Voices for Good Friday: Worship Services with Dramatic Monologues Based on the Gospels

Voices for Good Friday: Worship Services with Dramatic Monologues Based on the Gospels

by Amanda Burr


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These interpretive, dramatic monologues give voice to selected characters from the Gospels. Presented in a reproducible, copy-friendly format, the monologues provide a creative way to present Good Friday/Tenebrae services and to tell the story of the passion of Jesus Christ. The monologues can be presented as a collective work or can be used individually as sermon helps, Bible study presentations, and in other creative ways in worship settings.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426783142
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 02/01/2014
Pages: 46
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

An ordained minister, a registered nurse, and a professional actress, Amanda Burr is lead pastor of the United Methodist Church of Palm Springs, California. She earned her bachelor and master degrees in nursing, and received her M. Div. and D. Min. from Claremont School of the Theology. Since her early college years she has acted in stage and television roles. She has received awards for her acting, directing, and set design. She is a member of the Palm Canyon Theatre, a regional theater company in Palm Springs. In addition, as a member of the Guatemala Mission Team of Interfaith Action International, she volunteers each year to install wood efficiency stoves and be the team’s nurse. She lives in Cathedral City, California.

Read an Excerpt

Voices for Good Friday

Worship Services with Dramatic Monologues Based on the Gospels

By Amanda J. Burr

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2014 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-8314-2



On the Margins


Characters for Readings

[] The Gadarene Demoniacs, Matthew 8:28-34

[] The Canaanite Woman (Her Daughter Speaks), Matthew 15:21-28

[] The Centurion, Matthew 8:5-13; 27:54

Intended Message of These Stories

The stories based on Matthew's Gospel are told through the eyes of people whose culture and background is different from that of Jesus'. They are outside the social, cultural, ethnic, and religious circles of Jesus. They are on the margins of his ministerial outreach—until they meet. These people found a way to connect with Jesus, or Jesus found a way to connect with them, in spite of the barriers between them.


Matthew 8:28-34

Director's Note: The challenge of this story in Matthew's text is having two demoniacs living among the tombs out on the outskirts of Gadara. In Matthew's story Jesus has crossed to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, entering the area known as the Decapolis. The ten cities that make up the Decapolis are centers of Greek and Roman culture.

I have made Matthew's Gadarene demoniacs brothers—twin brothers (they can be fraternal twins). Two readers will tell their story together. They have a sense of humor and tease each other, but are devoted. Surprisingly, they are not angry or resentful men. They are sensitive to each other's feelings about the course of their lives, before meeting Jesus and afterwards.

Adel (short for Adelphos, meaning "born of the same womb—brother") is only minutes older than Phee (short for Philon, meaning "to love"), but takes the role of older brother seriously. He sees himself as Phee's protector, usually trying to protect Phee from himself. Phee is daring, always pushing the limits of his body and his mind. These twins may live among civilized people now, but the reader might display a tentativeness in his speech, as language is still new to Adel and Phee.

The Gadarene Demoniacs

Adel: I'm Adel.

Phee: And I am Phee.

Adel: As far back as I can remember, it has always been Phee and me together. We are like two halves of the same person.

Phee: I am the better looking half.

Adel: That's right, but I'm older and wiser.

Phee: By a minute.

Adel: Before we were rescued, we were never apart. I remember the woman taking us from the dark room where we lived. It was dark outside too. She brought us to a faraway place of rocks and caves, and gave us a bag with food in it and left.

Phee: She never came back.

Adel: We were so afraid, we cried and held on to each other, trying to keep warm in the caves. We saw people, but hid from them because everyone who came to live in that place was dead. Everyone except us.

Phee: What Adel means is people brought the dead to this place. They left them there just like we were left. We took care of them and kept watch so they would be safe. We slept in the daytime, hiding ourselves in the tombs, and we kept our people company through the night.

Adel: At night we looked for food. There were fruit trees all around and water.

