Here’s the order of service outline for the Good Friday Tenebrae service I arranged for Good Friday 2017 at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Greene, Iowa. It’s modified from the Tenebrae format we used at my internship congregation, St. Peter Lutheran Church in Dubuque, Iowa

This Lutheran Tenebrae service walks through Jesus’ Passion according to John’s gospel, with responses from Psalm 22. A version of the bidding prayers from the Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW)  Good Friday service and hymns and special music is interspersed throughout the Passion narrative.

In the bulletin, each person also received a “Sin” card (Printable Sheets – Word file ) to nail to the cross after the fifth reading.

Good Friday

Our worship this evening tells the story of God’s love for us revealed in the self-giving sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for our sake. The altar has been stripped at the conclusion of last night’s Maundy Thursday service, representing the abandonment of Jesus by his disciples and the consequences of betrayal and sin.

We begin by hearing the prophecy of the “Suffering Servant” from Isaiah, a prophecy which looks forward to God humbling Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Then we enter into a version of the Tenebrae service, where as we hear John’s account of our Lord’s passion and death, we respond with words from Psalm 22, the Psalm from which Jesus quoted while in agony on the cross.

During the Tenebrae service, candles are extinguished and the sanctuary is progressively darkened as we approach the darkness caused by our sin, a darkness which will be overcome on Sunday in the light of our risen Savior. 

Welcome & Announcements

Greeting and Prayer of the Day

Pastor: The Lord be with you.
Congregation: And also with you.

P: Let us pray. Almighty God, look with loving mercy on your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, to be given over to the hands of sinners, and to suffer death on the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
C: Amen

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (responsive format split between Pastor, men, and women)

Good Friday Sermon

The Passion of Our Lord, According to St. John
Responses are from Psalm 22

First Reading: John 18:1-12 (Jesus is betrayed in Gethsemane and arrested)

Assisting Minister: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
Congregation: My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I find no rest.
A: Yet you are the Holy One, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
C: Our ancestors put their trust in you, they trusted, and you rescued them.
A: They cried out to you and were delivered; they trusted in you and were not put to shame.

A: Let us pray for those who do not believe in God.

Silent prayer.

P: Almighty and eternal God, you created humanity so that all may long to know you and find peace in you. Grant that all may recognize the signs of your love and grace in the world and in the lives of Christians, and gladly acknowledge you as the one true God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
C: Amen.

Hymn #309 – Lord Jesus, Think on Me v. 1-2

+ The first candle is extinguished +

Second Reading: John 18:13-24 (Jesus is brought to trial and questioned)

A: But as for me, I am a worm and not human, scorned by all and despised by the people.
C: All who see me laugh me to scorn; they curl their lips; they shake their heads.
A: “Trust in the LORD; let the LORD deliver; let God rescue him if God so delights in him.”
C: Yet you are the one who drew me forth from the womb, and kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
A: I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; you were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.

A: Let us pray for God’s creation.

Silent prayer.

P: Almighty and eternal God, you are the creator of a magnificent universe. Hold all the worlds in the arms of your care and bring all things to fulfillment in you. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
C: Amen.

Hymn #309 – Lord Jesus, Think on Me v. 3-4

+ The second candle is extinguished +

Third Reading: John 18:25-40 (Peter denies Jesus; Jesus is questioned in Pilate’s court)

A: Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help.
C: Many young bulls encircle me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me.
A: They open wide their jaws at me, like a slashing and roaring lion.
C: I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; my heart within my breast is melting wax.
A: My strength is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; and you have laid me in the dust of death.
C: Packs of dogs close me in, a band of evildoers circles round me; they pierce my hands and my feet.
A: I can count all my bones while they stare at me and gloat.

A: Let us pray for those who serve in public office.

Silent prayer.

P: Almighty and eternal God, you are the champion of the poor and oppressed. In your goodness, give wisdom to those in authority, so that all people may enjoy justice, peace, freedom, and a share in the goodness of your creation. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
C: Amen.

Special Music – “The Hammer

+ The third candle is extinguished. +

Fourth Reading: John 19:1-16 (Jesus is mocked, condemned, and taken away to be crucified)

A: They divide my garments among them; for my clothing, they cast lots.
C: But you, O LORD, be not far away; O my help, hasten to my aid.
A: Deliver me from the sword, my life from the power of the dog.
C: Save me from the lion’s mouth! From the horns of wild bulls you have rescued me.
A: I will declare your name to my people; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.

