225, UMH 290
The Reading of Matthew 26:69-75
Response: "Lord, Have Mercy upon Us" PH 565, 572-574, PsH 258, RL 564-567, RN 86, SNC 52, SFL 43, TWC 821, 823, WOV 601, 602, 604
The Reading of Matthew 27:27-31
Response: "Christ, the Life of All the Living" PsH 371
The Reading of Mark 15:25-32
Response: "O Christ, the Lamb of God" PsH 257
The Reading of Mark 15:33-37
Response: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” PH 100/101, PsH 384, RN 292/293, SFL 166, TH 252, TWC 213, UMH 298
WE GATHER AT HIS TABLE AND SHARE IN HIS DEATH
The Welcome and Invitation to the Lord's Table
The Institution of the Lord's Supper: Matthew 26:17-30
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
The Prayer of Consecration
Our Participation in the Bread
Song of Faith: "Were You There” PH 102:1, 2, 4, PsH 377:1-3, TH 260:1, 2, 4, TWC 218:1-3
Our Participation in the Cup
Bell Anthem: “The Strife Is O'er,” Zabel [see
or Anthem: “My Jesus, I Love Thee,” Sjolund
The Prayer of Thanksgiving
WE LEAVE WITH PEACE AND THANKS
*Acclamation of Praise: Revelation 5:11-14 [see
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!
*Song of Praise: "What Wondrous Love" PH 85:1-3, PsH 379:1, 3, 4, RN 277:1, 3, 4, SFL 169:1, 3, 4, TH 261:1-3, TWC 212:1, 3, 4, UMH 292:1, 3, 4
Postlude: "Aria,” Peeters [see
* You are invited to stand.
Please leave in quiet reflection at the conclusion of this service,
reflect deeply on the sacrifice of Christ tomorrow,
and return for joyful celebrations on Easter Sunday.
Psalm 22 is an excellent choice for a sermon on Good Friday because, according to Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, Jesus, “the man of sorrows” (Is 53:3), voiced the haunting opening words of this magnificent psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” in his dying moment on the cross of Golgotha. By invoking the first line of this psalm Matthew and Mark probably intended to call up the whole psalm. This is evident from the fact that, in addition to these opening words, they also quoted or alluded to other parts of Psalm 22 in their dramatic interpretation of the circumstances surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus.
The pervasive use of Psalm 22 in the Gospel writers' account of Jesus' passion suggests that this psalm provided them with the chief hermeneutical key for interpreting the message of Jesus' passion and death. For them, Psalm 22 was, as it were, Christ's Friday voice.
The Gospel writers choose a superb psalm of lament for their interpretation of Jesus' passion because it embraces the brutal reality of human suffering. This most powerful of lament psalms journeys from the extremes of the deepest pain of human suffering (vv. 1-21) to the highest joy of the universal recognition of God's kingdom (vv. 22-31).
I. The Compositional Unity
The sudden transition from hurt in verses 1-21 to joy in verses 22-31 has prompted Old Testament scholars to question the compositional unity of Psalm 22. Already in the nineteenth century, some Old Testament exegetes considered verses 22-31 to be a secondary addition and treated Psalm 22 as two independent psalms.
II. The Compositional Structure
Structurally, Psalm 22 has, according to James L. Mays, a “finely-wrought compositional design.”
III. Literary Genre
Psalm 22 is a psalm of lament by an innocent individual par excellence. As such, it shares the basic elements of this type of psalm: invocation of the divine name; complaints against God and against the enemy; description of distress; expression of trust; and vow to give anticipatory thanksgiving and praise. Moreover, it also has the three participants that, according to Claus Westermann,
In reading a lament psalm like Psalm 22 it is very important to observe its movement. According to Claus Westermann, psalms of lament move almost invariably from pain to (anticipatory) praise.