When the swineherds on the hillside killed a pig to eat, we would sneak into their camp while they slept and take whatever they discarded. We gnawed on the pig bones until there was nothing left, inside or out.

Phee: As we survived and grew, we made tools from the bones, sharpening them into knives to cut branches from the trees. We cut linen from the shrouds covering our dead friends and wrapped ourselves in it to keep warm. We learned to make fires by watching the swineherds.

Adel: We were discovered one very cold night. While sneaking back to the tombs from the swineherds' camp, we stumbled over one of them in the bushes. He ran after us, but stopped at the edge of the graveyard. He would never have found us in the dark.

Phee: The next day the man who chased us came back with some other men. When they found us sleeping in one of the tombs, they dragged us out into the open, yelling and screaming at us. We didn't understand them. They sounded like the wild animals of the night, and we began to howl in response to their howling. They beat us and left us with our hands and feet bound by leather straps.

Adel: Phee was beaten so badly he was unconscious for a long time. I rolled over onto my knees and chewed the leather straps off his hands and feet. When he finally came to and was able to move, he cut off my bindings and we crawled back into the safety of the tombs.

Phee: There had always been a chance that we might be discovered, but until now we hadn't realized that discovery might cost us our lives. We had to figure out how to keep people away from us, away from the tombs. We had to frighten them away.

Adel: After that, when people came to bury their dead we growled and snarled from behind the rocks and shook the bushes. Most people ran away. When the swineherds came looking for us we were ready with slings and stones. We had excellent aim. Now we were older, bigger, and much stronger. If they came near we jumped down from the rocks and ran after them slinging stones at their heads and hind ends.

(Note to the Readers: Pick up the pace in this section as the two of you complete each other's sentences and the dialogue gets more intense. Don't speed up, just make the way you say the words more intense. More angst is good, even a remembrance of the fear you felt that day, but DO NOT READ FASTER.)

Phee:No one came near the tombs anymore because we made it a fearful place. It was the only way we knew to be safe in our home ...

Adel: ... until the day that Jesus, the Galilean, came and changed everything.

Phee: We were tending our gardens and pruning our fruit trees when we noticed him watching us. So we became fierce, stooping low and growling ...

Adel: ... moving toward him with our hands raised, ready to lunge if he didn't run away.

Phee: We shouted and cried in our language: "What are you doing here? Go away! You have nothing to do with us."

Adel: He didn't move! He didn't blink an eye. I had never seen such a face. There was no fear in his face. His eyes weren't like the eyes of the people who brought their dead to the tombs.

Phee: His eyes weren't like the eyes of the swineherds who beat us.

Adel: The noises he made were strong noises, but they didn't sound sad or angry or mean. We didn't understand his sounds.

Phee: We had to protect each other and our home. We ran straight at him, screeching our loudest and most terrifying cries. We planned to knock him down and then let him scramble away.

Adel: But we didn't knock him down. We slammed into his body, full force—both of us—but he didn't falter, didn't move. Instead he wrapped his arms tight around us and held us close.

Phee: We were both stunned, totally unprepared for whatever this manner of attack was. Suddenly, I felt strangely warmed inside. I stopped struggling.

Adel: I saw the calm expression on Phee's face and realized that for the very first time in my life, I wasn't afraid for him or for me. Every muscle in my body gave up its tension, relaxing in the Galilean's unbreakable embrace. It may have been minutes or it may have been hours that he held us.

Phee: I think I might have fallen asleep, but I awoke to the commotion on the hillside. The swineherds were raving and screeching as they watched their whole herd rush down into the Sea of Galilee. They looked in our direction and saw us standing beside Jesus.

Adel: Shaking their fists at us, they ran away.

Phee: Later that day, the swineherds returned. This time they brought many people with them. Some of them were carrying sticks and torches of fire. They spoke their words and Jesus took us each by the hand and led us away, down the hill where we got into a boat and crossed the sea to his home.

Adel: That day our lives began all over again.


