Psalms to Sustain Us from Gethsemane to Golgotha

“When Jesus expressed his anguish on the cross with the words of Psalm 22, he highlighted one of the precious facets of the psalms in general, namely, that as songs they uniquely convey the inward depths of the soul, and especially of Christ’s soul. Not only do the psalms help shape our response to God in the trials and joys of life, they also reveal to us something of the inner life of Jesus Christ, glimpses we do not have through the gospels alone.”

(L. Michael Morales, Jesus and the Psalms)

This service occurred the same year that the congregation of Wheaton Christian Reformed Church was studying the book of Hebrews during Lent (see p. 3). The book of Hebrews often quotes the psalms, so planning a Maundy Thursday service based on the psalms was a natural choice. This service can fit within that Lenten series, but it would be equally effective apart from it.

The service plan as shown here runs 90 minutes long. As with all resources in Reformed Worship, you are encouraged to adapt it to fit your own context.



Call to Worship

Come and worship God! Come and walk with Jesus from Gethsemane to Golgatha.

Who is this Jesus we have come to worship?

He is the Lord of the universe who came into the world to seek and to save the lost. The nations are his inheritance. The Lord’s anointed is the King. He is the Son of God who sits at God’s right hand, yet he emptied himself, giving up his place of glory to taste death. He is the Ruler of the nations, yet he was betrayed for money, dragged before judges, and nailed to a cross. He came to shoulder the sin of the world and take it away (based on Psalm 2:7-8; Psalm 110:4).

Let us voice our need of him:

Lord, we are here because we know we need a savior.

We want to recognize anew your suffering and see your love. We have come to put our trust in you.

We want to be gathered close and walk with you from Gethsemane to Golgatha.

We want to thank you for your wondrous love for us. Amen.

God’s Greeting (The congregation responds with “Amen.”)

Gathering Song: “Lift Up Your Hearts unto the Lord”

(st. 1, 2, 4. Choir will sing part 2 from the side aisles, then go to their seats) LUYH 844, PsH 309, SWM 184, WR 120

A Litany of Praise (from Psalm 115, Psalms for All Seasons, p. 726)

Song (choir): “Bless the Lord, My Soul “ (Choir hum. With flutes and guitar.) LUYH 836, PFAS 636, SNC 356, GTG 544


We lift our eyes to you and bless your name.

Not to us be praise, nor to the idols of our hearts.

You are the source of our strength.

Not to us be praise, nor to the idols of our hearts.

You are the source of our joy.

Not to us be praise, nor to the idols of our hearts.

You are the source of our hope.

Not to us be praise, nor to the idols of our hearts.

You are the source of peace.

We will bless the Lord who leads us into life.

Song: “Bless the Lord, My Soul” LUYH 836, PFAS 636, SNC 356, GTG 544

Service of the Word


We sing your praise, O God, for you alone are our protection and our freedom.

By the power of your Spirit, may your strength enable our strength

and your Word shape our words.

Enable us to love you, serve you, and follow you

so that our lives may proclaim the redeeming love of Jesus.

In whose name we pray. Amen.PFAS, p. 91




Song: “Abide with Me” (st. 1, 4) LUYH 466, PH 543, PsH 442, TH 402, WR 521, GTG 836


Song (choir): “When In Our Music God Is Glorified,” st. 1-5 (arr. John Ferguson for SATB and brass, available through Hope Publishing. St. 3: cello on bass/tenor line; st. 5: congregation joins in.) PH 264, PsH 512, WR 7, GTG 641

Note: The Hallel was used in Jewish liturgy at great religious festivals like the Passover. Psalms 113-114 were sung before the meal; Psalms 115-118 were sung after the meal. This was a common practice in the time of Jesus.

Psalm 113

Praise the Lord! O servants of the Lord; praise the name of the Lord.

Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time on and forevermore.

From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised.

The Lord is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high,

Who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?

He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap,

to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.

He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.

Praise the Lord!

The Sacrament of Holy Communion

During the preparation of the table, the choir and congregation sing.

Song: “Eat This Bread” (With flute. See descant in Psalter Hymnal.) LUYH 818, PsH 312, SNC 254, WR 697, GTG 527

The Thanksgiving

       Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord.

       Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right for us to give thanks and praise.

With joy we praise you, gracious God, for you have created heaven and earth, made us in your image, and kept covenant with us—even when we fell into sin. We give you thanks for Jesus Christ, our Lord, who became the true paschal Lamb that was sacrificed for our salvation. Therefore we join our voices with all the saints and angels and the whole creation to proclaim the glory of you.

Song: “Holy, Holy, Holy Is the Lord of Hosts” SNC 251

The Institution

(from Matt. 26:20-30)

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said,

”I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins; I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

“For whenever we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:23-26). Therefore, we proclaim our faith as signed and sealed in this sacrament.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.


Lord, our God, send your Holy Spirit so that this bread and cup may be for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we and all your saints be united with Christ and remain faithful in hope and love. Gather your whole church, O Lord, into the glory of your kingdom. Amen.

The Invitation:

Congregation of Jesus Christ, the Lord has prepared his table for all who love him and trust in him alone for their salvation. All who are truly sorry for their sins, who sincerely believe in the Lord Jesus as their Savior, and who desire to live in obedience to him as Lord, are now invited to come with gladness to the table of the Lord. The gifts of God for the people of God!

