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The Good Friday Vigil Against Gun Violence emerged out of what Denver experienced as the Summer of Violence in 1993, when there was a high incidence of gun deaths in the metro region. The staff of Washington Park UCC thought it would be important to lead a prayer service and protest, using symbolism from the Roman Catholic Stations of the Cross, at locations where a child was killed by a gun. This idea took a lot more work to implement than we initially had thought, so the first vigil took place on Good Friday of 1995. We have been doing the vigil ever since. We expanded it to include anyone who has been killed by a gun, not just children. Good Friday is an appropriate time to do this; we believe Christ is crucified in every act of violence.
The vigil is a three-hour prayer service, loosely based on the Stations of the Cross. The service is open to the entire community, and since the beginning, the group traveling to sites has been ecumenical (and occasionally interfaith).
Each Good Friday, from noon to 3:00, the group travels to 4-6 sites in the Denver metropolitan area (including suburbs) where someone has been killed by a gun in the past year. They meet first at the church for a brief 20-30-minute service of prayer and song. There are usually speakers whom the planning committee has invited (state legislators, folks from other organizations, family members of gun-violence victims). Instructions are given (such as don't engage hecklers, etc.). Protest signs are handed out; we had some done the first year by a local artist showing Christ crucified on a gun, and have been using them ever since. In recent years we have taken to chartering a bus, since it's less intrusive in neighborhoods than a caravan of 30 cars would be. We do not charge anyone for riding the bus, but we let people know they are more than welcome to help pay for it. (We also pass around an envelope to collect a tip for the driver.) We try to stick to our schedule and itinerary as much as possible, as there are sometimes people joining us along the route.
We also felt it was important that the community know that the Church (not necessarily our particular church, but The Church) is on the streets mourning and protesting gun violence. Therefore, we contact the press each year. Well ahead of time (a few weeks), we send out a media release, with contact information, to the TV stations and newspapers. Usually the minister serves as the spokesperson. The morning of the vigil (or the day before), we fax a copy of the itinerary, so that reporters can attend a few sites if they don't want to go to the entire vigil. We do not release the itinerary to anyone but the press until the actual event; we were concerned that others seeking violence might decide to show up and cause trouble. This has never happened. (We have had hecklers and folks arguing with us, but nothing violent.) After the brief service at the church, we hand out maps and itineraries to those who need to drive and can't take the bus. If we think there are some sites the press might be particularly interested in, we try to include those before their deadline (usually 2:00 or 3:00).
At each site, there is a brief service of remembrance of the person(s) killed there, using imagery from one of the Stations. Pastors and volunteers lead the service. The service includes a reading about what happened at that site, a reflection on one of the Stations, a prayer and song or moment of silence. Then a flower is placed at the site; if family members of the victim(s) are present, they receive flowers as well.
You never know what people's reactions are going to be. You might be called names and spit on by passing motorists. Drivers might honk and waive in a friendly - or not so friendly - fashion. You might get people joining you from off the street because they like what you are doing - and you might get people hollering at you about how unchristian you are. That's the way it is.
Take some time afterwards to jot down interesting stories and things that happened along the way, and make sure you communicate them to the rest of your church. It's a powerful event and the stories are valuable reminders of what the church is about.
The vigil is truly a group effort. It is a project of our church's Outreach and Social Action Committee. Committee members and other volunteers select the sites, arrange for the bus, coordinate the liturgy, organize the opening worship and "briefing" session (or find someone to do so), find speakers, contact family members of the victims, coordinate the sending out of invitations to the wider community, contact the press, and are in charge of a host of other logistical details.
With input from the pastor, the committee selects the sites according to a variety of criteria:
We look for diversity. We look for geographic diversity. Gun violence doesn't just happen in the inner city; it happens in the affluent suburbs as well. We also look for racial/ethnic, gender, and age diversity. Gun violence affects us all. As a largely Caucasian congregation, we try to be sensitive about not visiting only neighborhoods of color. As a largely middle-class congregation, we do not want to visit only poor neighborhoods. We try to be sensitive on many levels in selecting the sites. We know we've probably made some mistakes unintentionally.
We also want to make sure we don't spend the entire time driving, so we do not select sites that are terribly far apart. (We don't go from Denver to the far north suburbs, for example, as that would take 30 minutes just to get there.)
We have a mix of situations - not all are gang-related, or police shootings, for example, but we have a combination. Isn't it sad that there's so much to choose from! We also do only a couple high-profile cases each year. We want to look at the ones that don't get a lot of publicity.
We look for sites through collecting newspaper articles throughout the year, through database searches, and through police department reports. There are probably other ways to go about this as well that you will discover.
We recommend that someone from the church drive the Good Friday route a day or two before the event, and before the itinerary is sent to the press, to see how it all fits together, and to see if there are any road construction problems or closures. That person can then make the appropriate changes to the itinerary and let the bus driver know the route the day of the event.
Do try to get hold of the victim's families ahead of time, especially if you are going to be meeting outside their home. Have someone in your church that is trained, if possible, such as a pastoral counselor, to make the contact, someone who is sensitive and caring. You can talk with victim's advocate organizations or the reporter who wrote the article about the victim. Explain what you are doing, ask them to contact the family for you and give them your contact information so that family members can talk directly to you if they so desire. You should not ask for addresses or phone numbers.
Sometimes you won't know until you actually arrive if family members or friends will be there. Make sure you have enough flowers on hand to be ready for them and to give them each a flower. In other words, just buy a bunch of flowers!
Sometimes you might be meeting outside an apartment complex or other public place and will be asked to leave. The folks asking you to leave might threaten you with calling the police. Think very carefully about how your group might handle it and make sure this is talked about during the "briefing" session in the church before you leave.
(Written by Rev. Allyson Sawtell, member of Washington Park UCC)
When I was on the staff at Washington Park UCC, I was part of the planning and creation of the vigil's liturgy. In later years, I was asked to write the entire liturgy. Below are samples of what the Good Friday Vigil Against Gun Violence Stations of the Cross might look like. They were taken from the actual services throughout the 11 years that Washington Park UCC has been doing this service in the Denver area.
Before you begin reading, we offer one more word of advice. Please do not take these meditations verbatim for your own use. Go ahead and use the imagery, but make it your own. In order to be led with sensitivity and integrity, your liturgy needs to come from your own heart, your own pain, your community's pain, and the situations you have chosen from your own community. It will not translate well or be done with integrity simply to copy what is written here below.
As you write your own meditations, you may find a sense of heaviness and grief. That's what I experience every time I sit down to write this material. That's good. May it open up your compassion for the victims, families, and survivors of gun violence. May your pain be healing for others.
Unless you have experienced this sort of violence yourself (which I have not at this point), it's impossible to understand what family and friends are going through, and it's hard to know what will be healing and helpful for them and for those who are concerned about gun violence. To avoid easy platitudes in this writing, I have found it helpful to imagine family members of the victims present when I lead the Stations. (Often family members or friends have been present at sites in our vigils.) What can you say to them that doesn't candy-coat their experience, that acknowledges their pain and loss and honors their grief, but might begin to offer some healing and hope? It's not an easy task! That's why it's so important that you do your own writing and not simply copy what is here.
We don't do all 14 of the Stations; logistically and emotionally it's simply impossible. We look at four to six sites and see which Station seems to fit the best for each one.
The basic order of our liturgy usually consists of:
Station One - Jesus is sentenced to death
On December 11, 2004, near this location, a16-year old young man was shot at a birthday party, after a fight broke out and shots were fired. He died later at Children's Hospital.
This youth was not identified until a later date; he was Byris Williams. But when many of us first read about Byris' death, he was still nameless to the world. Today we remember Byris Williams, call him by name, and pray for his family and friends.
The Station we commemorate here is the First Station - Jesus is condemned to die.
Jesus is condemned to death. And you wonder if Pilate even remembered - or knew-- his name.
Too many people go unnamed or unremembered. Their deaths warrant just a few words in the paper, if that. Jesus is condemned to die, and doesn't even make the obituary page. It's old news in no time, and most of the rest of us get on with our lives.
But a hole has been ripped in the hearts of Byris' family and friends. A hole has been ripped in the heart of our community as well. Because of this violence, none of us will ever be the same. We are the lesser because one 16-year old child, for a time nameless, was taken from this world in an act of violence.