Director's Note: In this story Jesus and his disciples take time away from the turmoil brewing in Galilee and travel to Tyre and Sidon, near the great sea. A Canaanite woman, Seraphina (serah-feena), accosts Jesus in the street. She speaks a different language, but she knows about the man from Galilee.

It is Seraphina's daughter, Alissa, who tells the story of this foreign woman's encounter with Jesus. Alissa has heard her mother tell it many times. Brought up in a wealthy home, Alissa is a child of privilege yet a child with an impaired body. She has hyperkinesia pronounced hyper-kin-eeseea or hyper-kin-eesha. It is a neuromuscular disorder marked by involuntary, jerky movements. The cluster headaches she develops send her mother in search of the holy man.

The Canaanite Woman (Her Daughter Speaks)

My mother can be a real pain. I mean I love Seraphina, but she can be a handful when she gets pushy. She runs a very successful business as a merchant in purple goods. She is well-known and respected, and people will wait months for her custom-dyed fabrics. However, when she is on one of her missions to right a wrong, or running around recruiting supporters to chastise the city officials for shirking their duty, everyone avoids her. She goes to the city fathers on a regular basis to remind them of their responsibility to clean up the sewers, fix the dangerous potholes in the road, get the litter off the streets, and round up the overabundance of stray dogs. She takes in strays as well, but we already had three and one of them was pregnant. She warned the city that their shoddy attention to detail was bad for business. In a tourist town and major trade city, bad smells and starving dogs tend to drive the tourists away.

Seraphina isn't afraid of anyone and never hesitates to speak her mind. She's not an angry or unreasonable woman; she is passionate and persistent in her pursuits. The truth is, her arguments are usually sound and her requests fair. More often than not, she doesn't win arguments, she simply wears down her opponents. But you see, Seraphina has been on her own since she was sixteen and had to learn to stand on her own two feet.

When I was two and hadn't started to walk yet, Mom took me to see a physician who said I had weak muscles. He called my condition hyperkinesia. He told her there was no cure. Seraphina wasn't insulted. She just decided to take matters into her own hands. She gave what she called my "cranky nerves" a daily workout. She exercised my arms and legs for me. She kept up the routine every day. Eventually I could walk. In the beginning I would just lose my balance and fall, but I was a very determined little girl and picked myself up. When I was old enough I asked Seraphina about the jerky movements. She explained it this way: "You have cranky nerves that yell at your muscles. Every time they yell, your muscles jump because they are startled." Whenever an unpredictable sudden movement of my leg, my arm, or my face betrayed my cranky nerve condition, Seraphina simply refused to notice.

I was teased unmercifully by some of the neighborhood kids who pointed at my wide walk and ran away if my arm or leg was suddenly startled. I remember one of them asking me what was wrong with me, and just as I was about to tell her about my cranky nerves, my face suddenly curled up in a grimace. The girl screamed and ran away. Whenever the big kids tried to bully me, my mother seemed to magically appear. She would grab the ringleaders by the arm or the ear, drag them off to their own homes, and hand them off to their parents telling them, in no uncertain terms, that there had better not be a next time.

Around the time of my sixteenth birthday I began to suffer from headaches so painful that I screamed with the agony of them. They lasted for hours and days. They kept coming back, no matter what the physicians and my mother gave me to take the pain away. When the headaches came, I was beside myself. I couldn't move, or think, or even breathe for the pain.

One day Seraphina found me rocking back and forth, hitting my head against a wall. She knelt down and held my face close to hers. With tears in her eyes she said, "I don't know what horrible demon has possessed you, my darling, but he will not take you from me. Hold on, my darling girl, hold on." She left the house.

I don't know exactly when it happened, but the pain in my head suddenly disappeared. In my experience if it subsided for some minutes, I knew it would return, but it simply disappeared this time. I got on my bed and fell into a deep sleep. When my mother came home and found me sleeping, she got on my bed, gathered me close in her arms, and began to cry. In my whole life I had never seen my mother cry a single tear. I wanted to comfort her, but when I looked at her face I saw that these were not tears of sadness; they were tears of joy. She was smiling through her tears as she told me about her wild adventure chasing a Hebrew holy man through the streets of the city.