In the case of Psalm 22, for example, its dramatic movement from pain (vv. 1-21) to anticipated praise (vv. 22-31) is one of its most obvious and unique features. The first subsection of Psalm 22, verses 1-11 is characterized by poignant alternation. It moves from complaint (vv. 1-2) to an expression of confidence (vv. 3-5), back to complaint (vv. 6-8) and trust (vv. 9-10). This first part reaches its climax in a short but passionate petition (vs. 11). This petition opens a third and more extensive, pathos filled complaint (vv. 12-18), which descends to the deepest depths of utter despair. This extensive complaint prepares for and reaches its climax in the passionate pleas of verses 19-21. In a daring final move, the one-word conviction that the Lord will answer his anguished cries (vs. 21) prompts the afflicted one to promise extravagant thanksgiving and praise in verses 22-31. Overall, therefore, in reciting Psalm 22 the reader descends via three progressively more intense complaints to the deepest depths of despair and ascends to the heights of praise. This move is similar to the dying and rising with Christ motif in the Pauline epistles and is important for preaching, as well as pastoral care.
Three other rather unique features of this dramatic and very moving lament psalm should be noted. First, like many psalms of lament, Psalm 22 does not contain a confession of sin. In sharp contrast, Psalm 69, another psalm used in connection with the circumstances of Christ's crucifixion (Ps 69:9; Mk 15:32), contains a confession of personal guilt (vs. 5). Because Psalm 22 lacks a confession of sin, it is, like Psalm 17, its counterpart,
A. A Daring Opening Complaint against God (vv. 1-2)
Psalm 22 begins with an insistent double invocation, “My God, my God.” This opening doubled invocation in verse 1 is unique in Scripture. In Psalm 22 this gripping double invocation has a fourfold function. First, as the significant pronoun my indicates, it serves as a persistent appeal to the personal relationship that exists between the speaker and God, the two-fold basis which is explained in verses 3-5 and 9-11. It is, therefore, a mini-statement of faith. Second, it is an audacious act of faith that stands in strong tension with the despairing complaints that follow in verses 1-2. In this opening position, therefore, it serves as an important clue to the intensity of the subsequent cries in verses 1-2.
The shrilling invocation, “My God, my God,” is followed immediately by three powerful complaints against God. This triple set of “God” complaints is introduced by the interrogative “why?” In laments this interrogative serves as a formal juridical protest,
The second and third complaints specify the nature of divine abandonment. In geographical terms the second complaint gives vent to the suppliant's protest that God's salvific power is distant from him: “(why) are you so far from saving me?” (cf. Is 59:11). The third complaint voices the anomaly of God's remotenessfrom his angry lion-like roaring (cf. vs. 12).
Despite his frustration with God's inexplicable indifference to his roaring cry for help, however, the petitioner does not renounce God (Job 2:9) in verse 2. Instead, he invokes once more the divine name, “My God,” which again encapsulates the covenant relationship and constitutes the sole reason why God should act on the suppliant's behalf. Like the psalmist in Psalm 88:1, the speaker of Psalm 22 also reminds God of the perturbing fact that he is crying out day and night. But God doesn't answer! Nevertheless, adamantly he refuses to be silent (cf. Jer 14:17; Lam 3:49) and proceeds to lay out his case with a unique affirmation of trust in verses 3-5.
B. A Unique Affirmation of Trust (vv. 3-5)
The suppliant's affirmation of trust begins with the emphatic phrase “but you” in verse 3, an emphasis that is continued by the emphatic in you, to you, and in you in verses 4-5. It is immediately evident that trust is the central concern of these verses from the striking triple repetition of the verb “trusted” in verses 4-5. In fact, together with the verb “cried out,” this triple repetition forms the following significant thematic sequence, trusted/trusted/cried out/trusted, which indicates that a lament is not an expression of doubt.
Compositionally, the petitioner's expression of confidence serves a twofold purpose. On the one hand, it stands in ironic contrast to verses 1-2 and, consequently, underscores the anomaly of God's silence. On the other hand, however, this distinctive conjoining of complaint and trust also serves as an important argument to motivate God to answer his covenant partner's plaintive plea for deliverance. By means of this expression of confidence God's covenant partner is, as it were, elbowing God to act as God and answer him.