In this city, where shootings are no surprise and violence seems to be the easiest response to anger and conflict, Jesus is sentenced to death. Jesus was sentenced to death when the shots rang out and Byris was killed.
Good Friday is indeed a God-awful time. Activism can and must come soon, and Easter is indeed a reality - but now, today, we stand in the pain.
Come by here, God, and gently hold those who mourn. Come by here, God, and help us put an end to violence.
Song --"Come by Here, my Lord, come by here" (tune: Kum By Yah)
Flower(s) are placed at site, given to family
Our next stop is...
Station Two - Jesus takes up his cross
On August 26, 2002, Babajide Kassim, a 42-year-old veteran cab driver from the Virgin Islands was shot and killed in his cab. Police say robbery was a likely motive, but had not yet identified any suspects. The shooting left cab drivers across the city fearing for their safety.
As we remember Babajide, we go back to the 2nd Station of the Cross - Jesus carries his cross.
Jesus carries his cross - the vehicle of his own execution. Babajide's cab became the vehicle of his own execution. It wasn't supposed to be that way. The cab represented a new life, and more freedom. But then it became the place of his death. It's not supposed to be that way!
But violence has other plans. And helplessly, Jesus carries his own cross. Every act of violence turns life to death, and transforms dreams to nightmares, a breathing human being into a life cut short, and hopes dashed.
Babajide worked hard, cared for other drivers, and his life was ended even as he did his job. And Jesus continues to carry his cross, made heavier with each gun shot and each death.
God, in your mercy, help us end the violence.
Song - "Come by Here"
Flowers are placed on the site
Our next stop is...
Station Three - Jesus stumbles
According to newspaper reports, on July 5, 2003 police responded to the Childs' house, where Paul Childs, a developmentally disabled 15-year old youth, was standing in the doorway, holding a knife. Although Paul made no attempt to stab the police officer, Officer James Turney felt Paul was behaving in a threatening way and shot him. Paul died there.
Today we remember Paul Childs and grieve for his family and his life cut short.
The Station of the Cross we commemorate here is the third one - Jesus stumbles.
Jesus stumbled from the crushing weight of his cross and his suffering. Last July 5, the crushing weight of violence and suffering surrounded the Childs' home, and Jesus stumbled and fell as Paul Childs was killed.
My God, my God - We live in such a broken world! We are such broken people! Good Friday thrives in our society in every act of violence.
Good Friday, it seems, will never go away, so we have to face it. This day, here and now, we live in the pain of Good Friday because if we do not, if we deny its reality, then it will dominate and triumph. And Jesus will stumble again and again.
So each year we come to do our vigil, and confess to the violence around us and in us, to inaction and fear, and pray to God that violence might someday end, that children will not be killed, and Jesus might not stumble and fall under the weight of our violence.
God have mercy. Christ have mercy. God have mercy.
Let us take a moment of silence as a flower is placed here in memory of Paul Childs.
Our next stop is...
Station Four - Jesus meets his mother
Here at this motel, in October of 1996, during some high school prom parties, shots were fired. Gene Williams, age 20, died.
The stop we commemorate here is the one in which Jesus meets his mother.
Jesus met his mother. On his way to his own death, he saw the one who gave him life.
Jesus met his mother. On the cross, he watched her watch him die.
Jesus met his mother. And they both came face to face with the pain, and anguish and brokenness of violence and death.
And Mary's face is reflected still in the hearts and faces and tears of all those whose lives have been ripped open by senseless violence.
On Good Friday there is no avoiding it - we come face to face with sadness and pain and loss.
On this spot, less than a year ago, lives were ripped apart by loss and violence. Someone's child was killed; it didn't have to happen. It was so senseless.
On Good Friday, we face senselessness and tragedy, and try to redeem it. On this Good Friday, we face the senselessness of violence on each street corner we visit, and through it, try to redeem our city and our society. And our lives.
On Good Friday, we come face to face with the pain, but we do it together. And maybe lives can be rebuilt, and maybe we can find hope.
Lord have mercy, and help us face the pain and brokenness of this day.
Song - "Come By Here"
A flower is placed on the site
Our next stop is...
Station Five - Simon is forced to carry Jesus' cross
On July 30, 2003, 15-year old Sammy Burks was shot in the liver by his 14-year old friend, in the front yard of the friend's house. His friend was showing off his father's pistol that he had found under a mattress in the house. Sammy thought he had been shot by a BB gun or an air gun. One of his sisters drove him home, where his mother dialed 911 after seeing a dime-sized hole in his stomach. The doctors tried and failed to stop the internal bleeding and he was transferred to University Hospital for a liver transplant, but died there on July 31, 2003.
Today we remember Sammy Burks.
The Station of the Cross we commemorate here is the fifth station - Simon helps Jesus carry his cross. As Jesus was making his way to Golgotha, staggering under the weight of his cross, the Roman soldiers looked for someone in the crowd to help Jesus carry the cross. They grabbed a man named Simon, and made him help Jesus.
For all we know, Simon was probably a decent human being, a nice person. But due to circumstances, he helped Jesus carry the instrument of his own execution. He helped Jesus move closer to his own death.
How tragic - an ordinary person wielding an instrument of death. How tragic, a 14-yerar old boy, a friend, wielding the instrument of Sammy's death. With no evil intention, due to circumstances (in this case, a gun easily found under a mattress), a friend became the bearer of death. And two lives, two families, are torn apart. And Jesus, once again, moves closer to Golgotha.
O God, forgive. O God, heal. O God, have mercy. Come by here.
Song - "Come by Here"
Place flower at site and give one to his mother.
Our next stop is...
Station Six - Veronica wipes Jesus' face
On November 18, 1997, Oumar Dia was killed because of the color of his skin. Jeannie Van Velkinburgh was shot as well, as she tried to help him, and is now paralyzed.
At this stop, we commemorate the station of the cross where Veronica wipes Jesus' face. You won't find this in the biblical account; it's from tradition.
According to tradition, Jesus was on his way to Calvary, hauling his cross, beaten, exhausted. Veronica came out of the crowd, daring to help a man she did not know, to try to give him some respite and comfort on this awful day. She didn't save his life, but she was there, she tried, she cared.
Even in the midst of a most horrendous day, a touch of goodness came through.
Death happened here. Cruelty, senselessness, racism, and evil happened here. Christ was crucified here as Oumar Dia lay dying. Good Friday happened here, and it keeps happening again and again in this city and in our world as innocents are slaughtered by guns.
I wish to God there would be no more places for us to go on this vigil next year. That no more lives would be ripped apart and no more gaping holes created in family circles. But wishing won't make it happened. The best way to redeem this tragedy is to work to make sure such senseless violence does not happen again.
We live in a Good Friday world where Christ is crucified in every act of violence. Every occasion of such brutality just drives the nails in deeper and deeper.
But even in the midst of Good Friday - then and now - there are glimpses of resurrection. In Veronica's and Jeannie's acts of compassion, glimmers of Easter shone through. And we are challenged to live lives with that sort of courageous, gentle compassion.
This spot, where Oumar and Jeannie were shot, is a place of paradox, a place of contradictions: a place of hate, but compassion, too. Good Friday is a day of contradictions: life and death, compassion and hate, hope and despair.
It is up to us to see which will triumph.
How long, O God, must Jesus stumble under the weight of our violence? And God is asking us that same question.
Let's have a few moments of silence.
Hear our prayers, O God, and help us end the violence.
Place a flower on the site
Song - "Come By Here"
Our next stop is...
Station Seven - Jesus falls again
Early Sunday morning, October 24, 2004, Mackenzie Kingry was shot in the head as gunfire broke out at a party she was attending. She died later that day. She was four days short of her 18th birthday.
Four days short of 18. Four days short of exploration, curiosity, leaving school, entering new paths, and continuing to love and be loved. Four days short of life unfolding.
The Station we commemorate here is the 7th Station - Jesus stumbles the second time. According to the Stations, Jesus stumbled three times. So this particular stumbling was not the first time, or the last time.
Another random, senseless shooting - it's not the first time and it's not the last time. And Jesus stumbles. In the crowd of people, with noise and shouting, Mackenzie fell and Jesus stumbled.
In this city, where life will never again unfold for too many individuals, we watch Jesus stumble over and over, falling under the weight of violence and gunshots.