I had a million questions, but I didn't interrupt. She told me how he ignored her when she called out to him to save me from the terrible demon that was terrorizing my head. When she wouldn't relent, he stopped to speak to her and told her his work was for the sheep of the house of Israel. Seraphina is nothing if not persistent. As he turned to go, she ran ahead of him and knelt down, stopping him in his tracks. This was Seraphina's modus operandi, to dog them until they gave up or gave in. But it seemed to me out of character for Seraphina to beg anyone for anything, and particularly on her knees. "Lord help me," she said, and he still refused her, saying it was "not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."

She went on saying: "Alissa, darling, I don't know what happened. His words hurt me—yes—because I knew he was talking about me. He was talking about you and me. He described us like all those stray dogs roaming our streets. But when I answered him, the words I spoke weren't angry words. Alissa, I used his words to tell him I would accept any help he might give me. I said, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.' Just then, I saw the faintest smile on his face. I think he almost laughed. He told me I was a woman of great faith and said what I asked for would be done. That was it, and he walked away. And here you are, my dearest child, and your pain is gone!"

When we awoke the next morning, we looked at each other, tentatively, as if searching for signs of the terrible headache's return. I felt well. We dressed and set out to find the holy man whose followers called him Jesus. Seraphina insisted that we thank him. I suspected this would be a grand and public show of our appreciation, but when we found Jesus he was sitting by himself, peacefully looking out at the sea. He appeared to be about the same age as my mother. When he saw Seraphina, he stood up and the smile on his face was one of admiration. He was grinning so broadly, I could see laugh lines gathered at the corners of his eyes. He was delighted to see us.

My mother placed something in my hands and motioned me forward. As I offered him the gift, he held my hands in his. I looked down and saw for the first time the most stunning of all the purple robes my mother sold. It was a robe made for royal shoulders. Still smiling, he flung the glorious robe over his shoulders with a grand flourish and waved good-bye to us as we headed back to town.

As we walked along, I realized, perhaps for the first time, that my mother and I were the same height. I took note, too, that I was walking along beside her, not behind trying to keep up. The fluid movement of my arms and legs was a wonder to me. I lifted my skirts and jumped up a little ways, landing, to my astonishment, solidly on the ground. I could lift my leg high and kick my foot out. I wanted to run, so I did. I ran all the way back to town. It felt wonderful to be out of breath for the first time in my life. Jesus had taken not only the robe, but my cranky nerves as well.

THE CENTURION Matthew 8:5-13; 27:54

Director's Note: The name Servius means "to preserve." The name for a private in Latin is miles (pronounced meelace). The centurion's servant is Miles. Servius serves in the Sixth Ironclad Legion of Rome and advances to regional centurion during his twenty years of service.

The background material builds the story of who Servius is when he first encounters Jesus in Matthew's Gospel. Boldface words mean emphasis is to be placed on them. It is important for the reader-actor-narrator to know he is leading the congregation all the way to the foot of the cross. Servius is, as some have put it, "Jesus' centurion." The two men meet in Capernaum in chapter 8 of Matthew's Gospel. Servius is a dignified man, a decorated soldier, who naturally stands at attention. He is not puffed up with his own importance or driven by unbridled ambition, but is a man of compassion.

See yourself standing at the foot of the cross. You are a man torn in two, a man of divided allegiance, a man changed. Allegiance to Caesar is in the centurion's job description. However, in the moment of Christ's death Servius' soul is bound to the true Son of the Divine.


Excerpted from Voices for Good Friday by Amanda J. Burr. Copyright © 2014 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


"On the Margins",
"The Worship Service",
"Out of Darkness",
"Narratives Based on the Gospel of Mark",
"The Worship Service",
"There Is a Balm",
"Narratives Based on the Gospel of Luke",
"The Worship Service",

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