The petitioner's expression of confidence begins with a unique word of praise: “But you, you (are) holy (cf. Hab 1:12), enthroned on the praises of Israel ” (vs. 3). This emphatic opening picture of the Holy One enthroned on the praises of Israel in verse 3 stands in ironic contrast with verses 1-2, where the petitioner cries in vain for help.
Significantly, Isaiah 5:16 shows that God demonstrates his holiness in righteousness. Similarly, Psalm 99:3-4 shows that God's holiness is intimately related to the fact that God is the Great King, who out of his love for righteousness establishes justice and listens to the prayers of those who call on his name (vs. 6). Consequently, the suppliant's appeal to God's holiness constitutes another significant ground for his appeal.
The connection between God's holiness and his saving answer to prayer is evident, first of all, from the ensuing phrase “enthroned on the praises of Israel ” in verse 3. Because God hears Israel's prayer and delivers her, Israel, in turn, praises God. It is also obvious from the suppliant's resolute recollection of God's earlier saving deeds for his ancestors in verses 4-5. They trusted the Lord and cried out to him, and he delivered them. Because the Lord delivered them, they were not put to shame.
This recollection of God's deeds articulates the basic principle that, if one trusts in God and cries out to him in distress, then God will deliver him. Such, however, was not the experience of the suppliant. As the next section (vv. 6-8) shows, he was ridiculed because he trusted in the Lord to deliver him. But the Lord did not attend to his cry and deliver him. As a result, he was put to shame.
C. A Tragic Reversal (vv. 6-8)
The concluding word of verse 5, “shame,” forms an appropriate transition to the next section (vv. 6-8), in which the speaker returns to register his complaints as another argument why God should act on behalf of his covenant partner. This new section begins with an “I” complaint in verse 6 that is introduced by the emphatic adversative phrase “but I,” which established a striking contrast between verses 3-5 and 6-8.
In verse 6 the suppliant complains that, unlike his ancestors, he was “a worm” (cf. Ex 16:20). Human beings ('adam) were the pinnacle of creation, but the psalmist lowers himself to a level much lower than human beings (Job 25:6). This rather unusual metaphor expresses self-debasement and rejection.
The suppliant's extreme form of self-debasement explains the reason for the scorn that he received from his contemporaries. According to the “they” complaint in verses 7-8, they ridiculed his trust in God. To add punch to his complaint, the speaker quotes the sarcastic words that his detractors spoke, shaking their heads in unbelief
“Commit (lit. roll)
Let the Lord deliver him;
let him rescue him,
+because He delights in him.”
Three features of this derisive taunt require further explanation. First, the taunt suggests God's inability or disinterest in helping his faithful covenant partner.
D. Another Moving Confession of Trust (vv. 9-10)
The causal relationship between the climactic words of the taunt and the confession of trust in verses 9-10 is clearly established by the fact that it begins with an emphatic “Indeed (kî), You” phrase. In these verses the suppliant turns what his detractors had expressed in sarcasm into another important argument to substantiate his claim that God should deliver him (cf. vs. 11).
In a bold move the speaker “conjoins two related metaphorical schemas,” the midwife (vs. 9 a ) and the mother (vs. 9 b -10).
Next he traces his trust in God back to God with a maternal image (vv. 9 b -10 a):
“You kept me secure on my mother's breast.
On you I was cast
The visual juxtaposition of a baby sustained on its mother's breast and the suppliant “cast” on God “from…birth” is striking, to say the least. William P. Brown explains effectively the meaning of this visual parallel as follows:
Metonymically expressed by the imago mammae (cf. Gen 49:25), maternal love effectively
conveys the intimacy of God's caring presence, so palpably real in the psalmist's past but
jarringly absent in the present (Ps 22:1-21 a). The imagery only heightens the horrifying
The kindly reminders of verses 9-10 show, first of all, that “God is no casual acquaintance…”
Finally, the complainant concludes his confession of trust with the claim that since birth God has been his personal God (vs. 10 b). Significantly, this claim reaches its climax in the words “You are my God,” in which the phrase “my God” echoes the opening words of Psalm 22:1. Together, they frame verses 1-11.