In this city, where we are quick to crucify Christ with a bullet, we pray for peace.
In this city, O God, come by here.
Song - "Come by Here"
Flower(s) are placed at site, given to family
Our next stop is...
Station Eight - The women of Jerusalem weep
On Sunday, September 12, 2004, Christopher Skipworth (23) and Tiffany Witter (20) were shot in the street in front of children playing outside. Witnesses said they saw a man get out of a blue car and shoot at Christopher and Tiffany. Afterwards, some of the children who witnessed the shootings were reported to have been in shock.
The Station of the Cross we commemorate here is the 8th Station - The women weep for Jesus.
The women are mourning Jesus and weeping, and he tells them to weep instead for themselves and their children. Weep that they witness violence and injustice, that they stand by helplessly when innocent lives are taken.
Good Friday is about weeping. It's about violence, hard realities, and lots of pain. Easter is coming but is not here yet, and we are left in a Good Friday world, and Jesus is crucified and buried under the weight of our society's violence.
But like the women who wept for Jesus, are we crying for the wrong reasons? We do need to mourn for our community, and for all the lives shattered by gun violence. But we also need to weep for ourselves and our complicity in violence, however that is manifest in our psyches and in our relationships, in our entertainment, and in our laws.
We weep for ourselves. We weep for our children who watch people die in the streets. Weep for victims of gun violence. Weep as the bullets pierce Christ again and again, and the violence continues. Weep, but do not give up hope.
In this city, O God, where it seems that gunshots are indeed almost as common as handshakes, have mercy on us.
In this city, O God, move us from Good Friday to Easter.
In this city, O God, help us be peacemakers. Amen.
Song - "Struggle's long but hope is longer... brothers, sisters all." (to the tune of "Jacob's Ladder")
Flower(s) are placed at site, given to family
Our next stop is...
Station Nine - Jesus falls for the third time
At the beginning of the New Year, a life ended. On January 1st, 2003, Michael Dominic Thornton was shot and killed while quietly talking to friends in the basement of a house where a New Year's Eve party was going on. The paper reported that he was "a good kid in the wrong place at the wrong time." A guest who earlier had been removed from the party because he had a gun came back angry, and with another gun shot through the basement window, hitting and killing Michael.
Michael was buried wearing the graduation gown he would have worn with the rest of the East High School class this spring. "An East High Angel has gotten his wings," his pastor said at the funeral, and acknowledged the anger that goes along with grief at this senseless act.
The Station of the Cross that we remember here is one where Jesus stumbles yet again.
Jesus stumbles yet again with every gunshot, every act of violence, and every cry of grief. On January 1st of this year, Jesus stumbled right down the stairs and into the basement with Michael.
The basement of a friend's house is not supposed to be the wrong place. A night of talking quietly with friends is not supposed to be the wrong time. This violence was senseless, savage and tragic.
Jesus stumbles under the weight of such violent acts. Jesus stumbles under the weight of grief. Jesus stumbles under the burden of our societal violence. Jesus stumbles, carrying the bodies of all the innocents murdered in such senseless fashion.
Jesus stumbles. God, in your mercy, help him up. God, in your mercy, end the killing.
We place a flower here in memory of Michael, and our prayers are with him, his family and friends.
Moment of silence (instead of a song)
Place a flower at the site.
Our next stop is...
Station Ten - The soldiers take Jesus' garments
At 9:45 p.m. on Saturday, April 3, 1999, Pedro Silva was shot and killed in what was first reported to be a drive-by shooting, and later reported to have resulted from a confrontation with the gunman. It may have been gang-related. A suspect was arrested and charged four days later. This gun death took place one day after our last year's Good Friday Gun Vigil.
Two column inches in the paper. That's all the information we found on this young man - a human being, someone's son, a child of God.
Two column inches. One wonders how many column inches Jesus - also a young man, a human being, someone's son, a child of God - received upon his death. Probably not many.
Two column inches cannot contain a whole life. All they described was death.
The station commemorated here is the 10th one, where the Roman soldiers took away Jesus' clothes, leaving him exposed, vulnerable, alone. They took away his clothes; that didn't leave him with much.
A drive-by, and a life is snuffed out. Guns, like the Roman soldiers, strip us of everything we have and are. They leave us vulnerable, exposed, alone. They leave us with nothing much.
Mourn for Pedro. Whether his death was gang-related or not, mourn for Pedro.
God, heal the insanity of easy weapons, of rage-filled hate. Help us find a way out of the violence. May no one ever be reduced to two column inches. Amen.
Place a flower at the site.
Leader: For the pain that goes unnoticed,
All: God have mercy
Leader: For the lives maimed and destroyed by gun violence
All: Christ have mercy
Leader: For the hope that is swallowed up in fear and anger
All: God, have mercy. Amen!
Our next stop is...
Station Eleven - Jesus is nailed to the cross
Marissa Avalos, Greg Media, and Penny Media were shot to death on Labor Day, September 7, 1998.
The Station of the Cross we are commemorating is Station 11 - Jesus is nailed to the cross. And on that cross he cries, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!"
Jesus is crucified, murdered, dies. Jesus was crucified in the carnage and mayhem of last Labor Day. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" is a cry echoed throughout our city on Good Friday, on Labor Day, on each and every day when violence and destruction run rampant. When hate overpowers love, when death overpowers life, the cry is heard, and Jesus is crucified. Today is a day of remembering the crucifixion of Christ so long ago, and only last September.
It is a time of remembering that Good Friday did, finally, move to Easter - but only after a long, lonely, and sad struggle.
When guns are seen as solutions, when violence is seen as the answer - Jesus dies. He is nailed to the cross by every bullet fired in rage and anger. He hangs more and more heavily on the cross with every body found, every family ripped apart by gunshot, every senseless death.
"My God, my God, why have you forsake me?" God cries the same thing to us - "My people, my people, why have you forsaken me? My people, my people, why do you kill each other?"
On Good Friday, the questions remain, and the answers are nowhere to be found. As people of faith, though, we know there is more than Good Friday and its unanswerable questions.
As people of faith, we struggle towards the resurrection, we stumble through the despair of the tomb, and know that Easter can and does break into the world.
Until then, Lord have mercy, and help us to end the violence.
Our next stop is...
Station Twelve - Jesus dies
On September 29, 1999, in a no-knock police raid, Ismael Mena was shot and killed on this site. He was shot eight times; the police had the wrong house. The controversy over this death continues to this day. Ismael left behind a wife in Mexico and 9 children.
Reading: When the ninth hour had come, Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last. And there was darkness over the whole earth
Jesus dies upon the cross.
The station we remember here is the 12th one: Jesus dies. That's it; that's all there is to it. Good Friday, right then and there. Right here and now. Jesus died, and it was political. Jesus dies amid outcries of injustice. Jesus died, and there were no easy answers, no clear analysis, no simple explanations. Just agony and grief.
This place is Good Friday all over again. It's messy, it's not simple, there are no easy answers, just a lot of questions from everyone. Just agony and grief. Just hard times. Good Friday all over again. We're all caught up in the awful reality of gun violence; we're all caught. We're all in Good Friday.
And night fell over all the earth. And in that gloom of grief and unknowing, we struggle to find meaning and hope. Good Friday doesn't give us any answers and doesn't ease our search. Good Friday is a part of the journey towards Easter, right now, in this place and at this time. We are in the midst of unknown; we are in the midst of turmoil. A father and husband was torn from his family.
O God of life, we stand in the midst of death - help us find a way out. O God of all joy, we stand in the midst of grief - help us to transform it. Bring us healing, we pray. Amen.
Place a flower on the site.
Leader: Because you die every time one of your children is killed by a gun,
All: God have mercy.
Leader: Because there are no easy answers and because Good Friday is a messy day,
All: Christ have mercy.
Leader: Because your children die every day from gun violence, and your son is crucified day after day,
All: God have mercy. Amen!
Our next stop is...
Station Thirteen - Jesus is taken down from the cross
[We met at the steps of the State Capital building in downtown Denver for our last stop on Good Friday 2003, and joining us were several state legislators who have been supportive of our efforts and who worked hard for gun legislation. Also joining us was Tom Mauser, father of one of the youth killed at Columbine and who is now a strong gun-control activist.]
