Churches ready for communitywide service

CNJ photo: Tony Bullocks The Rev. Margot Thompson from Trinity United Methodist Church is one of seven area pastors chosen to speak about the last seven statements of Jesus on the cross at tonight’s Good Friday community service.

By Janet Bresenham: Freedom New Mexico

Area pastors will join together tonight to take listeners on a spiritual journey from the first statement Jesus Christ made on the cross to the last statement before he died.

Along the way, they hope to bring renewed meaning to the message of what Jesus did on the cross and the power of the Easter Resurrection.
“Jesus’ last words on the cross were ‘It is finished.’ I will not be portraying Jesus as a victim. In his life, he deliberately moved toward the cross. He never forgot why he came,” said the Rev. Margot Thompson of Trinity United Methodist Church.

“I think of how freely God’s grace is given and yet, it was so costly because of Jesus’ death on the cross,” said Thompson, who will be speaking from John 19:30. “This man who lived a perfect life became sin for us, and in so doing, we can turn to the cross. It is a mighty work, the greatest work ever done in the world.”

The annual Good Friday communitywide service at 5:30 p.m. today brings together many different denominations at a different church every year.

The main focus: Seven pastors speaking for five minutes apiece about Jesus’ seven last statements on the cross.

The Rev. Jim Kelly from Church of the Brethren has the daunting task of opening with the first statement of Jesus on the cross, from Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:54.

“That is when Jesus cries out, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’” Kelly explained. “What it means to me personally is that because Jesus cried out, I am assured that my loud cries are heard by God. I think his cry calls us to be more aware of our need for what Jesus did on the cross.”

In Jesus’ reassuring words to the thief on a nearby cross, from Luke 23:43, Central Baptist Church Pastor Alan McAlister sees great hope for everyone.

“I think it really bears out the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9, which tells us that salvation is a gift of God by his grace,” McAlister said. “That thief never had the opportunity to do anything for the Lord, and yet, hanging on that cross, he was told by Jesus that he would be with him in Paradise. It points to the power of God’s grace.”

McAlister said that message means that God’s grace and salvation are freely available to everyone, regardless of what they have done, which can bring great personal reassurance.

“It reminds me that everything that has happened in my life has been a product of God’s grace,” McAlister said. “In spite of my shortcomings, it means God has the grace to forgive. It means we can have the reassurance of eternal life.”

Bethel Assembly of God Church Pastor Lemuel Perry said he is honored to be hosting this year’s community service.

“There’s only one cross and there’s only one way of salvation. So for us to come together and celebrate like this makes me proud to be part of this community,” said Perry, who will be playing violin tonight as part of a special Clovis Community Orchestra string quartet.