E. An Urgent Plea for God's Presence (vs. 11)
The claim, “You are my God,” serves as a natural transition to the first petition in Psalm 22, “Be not far from me,” which echoes the complaint of verse 1, “Why are you so far from saving me?” The dejected petitioner's urgent appeal is supported by two reasons: “Trouble is near, and there is no one to help (‘ozer; cf. vs. 19b).” Trouble is near and God, who should be as near as his helper, is far away.
This passionate plea addresses once more the problem of God's enigmatic remoteness (cf. vs. 1). Structurally, this desperate plea sets the stage for the description of distress of the deepest order that follows in verses 12-18. Moreover, it also forms an inclusio with the initial petition in verse 19, “do not be far from me,” so that it frames verses 12-18.
F. A Surrealistic Description of the Psalmist's Deep Distress (vv. 12-18)
Verses 12-18 unpack the complaint that trouble is near (vs. 11) and, at the same time, continue the suppliant's description of his agony (cf. vv. 6-8). Whereas verses 6-8 deal with the mockery that the speaker experienced, verses 12-18 portray in surrealistic terms the mortal threats that he suffered. These verses lay the groundwork for the plaintive pleas for deliverance in verses 19-21.
The rather lengthy complaint of verses 12-18 may be divided into three different parts. The first part (vv. 12-13) is a “they” complaint that describes the suppliant's opponents in metaphorical ravenous animal imagery.
The slightly more extensive second part (vv. 14-15) describes dramatically the awful impact of the tormentors' fierce threats on the beleaguered sufferer with a striking mix of similes and metaphors that “denote utter dissolution and desiccation.”
Strikingly, the rhetoric of grief and affliction of this section (vv. 14-15) concludes with an unexpected “God” complaint: “You ordained me to the dust of death!” The suppliant is near death (cf. Job 7:21), and, shockingly, in this mono-colon (a clause without a parallel) he places the blame at God's door. The root cause of his near death situation, therefore, is not the animal-like behavior of human beings. It is God! This direct and forceful accusation underscores once more the fact that God stands at the very center of the complainant's pain. With respect to this fact, Artur Weiser appropriately notes, “[t]he unresolved mystery lies in the very fact that the psalmist sees the same God, by whom he can expect to be saved, at work also in his suffering.”
Verse 16 introduces another “they” complaint against the tormentors. Verse 16 a picks up and completes the imagery of ravenous animals from verses 12-13. In this verse “dogs” (cf. Ps 59:6, 14) clearly refers to “a company of evildoers” that surrounds him (vs. 16 b).
I can count all my bones;
they look and gloat over me.
Verse 18 concludes this section with another inimical action that the gospel writers refer to in their account of Jesus' passion (Mt 27:35; Mk 15:24):
They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.
In all likelihood verses 16-18 describe a brutal attack by highway robbers or enemy soldiers.
G. Passionate Petitions for Deliverance (vv. 19-21)
The psalmist's gut-wrenching description of his encroaching death in verses 16-18 ignites a series of four passionate petitions in verses 19-21. Strikingly, they are introduced once more (a third time) by an emphatic adversative “but You.” Like the pressing appeal in verse 11, the first petition in verse 19 a also picks up the “far away” motif from verse 1 (cf. Ps 35:22). Significantly, this passionate appeal is addressed, for the first and only time in this psalm, directly to the Lord. This plaintive plea speaks passionately to the issue raised in the first complaint, namely, God's absence and, as we noted above, together with the desperate petition of verse 11, frames vv. 12-18.
The second petition in verse 19 b asks the Lord to hurry up with his help.