Song - "Gentle, Angry People" (by Holly Near)
(We are a gentle angry people, and we are singing, singing for our lives...)
The station we commemorate here at the State Capitol is Station 13 - Jesus is taken down from the cross but is not yet put in the tomb.
The crucifixion has ended. The resurrection has not yet begun. This is the in-between time. Even the closure of burial has not occurred. All that is present is grief. Family and friends gathered around the body of the one who has died. Mary holding her son one last time. The ambulance has not yet come to take him away. Any possible healing and transformation and hope of life hasn't had time to begin yet, and one wonders if it ever will. All that is here is raw pain and grief as yet another innocent is murdered. A cab driver. A high school senior. And a 33-year old preaching carpenter. The broken ones. And those left behind.
This is where we are. Not yet standing in light of resurrection, but in pain and grief and questioning. We are living in Good Friday.
We are living in Good Friday and we stand on the steps of our state government as we mourn violence in this city and around the world, and we pray a mix of prayers for our legislators both here and in Washington. On the one hand, we pray with the prophet Isaiah who said,
"Woe to the legislators of infamous laws,
to those who issue tyrannical decrees,
who refuse justice to the unfortunate
and cheat the poor among my people of their rights..." (Isaiah 10:1-2, Jerusalem Bible)
On the other hand, we give thanks for the courage of many in office who speak up and work to end the violence, who speak up for justice, who struggle mightily against impossible tasks (like budgets!).
And, probably most importantly, every word we speak of both praise and condemnation must come back to us. Even those of us who do not work under that dome are called to work just as hard to bring an end to violence.
We are living in a Good Friday world - but it doesn't have to be that way! That is our hope. It doesn't have to be that way. Yes, we drive in the nails. Yes, we sit with Mary and grieve. We are Mary, holding the body of her son. We sit with the pain, and wonder what's next. Each year we pray that we would have no reason to do this vigil ever again. And each year we're back. The violence doesn't seem to end. But it doesn't have to be that way!
We stand here on the steps of the place that symbolizes "we the people." We pour out our grief and confess our complicity in the crucifixion of the innocents. And we sit with the pain.
It's a long road to the empty tomb, and it seems like we'll never get there. And even when we do, we don't leave behind the pain, but we live in the hope that life, and not death, peace, and not violence, are the final words.
We leave a flower here at this site, symbolizing those times hope has died under this dome, and then we will toll the Resurrection bell, in the sure and certain hope that life will triumph, and with it, goodness and peace.
A flower is placed at the site.
God, in your mercy, we gather here.
God, in your mercy, grant us peace.
God, in your mercy, give us courage to end the violence.
God, in your mercy, be with us and with all families and survivors, in the midst of the awful grief and pain that violence engenders. Sit with us and help us stand again. Weep with us and help us transform our tears.
God, in your mercy, transform Good Friday.
God, in your mercy.
Song: Join me in our closing song, to the tune of "Jacob's Ladder" with the words: "Struggle's long, but hope is longer...brothers, sisters all."
Station Fourteen - Jesus is placed in the tomb
For some reason, we never used this station in our vigil. This is an opportunity for you to reflect on the imagery of this station, and how that might tie in with gun violence and specific situations of gun violence.
There is a finality to death, to burial. Mary buried her son, Jesus' followers buried their beloved friend. There was no glimmer of resurrection, just the finality of the stone being rolled in place.
As Christians, we say "we know better," that there is indeed resurrection and hope.
Work with these images. Good Friday is a day to sit with the pain, yet it's important towards the end of the vigil, especially at the last stop, to begin to move people to the hope of resurrection. It's a difficult dance.
(Submitted by Allyson Sawtell)
A Confession for Holy Weekby Allison Stone
God, we must confess that we rush through Holy Week, straining to feel and see glimpses of Easter'living entirely for the familiar joy of Easter morning. Forgive us. For we know that the joyous Easter morning contains a hollow ring if the path to the cross has not been weathered. Our concept of the abundant life is indeed skewed if we fail to include the darkness in our wholeness.
In our desire to thwart the pain we sometimes deny that it is a real part of our existence. If we have not stopped to examine our pain and the pain of our brothers and sisters, then rejoicing is merely an empty exercise.
For the cross is the very point at which our joy and pain intersect. The cross represents the place where despair and doubt don't have to be ignored'can't be ignored'but rather the depths of human hurt are embraced and celebrated as part of the whole person. The whole, alive person that God desires each of us to be. Alive to celebration and defeat, but ALIVE to the wonders of the abundant life through Christ. Alive to the hurts of our sisters and brothers and how we can be an instrument of healing. Ready to respond to their hurts in a spirit of reconciliation and justice.
In this Easter season, may we each continue to develop the ability to weave all our experiences into the rich tapestry of our existence'embracing both joy and pain with Christ's life as our model. Therein lies the true impact of the resurrection. May it be so.
Allison Stone is a social worker in Baltimore, Maryland. Art is by Lenora Mathis.
(from Baptist Peacemaker, Volume 20 Number 1, Spring 2000)
A Meditation on Lint(No, it's not a typo)
by Sharon Rollins
No, you didn't read it wrong. Yes, I said a meditation on 'Lint.' Which one of us hasn't had the audacity to make the pun? Really, now.
What is lint? It's that warm fuzzy stuff that my housemate seldom removes from the dryer screen. 'You'll burn the house down,' I remember hearing as a child from my dad. So, I throw the clothes in the dryer and tape the door shut. Then I look at the little metal lint screen door and think to myself, 'Surely it wouldn't hurt if I just wait until after this load.' Then I hear those words like the little angel/devil scenario in my head: 'You'll burn the house down!' and I lift the lid, carefully pry out the broken plastic handle, and sweep the lint off the screen.
It's a ritual really, including the entire conversation that occurs in my head each time. But without the ritual, I'd surely 'burn the house down' eventually. It's a cleansing ritual, a casting out of the parts that are no longer needed, a shedding of excess, which can, if left too long, create grave danger.
So too, is Lent, in its own way (if you'll allow the overstretched analogy). Is it not a ritual of giving away the bits and pieces of sin and dirt that have collected in our lives over the past year? A time of noticing the little deaths in each of us and presenting ourselves to have our screens wiped clean? Is it not an opportunity to prevent our houses from burning down from the inside out, from the filth that has collected within?
Lint as a symbol'yes, I've taken it too far now. But tell me, when was the last time you cleaned the lent screen in your life? I can see that mine is full.
Sharon Rollins is a therapist at Family Counseling Center in Waco, Texas. This meditation, printed in Baptist Peacemaker, Volume 20 Number 1, Spring 2000, was printed first in the Lenten meditation booklet Inscape, a publication of Seventh and James Baptist Church.
The Dead Spaceby Heather Oldham
I want to leave him in the grave,
Pull ashen bones from the shroud's
Fine layers, dissolving. When Mary found
The worshipped spot empty, why the
Relief? How much easier to run, like
Peter, so to convince you
I am worshipping the face
of Christ, I see the Other, a
Rib in my side to pull away from,
Become, and be married to the sides of the
Sexpots, oppressed, lame, blind, poor
Politicians, the creedless, the indoctrinated
Philosophers, eyes and mouths shot open, with
No hands. How much easier to convince
You I would die, suffer without singing
Hymns or owning a pulpit or thumping a Bible
On a table consecrated holy. How much easier to
Convince you my faith has no cloud but a cross,
That threshold between these words and your
Eyes, my motivations and their ends. How much easier
to live in the space between 'My God, why have
You forsaken me?' and the 3rd day before sunrise. That way, I can
Hold your hand in the grief that isolates us, in the
Salvation that is salvation, and not a hope
Heather Oldham is a junior English and philosophy major at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. The art is by Rebecca Ward, a sophomore art major at the University of Texas at Austin. These poems and art are from the award-winning department called 'Peace Soup' in Baptist Peacemaker. 'Peace Soup' is affectionately named after a youth newspaper created during the 1999 'peace camp.' (from Baptist Peacemaker, Volume 24 Number 2, Summer 2004)
While I was in high school, my youth minister was the first to tell me about the season of Lent. We discussed what Lent was and how we could respond. As a youth group, we often decided that each of us should make some sort of sacrifice for the 40-day period. The list usually included soda, chocolate, watching TV, or some other negative habit to which we had become accustomed.