A: Let us pray for those in need.

Silent prayer.

P: Almighty and eternal God, you give strength to the weary and new courage to those who have lost heart. Heal the sick, comfort the dying, give safety to travelers, free those unjustly deprived of liberty, and deliver your world from falsehood, hunger, and disease. Hear the prayers of all who call on you in any trouble, that they may have the joy of receiving your help in their need. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
C: Amen.

Hymn #107 – Beneath the Cross of Jesus

+  The fourth candle is extinguished  +

Fifth Reading: John 19:16b-25 (Jesus is nailed to the cross)

A:  You who fear the LORD, give praise! All you of Jacob’s line, give glory. Stand in awe of the LORD, all you offspring of Israel.

C:  For the LORD does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty; neither is the LORD’s face hidden from them; but when they cry out,  the LORD hears them.
A:  From you comes my praise in the great assembly; I will perform my vows in the sight of those who fear the LORD.
C:  The poor shall eat and be satisfied, Let those who seek the LORD give praise! May your hearts live forever!

Nailing Sins to the Cross

Sins nailed to the cross

You are invited to come to the cross, bringing your nail and the paper representing your sins. On the cross, Jesus takes our sins and the sins of the whole world into himself, bearing the punishment of death, the consequence we could not bear. You are invited to reflect in the silence on the suffering and death our Savior willingly endured for you.

P: Let us pray.
C: Lord Jesus, you carried our sins in your own body on the tree so that we might have life. May we and all who remember this day find new life in you now and in the world to come, where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

+  The fifth candle is extinguished  +

Sixth Reading: John 19:25b-30 (The witnesses at the cross; Jesus’ death)

A:  All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; all the families of nations shall bow before God.
C: For dominion belongs to the LORD, who rules over the nations.
A: Indeed, all who sleep in the earth shall bow down in worship;
C: all who go down to the dust, though they be dead, shall kneel before the LORD.
A: Let us pray for our sisters and brothers who share our faith in Jesus Christ.

Silent prayer.

P: Almighty and eternal God, you give your church unity. Look with favor on all who follow Jesus your Son. Make all the baptized one in the fullness of faith, and keep us united in the fellowship of love. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
C: Amen.

Special Music – “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

+  The sixth candle is extinguished  +

Seventh Reading: John 19:31-42 (The soldiers pierce Jesus’ side; his burial)


A: Their descendants shall serve the LORD, whom they shall proclaim to generations to come.
C: They shall proclaim God’s deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying to them, “The LORD has acted!”

A: Let us pray for Steven and Elizabeth, our bishops; for Daniel, our pastor; for those on staff, on council, and in leadership positions at St. Peter Lutheran Church; for all servants of the church; and for all the people of God.

Silent prayer.

P: Almighty and eternal God, your Spirit guides the church and makes it holy. Strengthen and uphold our bishops, pastors, other ministers, and lay leaders. Keep them in health and safety for the good of the church, and help each of us in our various vocations to do faithfully the work to which you have called us. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
C: Amen.

Hymn #123 – Ah, Holy Jesus v. 1-3

+  The seventh candle is extinguished  +

A: Let us pray for those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ.

Silent prayer.

P: Almighty and eternal God, you became incarnate in the person of Jesus your Son, coming to dwell in our sinful world. Gather into the light of Jesus Christ all those who long unknowingly to know your love. Bring an end to inter-religious strife, and make us more faithful witnesses of the love made known to us. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

C: Amen.

Hymn #123 – Ah, Holy Jesus v. 4-5

A: Finally, let us pray for all those things for which our Lord would have us ask.

The Lord’s Prayer (Whispered)

As we depart in silence, the congregation is invited to solemn reflection on the love of God shown in Jesus Christ, who as God in the flesh, humbled himself to death for our sake.

The story of God’s love continues as we gather for Easter worship on Saturday at 6:00, Sunday sunrise service at 7:00 am, and Sunday at 8:30. You are also invited to breakfast hosted by the Luther League on Sunday between services.

May the Holy Spirit guide your reflection and draw you ever closer to our crucified and risen Lord.
Go in peace.

Good Friday Tenebrae Outline – John 18-19 and Psalm 22
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