The double petitions in verses 20-21 a address the problem of the fierce attackers. Significantly, the first petition (vs. 20 a) repeats the verb “rescue” from the taunt of the mockers in verse 8. Moreover, the second petition echoes the word “salvation” from the lament in verse 1.
The first adversaries that are mentioned are humans (the sword) and then the carnivorous fierce wild animals from verses 12-13 and 16, which he recalls in reverse order: dogs, lions, wild oxen. In view of this inversion, it may be that the reference to the sword in verse 20 refers to verses 17-18.
The double petition of verses 20-21 a reaches an unusual conclusion in verse 21 b. Literally, this clause reads as follows: “from the horns of the wild oxen—you have answered me.” On the basis of the chiastic synonymous parallelism in verse 21 one would have expected the clause to read, “from the horns of the wild oxen rescue me” (cf. NIV). Strikingly, however, such is not the case. Instead, the Hebrew text reads literally, “you have answered me,” which A. F. Kirkpatrick rightly called “a singularly bold and forcible construction.”
The remarkable words “you have answered me”
As it stands, this puzzling verb can be interpreted either as a simple past, a perfect of certainty
Before we look at this impressive section of praise, however, it is important to recall that the petitions in verses 19-21 do not include appeals for juridical redress against his antagonists, as, for example, in Psalm 5:10, nor, for that matter, in connection with the description of distress in verses 12-18 (cf. Ps 69:22-28). Consequently, Psalm 22 was an appropriate fit for the Gospel writers' description of the circumstances of Jesus' passion.
H. An Exultant Crescendo of Anticipatory Praise (vv. 22-31)
1. An Exuberant Vow to Praise (vs. 22)
The amazing words “you have heard me” prompt the tongue-tied suppliant to open the floodgates of effusive praise in verses 22-31. This crescendo of praise begins with a resolution to praise the name of Lord in the congregation (vs. 23).
This resolution to praise is addressed to the Lord. On the assumption that the Hebrew verb ‘a nîtanî is a perfect of confidence (“you will surely answer”) that expresses the speaker's assurance of a divine hearing and in view of the predominance of YQTL verbs in verses 26-31, we interpret this resolution as a vow to praise, which, like the vow to praise in Psalm 35:18, comes right after an urgent petition and serves as another attempt to mobilize God to action.
2. Arresting Anticipatory Praise (vv. 23-24)
Surprisingly, this vow to praise is followed immediately by an imperative call to praise (vv. 23-24) that is addressed to the worshiping community (cf. 9:11-12; 30:4-5). These verses anticipate the words of the hymn that will accompany the supplicant's thanksgiving.
It is important to pay close attention to the reason for this anticipatory hymn in verse 24, which literally reads as follows:
For he has not despised,
he has not disdained the piety
he has not hidden his face from him.
He heard when he cried.
This important tricola expands on the words “you have heard me” in verse 21 b and constitutes the heart of the speaker's assurance. On the assumption that the QTL (=Perfect) verbs in this verse are also perfects of certainty,
3. Continuation of the Vow to Praise (vs. 25)
Verse 25 begins another vow to praise.
4. A Concluding Jussive Call for Universal Praise (vv. 26-31)
The change in verbal forms, change in subjects and shift in addressee from second person direct address to the Lord to third person address about God in verses 26-31 suggests that these verses function as a climactic jussive call to praise (cf. Ps 69:34-36). A unique feature of this extensive jussive call to praise is the widening concentric circle of praise. It begins with the poor in verse 26 and expands to an international company of persons (vs. 27), persons from every station of life (vs. 29) and future generations (vv. 30-31).
This impressive jussive call to praise serves as the psalmist's climactic motivation for the Lord. The implicit argument is that if God hears his petitions for help and delivers him, then he will boast about God's powerful intervention on his behalf and tell the good news that God hears the prayers of his loyal covenant partners. The ripple effect of this public testimony will be that “all the families of the nations” (Gen 12:3) will turn to the Lord and worship him because they will recognize that God reigns. Moreover, persons from every station in life and future generations will also worship him and recognize the Lord's kingly righteousness (cf. Ps 7:17; 35:28). They will recognize that the Lord is a righteous judge who takes up the cause of the powerless and oppressed. Consequently, they too can turn to him for protection and redress.