While the items sacrificed might not seem such a hardship to me now, the foundation was laid for a continuing fascination with the concept of Lent.
Now, my prayer is that the Lenten season will become much more than a mere fascination. We live in a culture that is rich beyond measure'one in which living without cable TV is often considered a hardship. The call of Jesus during Lent is for us to pack our bags and journey with him towards Jerusalem. Or rather, we should probably leave our baggage at home and trust God on the journey.
The time of Lent calls us to cut the thongs of the yoke'let go of our personal baggage'and face and embrace a radical type of fasting which calls us to not just worry about our personal yoke. If we choose to come on this Lenten journey'we must beware'we just might return transformed.
We might also, if all goes well, see the lesson of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter as a pattern in our daily lives. The transformation might not be one that everyone at the office notices right away. The transformation might not even be one that we notice right away. Indeed the journey does promise a change.
If we are willing to place our lives, during Lent, into the hands of one who suffered persecution for his beliefs, who was betrayed, and ultimately crucified, we cannot help being transformed. For Christ came as the One who made the Word become flesh'to dwell among us.
If we would be willing, during Lent,
To put ourselves in a new situation
in which we might not feel comfortable,
If we would be willing, during Lent,
To look through someone's eyes
who makes less money than we do,
If we would be willing, during Lent,
To spend time listening to someone
who has been excluded because of their race,
If we would be willing, during Lent,
To choose to seek out a different lens
through which to view our culture,
If we would be willing, during Lent,
To give up making assumptions
about someone based on their appearance'
Then, maybe, we would begin to be in touch with the fast that God chooses: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke. These words seem ideal and perhaps lofty, but the journey to wholeness begins with fleshing out what these truths can look like in our daily lives.
Let Lent call us to think about the way in which the choices we make and the way we live affect all of God's children. Then, maybe, being touched by God's wholeness, we will joyfully respond to the fast, not being encumbered by the challenges or afraid of the outcome, but being set free to live in the laughter and embrace of a God who cries out for the redemption of all.
Allison Stone is a former social worker now studying theology in Baltimore, Maryland. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2000.
Sharing the Wounds of the CrossA Meditation for Holy Friday
by Brett Younger
You come home one evening from a wonderful play that made you cry. You start to pitch the program in the trash, but then you sit down, read through it again, and remember. You don't want to forget what it felt like to be there. You put the program on your dresser. You'll look at it again tomorrow. Maybe you'll throw the program away then or maybe you'll keep it a little longer.
On Monday morning, people all over Jerusalem looked at the palm branches they had left on the dresser. They didn't want to forget the day before. They started to pitch the palm branches into the trash, but then decided to keep them a little longer.
Jerusalem was going to be Camelot and Jesus was going to be King Arthur. The crowds had dreamed of trumpets, towers, long flowing robes, and sparkling silver scepters. The disciples would be the knights of the round table, shining in their armor, using might for right, battling to snuff out evil.
Five hundred years earlier, the prophet Zechariah said that one day there would be a day like Palm Sunday. That ancient promise was etched indelibly in the mind of a glory-starved nation. For half a millennium they kept an eye open for David's successor to gallop into town and assume the throne. The orchestra was forever rehearsing, 'Happy days are here again.'
When Jesus decided it was finally time for the world's most anticipated parade, they were ready. As he rode like a conquering king into his capital city, the people lined the street and cheered wildly. They waved their palm branches and spread them like a royal carpet. The owner of the dry cleaners suggested that everyone lay their coats before Jesus' donkey. Vendors were hawking refreshments, bags of confetti, and those obnoxious, long, skinny horns.
'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest,' they cheered until they were hoarse. They laughed and cried and danced and sang. The disciples thought that it was the best day they had ever known and they weren't far from the truth.
Everything, however, changed five days later when the grand marshal of the parade was carried out of town in a casket. There would be no round table, no Camelot. The path Jesus chose was revealed not only on Palm Sunday, but on Good Friday. That made it clear what it means to follow Jesus. And it isn't what we've been hoping for.
Like the Palm Sunday crowd, we want to see what we want to see. We'd like a Messiah who makes our lives easier. We have in our minds the Messiah we'd most enjoy following. But in order to follow, we have to give up our pre-conceived ideas, and admit that his way leads to the cross.
In Ah! But Your Land is Beautiful, Alan Paton tells the story of Robert Mansfield, a white man in South Africa twenty-five years ago. Mansfield was the headmaster of a white school. He took his athletic teams to play cricket against the black schools until the department of education forbade him to do it any more. He resigned in protest. Shortly thereafter, Emmanuel Nene, a leader in the black community, came to meet him.
'I have come to see a man who resigns his job because he doesn't wish to obey an order that will prevent children from playing with one another.'
'Mr. Nene, I resigned because I think it is time to go out and fight everything that separates people from one another. Do I look like a knight in shining armor?'
'Yes, you do, but you're going to get wounded. Do you know that?'
'I expect that may happen.'
'Well you expect correctly, Mr. Mansfield. People don't like what you're doing. But I am thinking of joining with you in the battle.'
'You're going to wear the shining armor, too.'
'Yes, and I'm going to get wounded, too. Not only by the government, but also by my own people as well.'
'Aren't you worried about the wounds, Mr. Nene?'
'I don't worry about the wounds. When I go up there, which is my intention, the Big Judge will say to me, 'Where are your wounds?' and if I say I haven't any, he will say, 'Was there nothing to fight for?' I couldn't face that question.'
Sharing the wounds of the cross takes a variety of forms: turning the other cheek, spending time with people who seem to have nothing to offer us, standing with the people who are losing, caring for those who've made terrible mistakes, doing good that will receive no applause, sharing food with the hungry, becoming a better friend to someone with AIDS, emptying bedpans, holding hands stiffened by arthritis, taking other people's children to the park, listening to a lonely person, treating discarded people as children of God, praying not for an easier life but for strength, following Christ on the road less-traveled, discovering God's grace.
For in following all the way to the cross, we'll find that the journey offers only one guarantee: in the long run, we'll gain far more than we lose. The cross changes all the definitions. Power, success, and even happiness, as the world knows them, belong to those who take them for themselves; but peace, love, and joy are gifts from God given to those who give themselves.
Palm Sunday, even with all the joy it represents, isn't nearly enough. Leftover palms aren't worth keeping. You and I need the cross. We need to lay down our tiny aspirations and take up the hope of following Jesus. Following Christ is hard, but if we share the cross, then by grace, at the end of the road, God will bring Easter.
Brett Younger is pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. The art is by Lara Luksis. This meditation was printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2001. Lara's art was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2003.
God, we know that for some reason
you put each of us in this world,
a world where sometimes bad things happen
and people that we love sometimes die,
and we ourselves live in constant pain.
We cry to you out of the darkness
that so often surround us.
We ask that you would open our eyes
to the light,
to your presence that is with us in our pain.
We ask for your healing.
We ask for wholeness.
We ask the same for others in our community
who cry out at this time.
We know that you can turn the sadness into joy;
we've seen you do it.
Today we offer our broken lives and hearts and bodies
once again to you for healing.
In the name of the Christ,
whose body was broken that we might be whole,
Katie Cook is the editor of Hunger News & Hope and Sacred Seasons, publications of Seeds of Hope, and Baptist Peacemaker, a publication of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. This litany was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2001. Art is by Peter Yuichi Clark, and was created for Seventh & James Baptist Church in Waco, Texas.
by Katie Cook
Here's an activity that I found effective in involving young people in the liturgical rhythm of the Lenten and Easter seasons. Just before Ash Wednesday, I gathered my small youth group at my house in Shamrock, Texas to begin making a series of banners for Lent. Being a small, impoverished country church, we had no budget for this project, so I found coarse dark cloth, construction paper, and various other materials and doodads in the rummage closet. We based the banner themes on the 'last sayings' of Christ. (I used the order of sayings according to the Dubois cantata, The Seven Last Words of Christ.)
I found the different sayings in the gospels, read them to the youth, and encouraged them to create a design for each saying. For instance, for the first saying, 'Father, forgive them; they do not realize what they are doing,' they cut out an outstretched arm and hand with a nail through it. For another, they cut out a crown of thorns. I encouraged them to come up with the designs without my help. It was delightful to watch them discover that they were, indeed, creative, and that they could do something to enhance the worship experience for the adults in their church.
