R.I.P. FridayA Good Friday sermon April 7, 2023 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
Today’s service features two highlights:
the reading of the Passion by the Evangelist John,
and excerpts from the Requiem by Gabriel Fauré.
Now this Requiem is not just Muzak to break up the monotony of the reading;but it is a beautiful masterpiece,
The Requiem is not just background music to the reading of the Passion,
But it actually is worth being brought to the foreground, and examined more carefully.
Just like in a movie or TV scene,
sometimes the music contributes a lot to how you experience the moment,
and sometimes the music is equally as important
as what is portrayed visually on screen.
What meaning is there in having a Requiem sung on Good Friday for us,
And how can it help us make sense of the Passion,
Death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
Why would parts of a Requiem be sung on Good Friday?
Now the word Requiem, also known as the Requiem Mass or Funeral Mass,usually refers to a musical composition associated with death, dying, and mourning,
And has its roots in the Medieval period as the “mass of the dead” offered for the “repose of the soul.”
The word Requiem is latin for rest or repose.
In other words Requiem is the Medieval Latin funeral service.
And our modern Lutheran funeral service is derived from it.
The point of the Requiem or Funeral Mass is to emphasize that the death of the deceased is rooted in the whole community’s worship of God, and that we can entrust our loved ones to God’s care
because of the saving grace shown through the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In other words, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection,
the meaning of the death of our loved one is reoriented towards hope and eternal life.
The funeral only makes sense in light of the remembrance of all that Jesus went through.
The funeral service paints the bigger picture of salvation history for those grieving their loved one.
So if the Passion of Jesus provides the background or context for the Funeral Service, in a way,
having the Funeral Service or Requiem as background for the Passion also makes a lot of sense,
(which explains why Requiems are often scheduled for performance around Holy Week).
I don’t know if you had a chance to read along the translation of the Requiem in your Guides to Worship as you were listening to the music,
but I would like to point out the connections between the musical movements we heard and what the Passion of Jesus means for us.
If you want to follow along in your Guides starting on page 4
for this part of the sermon, you might find that helpful.
The first movement or piece we heard was the Introit : Kyrie
Which begins with the words
Rest eternal grant them and let light perpetual shine upon them.
This is the standard funeral blessing that happens at the graveside,
After the committal, once the body has been lowered down into the ground,
and the “dust to dust, earth to earth, ashes to ashes” has been spoken.
We remember that all flesh will come to God, in God is repose, God is the final destination of all Creation.
All life and death is in God’s hands!
The good as well as the bad death,
The painless death and the painful death.
We wish eternal or everlasting rest for our loved ones,
And it’s interesting to wonder whether those who put Jesus in the tomb wished for everlasting rest for him as well?
Little did Joseph and Nicodemus know that Jesus’ R.I.P.,
his “Rest in Peace”
would be really short, just a day and a half!
In the twinkling of an eye, Jesus was raised.
Who knows, in a way our time being dead could seem short too,
before we too experience the resurrection.
God’s time is not the same as our time.
Our time being dead could seem like 2 days as well.
The Sanctus brings us the Palm Sunday cry:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,”
Which raises very specific fact about Jesus’ death on the cross:
The fact that Jesus is the Messiah is a central point of the Passion.
Otherwise who cares about his crucifixion, if Jesus isn't the Messiah?
10,000s others were also crucified and we don’t talk about them.
“Holy Holy Holy, Lord God of Hosts” is the song of the cherubim,
The angels sing and praise God and Jesus,
It is a central claim that it was not just a man on a cross, but God!
Only through the eyes of faith can you look at this naked, suffering man and say “Holy holy, Lord God.”
And this has implications for us:
Jesus’ history-shattering death
Is something to inspire us,
This event that happens once in an eon,
changes all of history and gives us hope, freedom and life.
Next: The Libera Me
Means: Deliver me O Lord from death eternal,
When thou shalt come to judge the world by fire on the day of wrath.
speaks to the fear of the unknown after our death!
What will happen after we die, we sometimes wonder with dread and trembling?
Could all we have done during our time on earth be for nothing and be swept away?
Could we face eternal punishment for deeds done or not done?
The fear of last judgement could encourage or motivate us to do better here on earth,
To “do unto others as we would have them do to us”
Or to take care of the least of these,
and feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, and take care of the sick, as if they were Christ himself.
At the end all we can do is place our faith and trust in God, whose boundless love and mercy is revealed by sending his Son to die so that we might have eternal life.
The Pie Jesu and the In Paradisum
Continue the theme of the prayer of eternal rest for both Jesus as well as our deceased.
Merciful Lord Jesus grant them rest eternal:
This is our prayer for our loved ones-
We know they’ve suffered enough - and at least if their sufferings are over, that is a small consolation: that eternal rest and no forced ghostly wanderings will disturb their endless sleep.
May the Angels lead you to paradise …
Where you may experience Eternal rest!
That is our wish; that our loved ones may experience a good welcome into heaven,
To find a resting place in the mansions that Jesus has prepared,our Saviour who has gone before us on the journey of suffering, death and resurrection.
Our hope for Jesus on this Good Friday:
is that after all he did and suffered that he would find eternal rest, knowing that in 2 days that he will rise and Easter will come.
Our hope for our loved ones is also that after all they did and suffered,
that they will experience eternal rest too,
in a place where there is no pain or crying,
knowing that at some point there will be the Easter Resurrection for them as well.
And ultimately, our hope for ourselves:
is that after all we will have done and suffered
that we will enjoy eternal rest as well, until that day when we are summoned at the last trumpet.
Exploring how the Requiem or Funeral Mass and Good Friday are connected is somewhat complex, sort of like the interplay of background music and a movie scene.
It isn’t always apparent why a particular piece of music works so well with the visuals on screen, but if it’s well chosen, the overall effect can be powerful.
Finally, three` questions to ponder how the Requiem and Funeral service can inform our understanding of Jesus’ Passion.
What does it feel like to attend a funeral?
Obviously the emotions can vary based on our relationship with the deceased.
If we were very close: the emotions can be quite strong,
And if we just knew them in passing, our emotions could be quite restrained.
What does it feel like to attend a Good Friday service?
I think there are similarities.
If you are very close to Jesus, then his death might have an emotional impact upon you.
If Jesus is just like any other guy, well then, the service might not be that meaningfulbut maybe you can at least see in Jesus’ death solidarity with other victims of tyranny and political scapegoating.
Does a Funeral Service and a Good Friday Service feel different, or what feels the same?
Death is the common denominator: the realization that earthly life is finite and will come to an end for all of us.
Death also brings community together:
It seems for some of the “golden” age, that you feel like you’re only getting together at funerals…
Good Friday also brings community together, in the one regular service a year where we exclusively focus on dying and mourning.
But also, what is common to the two services is that the story is unfinished…with Jesus, we know that Easter and his resurrection is just around the corner,
And with our selves and our loved ones, in faith, we hold on to Jesus’ promise of everlasting life and resurrection as well.
At the end, both the funeral service and the Good Friday service leave space and make it acceptable for a good cry in the company of others,
Just like how the sad music in a tear-jerker movie can get those cheeks wet,
The Requiem music as background to the Reading of the Passion can colour between the lines in hues of blue to help us make meaning of Jesus’s suffering and death.
It can help us remember that the knowledge and faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection can help us cope when our loved ones die,
and help us be more hope-filled in contemplating our own death as well.
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