V. Reflections for Proclamation
Because Psalm 22 is the star Old Testament witness for interpreting the circumstances surrounding Jesus' crucifixion, it is peculiarly appropriate as the base text for a sermon on Good Friday. In fact, Psalm 22 is a paradigm for Lent because, as Samuel E. Balentine emphasizes, “it insists that lament is a persistent and necessary practice of faith in the journey with God.”
Nevertheless, to prepare a sermon on this singular lament psalm is a daunting challenge. For that reason we will begin our suggestions for preaching this extraordinary lament psalm with three important hermeneutical guidelines.
First, as in the case of Psalm 118, a sermon on Psalm 22 should resist the temptation of imposing the Gospel account of Jesus' passion and death onto this Old Testament text. Instead, Psalm 22 should function as the hermeneutical guide for interpreting the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross.
To explain the significance of this important hermeneutical assumption, we note that this guideline contradicts the claim by Jürgen Moltmann that one should not interpret the cry of Jesus in the sense of Psalm 22.
Second, because Matthew and Mark used not only the opening cry of Psalm 22 in their account of the crucifixion, but also other verses of this psalm, a sermon on Psalm 22 for Good Friday should be based on the psalm as a whole. The sermon should not be based solely on the opening cry, some selected verses, as is common in lectionaries, or only verses 1-21.
This hermeneutical principle has important implications, first of all, for Moltmann's divine abandonment thesis. Moltmann intentionally limits his background investigation of Jesus' loud cry in Mark 15:34 to Psalm 22:1. As William Stacy Johnson has argued convincingly, however, a reading of Jesus' appropriation of the opening cry of Psalm 22:1 from the perspective of Psalm 22 as a whole and as a lament renders Moltmann's God-abandonment thesis exegetically untenable.
With respect to the sufferer's public testimony in verse 24, however, it should be underscored that this witness does not cancel the reality of the opening complaint against God in verses 1-2 and verse 15. On the contrary, verses 1-2, 15 should be held in tension with verse 24 because a lament is not an exercise in “pious pole-vaulting.”
Moreover, the claim that a sermon on Psalm 22 for Good Friday should be based on this psalm as a whole also means that preachers should not limit their text to verses 1-21 or, more specifically, the complaint sections of this psalm (vv. 1-2, 6-8 and 13-18), as lectionaries suggest. To be sure, a sermon on Psalm 22 for Good Friday should probe, as Moltmann has correctly emphasized, the problem of God's inexplicable silence (Ps 22:1-2) and particularly the charge that God caused the sufferer's near-death in verse 15. But the aim of the sermon should not be to leave the listeners in the darkness of Good Friday. Instead, following the movement of the text from pain and petition to anticipatory praise, the sermon should also include comments on the closing anticipatory praise of verses 22-31 that lean perceptibly toward the blazing light of the impending victory of Easter. The resurrection is God's public vindication of his righteous servant.
Third, a sermon on Psalm 22 should explain to the listeners that this is a psalm of lament. Contemporary North American Christian liturgical practices emphasize praise at the expense of lament. Lament has been lost from “the pulpit, the pew and the public square” and that, as Walter Brueggemann rightly emphasizes, at a costly price.
Consequently, after the introduction, the sermon should then explain that a lament psalm is a lawsuit addressed to God, the Great King, in his capacity as “the ultimate Executor of justice among humans.”
Psalm 22 is, as Moltmann recognizes correctly, a legal plea.
To proceed to some suggestions for preaching a sermon on Psalm 22 for Good Friday, the fact that this psalm moves from vigorous protest and persistent pleas to anticipatory praise suggests, first of all, that the sermon should help the congregation understand this psalm by explaining each of the modes of speech used in this psalm for lodging a judicial appeal before God, the Great King. Such an approach would help particularly those who are suffering. It would help them understand that this type of bold God-talk belongs to normal dialogue with God. A reference to the fact that Jesus appropriates Psalm 22 in his moment of deepest suffering would lend support to this claim.