We carefully stored these banners and waited to hang them one by one in the sanctuary. We hung the first one on Ash Wednesday, and the others (the youth took turns hanging them) on the Sundays in Lent. By Holy Week, all seven banners were hanging in the sanctuary.
We hung them along the altar rail and on the pulpit. We also saved some of the dark cloth to place over the altar table in front of the pulpit, and arranged different objects on it that represented Christ's suffering. (A sea shell with a smudge of red on it reminded someone of the wounds of Christ. Someone brought a branch from a thorn bush. Someone else thought a small purple blanket looked like a purple robe that Romans would use.)
During Holy Week we made a white table cloth and banner, again using material from the rummage closet. This time they designed a scene with an empty tomb and sunrise. All week we gathered silk lilies and dogwood from anyone who would donate them. On Easter Sunday morning, we blew up balloons.
When the time came for the morning worship service, one of the youth read the resurrection passage in Matthew 28. As he read Jesus' words, 'Do not be afraid,' the pastor (who was also the organist) began playing 'Christ the Lord is Risen Today.'
As the congregation sang, the youth and children practically frolicked down the aisles carrying lilies, dogwoods, and the white banner and altar cloth.
They ripped down the Lenten banners, moved the Lenten objects off the altar table, put up the Easter 'paraments,' laid the flowers on the altar, and tied the balloons wherever they could find to anchor them in the altar area.
Later I heard from several of the adults that the youth's participation that season had made the whole Easter event more meaningful. One of the youth said, 'Now I understand what it's about.' That was enough for me.
Katie Cook is the editor of Hunger News & Hope and Sacred Seasons, publications of Seeds of Hope, and Baptist Peacemaker, a publication of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. Art is by Peter Yuichi Clark. This activity took place in the Bible Methodist Church in Shamrock, Texas. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 1998.
Litany for Maundy Thursdayby Katie Cook
ONE: It is Thursday evening of Passover week, and strange events are stirring
around us in Jerusalem.
MANY: The supper is laid; it is time to draw near to Jesus and our fellow disciples.
ONE: As we break this bread together, we must be willing to be broken
as he was broken.
MANY: As we take this wine, we must be ready for our blood to be shed as his was shed.
ONE: As we share the bread and wine with each other, we must remember,
singly and together, what is ours through God's unfailing love.
MANY: As we kneel together before the altar of Christ, we must be willing to wash
the dusty feet of our fellow travelers'as he washed the feet of those to whom
he was leader.
ONE: Before we come to the table, let us pray that we might receive and share this gift
in the spirit that Christ intended.
MANY: O God, we come to this table full of the week's events, with thoughts that whirl
and shout in our heads.
ONE: We ask first that you would quiet our riotous minds and help us to meditate
upon your love for us.
MANY: We come to your supper unable to comprehend the enormity of the gift
that is before us.
ONE: We ask what we know we do not deserve; nevertheless, we ask, believing
in your mercy and goodness.
MANY: Give us grace in this time for the living of the days before us.
ONE: Give us peace for the inward journey and compassion for the outward journey.
MANY: May our hearts overflow with the knowledge of your goodness and holiness.
May we go from this place renewed for our journeys.
ALL: May we go from this place to be servants to all, in the image of Christ.
Katie Cook is the editor of Hunger News & Hope and Sacred Seasons, publications of Seeds of Hope, and Baptist Peacemaker, a publication of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. This litany first appeared in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 1999. The footwashing art is by Lenora Mathis.
Sharing the Wounds of Christ, 2A Litany for Holy Friday
by Brett Younger
ONE: Let us challenge one another to share the wounds of Christ.
MANY: God give us the courage to turn the other cheek,
ONE: To spend time with people who can give us nothing,
MANY: To stand with people who are the underdogs,
ONE: To care for people who have made terrible mistakes,
MANY: To do good that will earn us no applause,
ONE: To share food with the hungry,
MANY: To become a better friend to someone with AIDS,
ONE: To do those tasks we all find discomforting,
MANY: To lovingly hold hands stiffened by arthritis,
ONE: To take other people's children to the park,
MANY: To really listen to a lonely person,
ONE: To treat discarded people as the children of God they are,
ALL: God, give us the courage to do these things, and to do them with joy.
Brett Younger is pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. The art is by Lara Luksis. This meditation was printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2001. Lara's art was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2003.
What Wondrous Loveby Dawn Darwin Weeks
What wondrous love is this'
that saved a wretch like me,
one who yearns to walk
in paths of righteousness, but
is more likely to wander
down highways of pretending.
What wondrous love is this'
how sweet the sound
the calling of One
who knew before my birth
that no matter how hard
I try to get it right,
I desperately need
What wondrous love is this'
the Wounded One touches
my -aholisms and busy-ness,
my numbness and fear;
the Freeing One brings
God's peace and pace,
God's life of victory.
Oh my soul!
Oh my soul!
Dawn Darwin Weeks is a United Church of Christ minister. She originally wrote this meditation for Inscape, a Lenten booklet published by Seventh & James Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. It also appeared in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2000. The art is by Ren' Boldt and is used courtesy of Central Presbyterian Church in Waco, Texas.
A Children's Sermon for Easter Sundayby LeAnna Bryant
Materials needed: illustrations of the metamorphic stages of a caterpillar/butterfly and butterfly stickers
Show the children pictures of a caterpillar. Ask them what they know about caterpillars. Ask questions like, "Did you know the caterpillar is not always going to look like this?'
Next, show the children pictures of a cocoon. Ask 'Do you see a caterpillar in this picture? What happens to this caterpillar?"
Then show pictures of a butterfly coming out of the cocoon. Ask 'What's happening in this picture?'
Tell the children that the Easter story is similar to this caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Say something like, 'Jesus lived many years serving God. Many people did not like what he did and taught, so they did a bad thing and killed him. But, just like the caterpillar doesn't stay in the cocoon, Jesus did not stay in the tomb where they buried him. And just like the butterfly is beautiful when it comes out of the cocoon, Jesus was also beautiful when he came out of the tomb.'
Give each child a butterfly sticker and say something like 'This sticker is to remind us that Jesus is alive and beautiful. When we act like Jesus, we are beautiful, too.'
LeAnna Bryant is an elementary school teacher in Atlanta, Georgia. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 1998. The butterfly art is by Robert Darden.
Drama for Easter Sunriseby John S. Ballenger
Note: This drama was written for a sunrise service and was originally performed by one person. It would also be effective to employ different readers, perhaps in costume. If you enlist more than one reader, station them across the front of the stage area with the celebrant in the middle.
So it's Easter again. We're up at dawn'celebrating the rising of the Son'outside, sitting on dew damp grass. Listen. At this high and holy moment, all creation celebrates the unity that should be'the intended harmony'the ongoing work of a creating God who dreams.
Listen! Do you hear the voices of Easter all around us?'whispering in the river'singing on the wind'shhhh'the birds hear'listen to them echoing'do you hear your heart? Listen. Listen to the voices of Easter:
I washed my hands of it. It was one of those symbolic actions that we politicians are so skilled at'like kissing babies, and shaking the hand of someone we can't stand while grinning at them. A symbolic action'designed to allow us to control as many of the consequences as we can.
So I dipped my hands in a basin of water that I had brought out'swished them around, rinsed them thoroughly, then held them up high and dramatically dried them off'a symbolic action'a symbolic gesture full of drama and photo opportunity, but signifying nothing'a symbolic action'but it wouldn't stay symbolic. Some actions, some gestures go beyond symbol'tapping into something fundamental that is more real and more true than we are'connecting us to that reality'to that truth.
And whether or not waters flow in symbolic action, we are immersed in this more, and if we do it wrong we'll never feel clean, and the more we try and wash off, the dirtier we'll feel (Out, damned spot! Out, I say!), but if we do it right, we're clean forever'having buried our lesser parts and having been raised to the newness of being a part of the more. I buried the parts of me longing for the more and raised the lesser parts of me to a deadness of life with which no one would be well pleased'least of all myself, and what's done cannot be undone.