Songs (choir):

“I Love the Lord” LUYH 439, PFAS 733, GTG 799

“Let All Nations” PFAS 737

Tenebrae: A Service of Shadows

The Psalms Sustain Us from Gethsemane to Golgatha

Narrator: When Jesus left the table where he instituted the communion meal, he would have had the words of this psalm on his lips. These were the words that sustained him through the dark night of betrayal.

Scripture: Psalm 118:1-9 (This could be done with the congregation reading the bold type or with two readers)

O Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever.

Let Israel say: His love endures forever.

Let the House of Aaron say: His love endures forever.

Let those who fear the Lord say: His love endures forever.

In my anguish, I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.

What can man do to me?

The Lord is with me; he is my helper.

I will look in triumph on my enemies.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

Song (choir and congregation): “How I Love You, Lord My God” (st. 1, 2) LUYH 436, PFAS 94, PsH 18

Praying the Psalms in Gethsemane

The disciples’ grief will turn to joy

Scripture: John 16:17-22

Song: “Jesus, Priceless Treasure” (st. 1-4) LUYH 425, PsH 572, TH 656, WR 431, GTG 830

Jesus prays for his disciples

Scripture: John 17:9b-11; 13-18

Song (choir): “The Lord Is My Light” (st. 1, 2) LUYH 431, PFAS 170, GTG 842

Extinguish Candle 1

Jesus prays for himself

Scripture: Matthew 26:36-39

Song (choir): “My Times Are in Your Hands” LUYH 458, PFAS 202, SNC 131, TH 684

Scripture: Matthew 26:40-42

Song (choir): “My Times Are in Your Hands” LUYH 458, PFAS 202, SNC 131, TH 684

Scripture: Matthew 26:43-46

Song: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (st. 1, 3) LUYH 897, PsH 579, SWM 172, TH 629, WR 473, GTG 465

Extinguish Candle 2

Jesus predicts his betrayal

Scripture: Mark 14:13-19; Psalm 41:1-4

Choir: “Are we weak and heavy laden? Take it to the Lord in prayer.” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (st. 2) LUYH 897, PsH 579, SWM 172, TH 629, WR 473, GTG 465

Scripture: Psalm 41:5-7

Choir: “Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer.” (line 2)

Scripture: Psalm 41:8-9

Choir: “What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” (refrain)

Jesus teaches his disciples at the Last Supper

Scripture: Luke 22:27b-32

Choir: “Jesus knows our every weakness. Take it to the Lord in prayer.” (last line)

Song (choir): “Abana in Heaven” LUYH 911

Extinguish Candle 3

Praying the psalms at Golgotha

Scripture, read in two voices: Psalm 69:1-18 (see p. 423 in PFAS)

Jesus is sentenced to death

Scripture: John 19:1-6a

Song: “To Mock Your Reign, O Dearest Lord” (choir st. 1, 2; cong. st. 3) LUYH 162, WR 278

Jesus is crucified on Golgatha

Scripture: John 19:16-22

Extinguish Candle 4

The soldiers divide Jesus’ clothes

Scripture: John 19:23-24; Psalm 22:16-19

Nailing of our sins

During the song of reconciliation, you are invited to take a slip of paper from the pew, write a sin you want to confess on it, and bring it forward to nail it to the cross.

Song: During the nailing, the congregation sings:

“Before the Throne of God Above” (st. 2 only) LUYH 682

“Come, You Disconsolate” LUYH 614, PsH 538, TH 615

Optional: Instrumental, “What Wondrous Love” LUYH 164, PH 85, PsH 379, SNC 142, TH 261, WR 257, GTG 215

Extinguish Candle 5

Song (choir): “Our Eyes Are Turned” LUYH 460, PfAS 437

Jesus is mocked

Scripture: Mark 15:25-32

Song (choir): “Our Eyes Are Turned” LUYH 460, PfAS 437

Jesus gives up his spirit

Scripture: Mark 15:33-34

Song (choir): “Lord, Draw Near” PFAS 428

Scripture: Mark 15:35-36

Song (choir): “Lord, Draw Near” PFAS 428

Scripture: Psalm 69:1-3; Psalm 143:3-6; Psalm 22:1-8

Song (choir): “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” PFAS 117, TH 79

Extinguish Candle 6

The soldiers remove Jesus’ body from the cross

Scripture: John 19:31-42

Song: “O Christ, You Wept When Grief Was Raw” (tune: Rockingham. Choir st. 1, 2; cong. st. 3, 4) LUYH 467

Extinguish Candle 7

Praying the psalms in our despair

Scripture: Psalm 34:1-9; 18-22 (PFAS p. 218)

Song (choir): “Taste and See” (choir on stanzas, cong. on refrain) LUYH 817, PFAS 219, PsH 301, SNC 255, GTG 520

Jesus’ friends bury his body

Scripture: John 19:38-42; Psalm 88:1-12

Song (choir): “When in the Night I Meditate” (st. 1, 4) PFAS 77, GTG 810

Scripture: Psalm 89:46-48

Remove the Christ Candle

Song (choir): “Holy Darkness” (OCP Choral Series, Dan Schutte, arr. Bob Harrold, SATB)

Silent Meditation (Please leave the sanctuary quietly when you have finished your time of silent meditation.)

Mary Sytsma is an elder and worship planner at Wheaton Christian Reformed Church, where her husband is the choir director. Mary also teaches English at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, IL.

Reformed Worship 118 © December 2015, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.