For this reason a sermon on Psalm 22 for Good Friday might well begin with the lion-like cry of verse 1 because it “is the primary point of entry into the psalm…”
Second, in view of the occasion, the fact that in Psalm 22 lament persists, globally speaking, through verses 1-21 suggests that a sermon on this psalm for Good Friday should raise the question of human suffering, especially the suffering of the righteous. Such a sermon could probe in separate points the charge of divine negligence and absence (vv. 1-2), the protest against public humiliation (vv. 6-8) and sub-human abuse (vv. 13-18), and the resultant personal disintegration of life (vv. 14-15). To give each of the sections focus, they could be introduced by the shrilling opening question, “My God, my God, why…?”
The aim of these probes into the interrelated causes of suffering in Psalm 22 should obviously not be to plunge the listeners into despair. To avoid this, a sermon on Psalm 22 should also underscore three important features.
First, the complaints in verses 1-10 are alternated with expressions of trust. This alternation of complaint and trust underscore the tension between the sufferer's complaint about God's absence and, at the same time, his trust in God's presence.
Second, the complaints in 1-10 and 13-18 reach their climax in petitions (vv. 11, 19-21). These petitions are expressions of resolute hope. Their underlying assumption is that God will hear and act accordingly.
Third, unlike Psalm 88, which also complains about God's silence, Psalm 22 does not end with lament. On the contrary, with the striking assurance of a divine audition in verse 21, it moves into anticipatory praise to complete the movement from pain and petition to anticipatory praise. It is important that verses 22-31 are anticipatory praise. This should correct the false impression that the transition from lament to praise in Psalm 22 is automatic and instantaneous. Such is not the case! Nevertheless, these verses are a bold expression of assurance. The sermon should underscore the universal scope of this praise. In light of Psalm 22:27-31, Jesus' passion, death and resurrection are “a summons to the world…to believe in the reign of the Lord.”
Finally, after explaining the motivating function of the suppliant's anticipatory praise, the sermon could return to Mark 15:33-39. The purpose of returning to this pericope would be to underscore the fact that Jesus' lion-like cry rent the temple curtain (vs. 38). Placed between verses 37 and 39, the report of this fact in verse 38 suggests that the tearing of the temple represents the Father's answer to the Son's lament.
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)
Suggestions for prelude can be taken from the following:
AGINCOURT HYMN/DEO GRACIAS [“O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High”]
Burkhardt, Michael. Partita on Deo Gracios. Morningstar MSM-10-844  (E-M)
Helman, Michael. Five for Autumn. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7671-8  (E-M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 9. Concordia 97-5556  (E-M)
Roberts, Myron J. Improvisation on the Agincourt Hymn. H. W. Grey GSTC 904  (D)
Swann, Frederick L. The Agincourt Hymn. Schirmer 44744 (POP)  (E-M)
Willan, Healy. Ten Hymn Preludes, set 2. Peters 6012  (M)
HERZLIEBSTER JESU [“Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended”]
Behnke, John A. Road to Calvary. Concordia 97-7072  (E)
Brahms, Johannes. Eleven Chorale Preludes (ed. West) Schirmer 2091 (M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 5. AMSI SP-102  (E-M)
Clarke, Andrew. Chorale Prelude on Ah, Holy Jesus. Morningstar MSM-10-310  (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. A Suite of Passion Hymn Settings. Concordia 97-4843  (E-M)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 1. SMP KK234  (E, adaptable for piano)
Leupold, A. W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press  (E-M)
Walcha, H. Chorale Preludes, bk. 1. Peters 4850 (E)
Young, Gordon. Hymn Preludes for the Church Service. Flammer 4188  (E-M)
Berns, Susan Ullom. Ah, Holy Jesus. Lorenz HB273-3  (3-4 octaves, E-M)
Alternative harmonizations for the opening hymn can be found in:
HERZLIEBSTER JESU [“Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended”]
Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 
Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 
Alternative harmonizations and offertory suggestions on “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” can be found in:
HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN/PASSION CHORALE/ACH HERR, MICH ARMEN SÜNDER [“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” ]
Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 
Bach, J. S. Music for a Celebration, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-579  (E-M)
Brahms, Johannes. Eleven Chorale Preludes. (ed. West) Schirmer 2091 (M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Five Lenten Hymn Improvisations. Morningstar MSM-10-309  (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Seasonal Interpretations Lent-Easter. Summa SP-112  (M)
Haan, Raymond H. Passacaglia on the Passion Chorale. SMP SM59  (M)
Johnson, David N. Easy Trios. Augsburg 11-9291  (E-M)
Leupold, Anton Wilhelm. Augsburg Organ Library – Lent. Augsburg 11-11036  (E-M)
Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599  (M-D)
Pachelbel, Johann. Selected Organ Works, vol. 4. Barenreiter 1016 (E-M)
Reger, Max. Selected Festival Music (Lent and Easter). Boston  (E-M)
Carter, John. The Wondrous Cross. Hope 1747  (E-M)
Gerig, Reginald. Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales. Hope 251  (M)
Wyrtzen, Don. Don Wyrtsen Piano. Hope 1711  (M)
Wagner, Douglas E. Prelude on Passion Chorale. SMP S-HB49  (3-4 octaves, M)
Alternative harmonizations for “Were You There” can be found in the following:
Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 3. Ludwig O-10 
Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Hassell, Michael. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 
The anthem suggestions include a bell anthem or a choral anthem. If you do not have choirs participating in this service, the congregation could sing these songs as well; however, I would lead the singing of “The Strife Is O'er" very meditatively. The bell anthem is quite somber and fits the emotion of a Good Friday service so well when paired with the completeness present in the Lord's Table.
VICTORY [“The Strife Is O'er”]
Zabel, Albert. The Strife Is O'er. Augsburg Fortress 11-10989  (for 3-5 octaves, level 3)
GORDON [“My Jesus, I Love Thee”]
Sjolund, Paul. My Jesus, I Love Thee. Hinshaw HMC-935  (SATB with flute or violin and
The organ postlude is a reflective free piece “Aria” by Flor Peeters, published by Heuwekemijer 265  (M). This selection is also very effective when the solo melody line is played by an oboe, bassoon, or even a muted trumpet.
1. The opening words and acts of worship for a Good Friday service are particularly important in setting the spirit of the entire service of worship. The words of the Call to Worship should immediately point people to the suffering and death of Christ on the Cross and draw them into a reflective spirit before the cross. The words of Matthew 27 can be introduced in that spirit; or you may prefer to use the words of Isaiah 53 in a similar way.
2. While Psalm 22 is rather lengthy, it seems best to include the entire Psalm in the reading. However, to make the reading easier to follow, consider using multiple voices (two or more) for the reading. Note the sections in which the Psalm may be divided: 1-5, 6-11, 12-18, 19-21, 22-24, 25-28, and 29-31.
3. The transition from the service of the Word to "We Stand at the Cross to Watch and Listen" should be designed very carefully. The aim of the next actions of worship is to draw us into the crowd that observed the events of suffering and respond to them with our devotion and faith. Here the dialogue of worship is clearly expressed as God speaks through his Word and we respond immediately in song.
4. We assume that your local congregation has its own customary practices for the liturgy of the Lord's Supper. We have provided the structure of it. You may complete it with your usual pattern, or you may find helpful material in The Worship Sourcebook, pages 305 ff. and pages 601 ff.
5. The closing reading from Revelation 5 is an expression of praise for the Son of God, slain as a Lamb, from the multitude in heaven. Their exclamation is to be the pattern for ours! So these words are to be read firmly, confidently, and joyfully, and followed by a strong, but meditative, hymn of praise.
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