I was told to watch the stone. I watched the stone. I never fell asleep. I hear they say I fell asleep. I never fell asleep. I was watching the stone'like they told me to'my eyes never left it, and I'm sitting there watching this stone and suddenly there was a great noise'a rattling and then there was a bunch of stones coming together'stone to stone'this stone connecting to that stone'this stone to that one'constructing something'something far bigger than I could see'extending beyond sight'I looked, and as the stones came together they ceased to be separate only, but became also part of one mighty whole, and it was utterly still. Waiting?
And then the wind swirled around me'whirled around me'into this'into it, and deep deep within the stone I was watching, the cornerstone of this assembly, there was a pulse'a pulse of light'a wild singing against which it seemed nothing could prevail, and I was looking at something so much more than a collection of stones.
I watched that stone. I still see it'the foundation of something I don't understand'the cornerstone of something immense and strange and beautiful'eternal and alive.
I ran. I remember running. Running away from the angry crowd around him. Running toward the tomb. I remember a sense of driven-ness'a sense on the one hand of not being able to get away from him fast enough'a sense on the other hand of not being able to get to him fast enough'and between the two extremes'the crowing of a bird. I remember a sense of urgency'this can't happen soon enough'ordinary time's too slow for what needs to happen here. And I remember a sense of the impossible'of what could not be'surely I'm not running away from my friend'my teacher'my master'when he needs me most'and then surely I'm not running to a tomb expecting what cannot be.
I remember reaching the point where you don't think your body can keep up with what you want it to do'the spirit is willing, but the' 'oh, my God. I'm running, and there is fear, and there is great joy.
I'm still running'sometimes away'sometimes towards. When confronted with God'there is fear and there is great joy, and I can't respond soon enough.
I stand'having trouble breathing'as if it weren't something natural, something automatic'as if it were new and surprising'my heart pounding like it was going to project itself right out of my chest'as if I'd been running away from something'toward something that pushed me beyond myself'as if I were a new born baby for whom nothing was natural.
And there were stones that looked like lightning, and they moved like thunder, and my eyes were so intense that they hurt'because I was looking at something that should have been full, but was empty. And I heard the sound of someone walking in the garden and I thought they had hidden him and I couldn't see and he spoke and I couldn't see him, and then he named me, and I was called out of my hiding, and I saw one who should've been empty, but was full'raised to a strange and beautiful newness.
There was a wild singing'lightning pulsed around us, and I saw the undoing of what had been done, and there was fear, and there was great joy.
Listen'to symbols that won't stay symbols'that tap into reality and truth.
Listen to the river: washing'cleansing.
Listen to the wind: the breath of one who sings life eternal.
Listen to the birds: between your fear and your joy.
Listen to your heart: telling you that all is new and that you can be full.
Listen to the voices of Easter'telling you your story'telling you that God is part of your story'that God dreams of you being a part of the harmony'a part of the assembly'one with light and life.
John Ballenger, a pastor in Baltimore, Maryland, is the drama and poetry editor for Seeds of Hope. This drama was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 1998. Butterfly art is by Erin Kennedy Mayer.
St. AugustineFor it is one thing to see the land of peace from a wooded ridge'and another to tread the road that leads to it. -- St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions This quote appeared, along with interpretive art by Sharon Rollins, in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2001.
Easter Catches Me Off Guardby David Tatum
Each year Easter seems to catch me off guard. I find myself struggling to find some meaning in this season that will help me understand the kind of love that allows itself to be crucified by the very hands it came to heal. Each year I am left wanting. I do not understand. I want to see the holes in Jesus' hands and thrust my hand in his side. Like Peter, I deny knowing Jesus'if not by words, surely by actions'and constantly find myself asking forgiveness. Just as many of Jesus' closest friends did, I often run and hide fearing that my savior has gone to the grave never to be seen or heard from again.
What a long three days it must have been. But the wait is over. And the good news is that there is a love that is alive with compassion and saving grace for those of us who struggle to find concrete answers. A love that forgives all of our denials and overcomes our fears. Love so powerful that it stands in the face of those trying to destroy it and offers to heal their wounds. A love that will not die. Good news indeed.
David Tatum, a psychologist and furniture maker, now works as the construction manager for Habitat for Humanity in Waco, Texas. The above was first printed in Sprouts, a supplement of Seeds Magazine, April 1996, Volume 18 Number 4. Art is by Sharon Rollins.
Journey Into DarknessA Tenebrae Service
Based on the Seven Last Sayings of Christ
by Katie Cook
Notes about Tenebrae
This Tenebrae service is designed to create an atmosphere in which worshippers will enter into the suffering of Jesus Christ as he endured the vicious mockery of the fickle crowd, the blatant hatred of the Jewish leaders, the cautious indifference of the temporal rulers, the brutal precision of the Roman Guard. We are reminded at this time of the horror, the anguish, the utter desolation that caused him to sweat 'drops of blood' on Thursday night and that caused him to cry out from the cross, 'My God, My God; why have you forsaken me?'
Even in the distress of this memory, we are somehow encouraged. Through the pain of Christ, we are comforted; we know through this that he who we are taught was fully God, was also fully human. We find that he knew, as we sometimes know, the feeling of utter despair. We know through this that there is no suffering that we can face that he does not understand.
We are also reminded of the overwhelming love and grace that caused Jesus to face such a hideous death. C. S. Lewis once wrote that Jesus would have given his life in love, even if there had only been one person to die for. Even if it were just me. Even if it were just you. As we remember this, we then commit ourselves to be true to the dream that he died for'the vision of a peaceable Commonwealth of all God's children. And as we remember these things, we look to the first sign of that hope'the events of Easter Sunday.
Getting Ready for the Tenebrae Service
We researched the readings below from the gospels and arranged them in the order of 'The Seven Last Words of Christ' in the Dubois cantata.
The setting should be a darkened room, perhaps the church's sanctuary, with seven candles lit, as well as a Christ candle. (We use the Christ candle from the previous Advent wreath.) You may want to make the candles uniform, or you may not. I have used candlesticks with graded heights and uniform candles. One international group chose candles that were all different shapes, sizes, and colors. If this is done for Maundy Thursday, we leave the Christ candle burning, because there is a Good Friday service in which the candle is snuffed out. Sometimes we add a candle to the side for readers, or for the person operating the music player. You will also need a snuffer of some kind.
If possible, make the candles the only light source. Try to make it as dark as possible. You may choose to observe communion just before the readings; this adds a sense of shared experience to the service. Keep the elements and dishes simple'rustic if possible. Break the bread and pour the wine in silence, and then begin the passing of the elements. Involve as many of the congregation as possible in passing. The cello prelude to John Michael Talbot's The Lord's Supper makes an appropriate accompaniment to the communion.
Assign seven readers ahead of time, and give each a copy of one of the sayings. Each will read his or her portion and then snuff out one candle.
The First Saying
The gospel of Luke is the only manuscript that tells us about the first thing that Jesus said from the cross. When the Roman soldiers had taken Jesus up to the place that was called Skull Hill, and when they had nailed his hands and feet to the wood and set the cross upright in its hole, Jesus is said to have cried out, 'Father, forgive them. They do not realize what they are doing.'
The Second Saying
There were two criminals there also, to be put to death at the same time. The religious leaders and others in the crowd were jeering and cursing at Jesus, and the Romans put up a sign over his head, saying 'This is the King of the Jews.' The Jewish leaders told them to change it, to make it say, 'He said he was king of the Jews.' But the Romans refused to change it.
The book of Luke says that one of the thieves, suspended on a cross beside Jesus, joined the crowd in mocking him; The thief said, 'Why don't you save yourself? and us, too, while you're at it.' And Jesus didn't say a word.
But the other thief said, 'Shut up, you fool! Don't you fear God at all? We deserve to die, but this man has done nothing wrong. 'Then he said to Jesus, 'Remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered this time. He said, 'You can be assured that this very day you will be with me in Paradise.'
The Third Saying
The fourth gospel, traditionally attributed to the apostle John, is the only manuscript which recorded the third saying of Christ from the cross. While the soldiers were casting lots for Jesus' robe, he looked down and saw his mother Mary standing nearby with Mary Magdalene and a third woman referred to as 'the other Mary.' John was also standing nearby'he was the only one of the twelve who had ventured near the execution site that day. Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son,' indicating John. And to John, Jesus said, 'This is your mother.' And from that day on, John took Mary into his own home and treated her as if she were his own mother.
The Fourth Saying
The gospels of Matthew and Mark tell us that, during the sixth hour'which, according to most scholars, would be midday, or noon'there was a darkness over all the earth. This darkness lasted for three hours. At the end of that time, Jesus cried out with the words that the king and psalmist David had once cried into the darkness: 'My God, My God; Why have you forsaken me?'
This story shows us that even the one whom we call Lord experienced the feeling of utter despair.
The Fifth Saying
The fourth gospel recorded for us the account of the fifth saying of Christ from the cross. Jesus had been suspended on the cross for several hours. Those who have studied the practice of crucifixion say that victims found it difficult to breathe. We may assume that Jesus was feeling this loss of breath. His hands and feet were bleeding from the nails that were pinning him to the wooden beams. Blood was running down his face from the places where a crown made of thorns had cut his head. He said, 'I'm thirsty.'
Someone lifted up to his mouth a sponge filled with sour wine that, we are told, they sometimes used to dull the pain. Jesus drank from it.
The Sixth Saying
The gospel of Luke tells us that, when darkness had been over the land for three hours, the veil in the temple'the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple'was torn right down the middle. Jesus knew that death was very near.
He said, 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.'
The Seventh Saying
In the gospel of John we are told that, after all of the events of this cruel day, Jesus simply said, 'It is finished,' which we are told means 'I have accomplished and completed all that I came here to do.' And having spoken these words, he bowed his head and died.
I have often played the 'Gethsemene' song from Jesus Christ Superstar just before the readings. Another idea would be a hymn, such as 'What Wondrous Love Is This,' sung at the end of the readings. Encourage participants to enter and leave the room in silence.
Katie Cook is the editor of Hunger News & Hope and Sacred Seasons, publications of Seeds of Hope, and Baptist Peacemaker, a publication of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. This service was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 1998. Art is by Lenora Mathis.
Ten Stations of SufferingA Holy Week Activity for Youth and Others
by Claire McKeever
Part 1: Instructions.
You can use the list 'Ten Required Questions,' combined with 'The Ten Stations of Suffering' (roughly adapted from the Stations of the Cross) as an activity designed to help young people reflect on their personal lives, as well as on Jesus' death and resurrection. (See below for the two lists.)
In order to execute the activity successfully, you will need to make several preparations. First, you will need a large room, such as a fellowship hall or a sanctuary.
You may also choose to do this activity outside along a sidewalk or field that will lead to a sanctuary or place where insightful worship and discussion will occur.
Second, you will need canned foods, of any kind, to serve as props at each station. The canned foods will be placed at each station for each student to pick up and carry with them if they feel they have committed the particular transgression described at the station.
Thus, you will need enough cans for each student to take one at each station. In other words, if you have ten students and there are ten stations, you will need one hundred cans. (You can donate them to your local food pantry afterward.) You will also need a strong bag for each student in which to carry their burdens.
Next, you will need rectangles of posterboard, printed with large, easy-to-read letters, each containing a question or a meditation from the 'Stations of Christ's Suffering.' Depending on where you choose to hold this activity, you may need small tables on which to place the cans and the meditations.
You will also need large, printed numbers to help the youth find each new station. If you hold the activity outside, it might be helpful to laminate the meditations and numbers and staple them to wooden stakes that could be placed in the ground. (We urge you to use your own judgment on this, and adapt these instructions to your own situation.)
Finally, you will need a large, rugged-looking cross that will serve as the final destination of the journey.
It would be best for the room or area to be dark, with lights at each station, with a brighter light on the cross. At the end of the journey, all of the students will be gathered at the cross.
Before you begin, make sure that each young person understands everything that is going on. Explain what is about to happen, and entertain questions until you know everyone understands.
The cans the students carry with them from station to station represent guilts or burdens, and the cross represents a place of grace and forgiveness, where they can put down their cans and feel what it's like to lay their burdens at the foot of the cross. Instruct them to stay at the cross until all of the participants have arrived.
It is important, at that point, to lead the students in a debriefing session, allowing them to reflect on how they felt as they meditated at each station. In order to do this, you may want to lead them to a room where they can sit and talk'perhaps a room where this sort of discussion happens frequently. Create an atmosphere of comfort and security, in which the students feel free to speak candidly about their emotions during the experience.
The focus of this activity is on the practical application of the ten commandments to our lives, to help students realize that these are not merely age-old guidelines, but prevalent requirements for everyday life.
Part 2: The Ten Stations of Suffering
(Adapted from the Stations of the Cross)
1. Jesus is condemned to death. Jesus takes this death sentence to redeem you from your own humanity, imperfection, and ill-will.
2. Jesus carries his cross. Jesus carries not only the cross, but also all of our disasters, hurts, and pains.
3. Jesus falls. Jesus'tired, overwhelmed, and weary'falls to the ground under the weight of the cross.
4. Jesus meets his mother. Can you imagine the worry and anguish that fill both Mary's and Jesus' hearts as they listen to the crowd jeering, embracing each other physically for the last time? Jesus loves his mother, and by touching her on his trek to Golgotha, he shows his deep devotion for her.
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross. Even Jesus, God incarnate, needed help carrying the weight of the cross. Think of Jesus' ability to ask for help and accept it from another.
6. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. Jesus instructs these women not to weep for him, but only for themselves. It is their sin, as well as ours, for which Jesus is to suffer and die.
7. Jesus' clothes are taken away. Can you imagine the embarrassment and humility Jesus experienced when he was stripped of his clothing? Standing in front of a great crowd, naked for the world to see, Jesus endured shame and scorn.
8. Jesus is nailed to the cross. Consider the physical pain Jesus endures as his body is stretched across the top beam. Consider the dread and agony Jesus feels as the nails pierce his hands and feet.
9. Jesus dies on the cross. After many hours of agony, Jesus breathes his last breath with you on his heart and mind. He dies for you.
10. The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross and laid to rest in the tomb. Can you imagine the grief of those who take Jesus' body from the cross, as they prepare to take him to the tomb? Try to put yourself in the place of those who prepared Jesus' dead body for the tomb.
Before the Cross:
Why do you now stand before an empty cross with many sins, burdens, and cares? Why do you not stand at a tomb or a gravesite? You stand before an empty cross because Jesus' story does not end at the tomb. Jesus rose from the grave on the third day after his death, revealing to all that death can not hold God, destroy God, or diminish God.
Part 3. The Ten Required Questions
(based on the Ten Commandments)
1. Have you worshipped a friend, a music album, or a computer game more than God? Do you care more about what other things have to say about life than what God has to say about it?
2. Do you place people or sports or television or books before God? Do you turn to these things for comfort and security rather than turning to God?
3. Do you oftentimes make wrongful use of God's name by saying degrading things about others? When you say in one sentence that you love God, but in the next, you insult one of God's creatures, you also insult the name of God.
4. Do you set aside time to worship God every day? Do you remember God and celebrate the sacredness of God? Keeping the Sabbath holy does not mean you're going to hell if you miss one Sunday morning. It simply means to worship God continually, setting aside specific, holy time for this worship.
5. Have you dishonored your parents by not only getting into a fight with them, but by doing something of which they would disapprove? Let's face it, we all tend to disagree from time to time, but God provides parents so we may gain perspective and structure in our lives. Thus, are you obeying your parents with your actions and words in public and in private?
6. Have you killed someone's dignity with a sly comment or offensive joke? Have you destroyed another's ability to laugh? Do the things you say and the things you do edify your neighbors, or do they devastate them?
7. Have you looked at another person as an object, rather than as a child of God? Do you debase another's character by seeing them as an impure object?
8. Have you stolen another's faith, love, peace, or kindness by not supporting or believing in them? Do you steal a person's selfhood when you antagonize or cause them embarrassment?
9. Have you misrepresented one of your friends in front of other people to make them look stupid? Do you tell funny jokes about other people in order to make yourself look better and feel better?
10. Do you long so badly for what your friends have that you forget all that you have been given? Are you dissatisfied and discontent, always wanting more?
Claire McKeever is an intern for Sojourners in Washington, DC. This activity is the brain-child of Susan Ballenger, a minister in Baltimore, Maryland. It was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2004. The art is by Rene' Boldt.
He set his face.
Knowing in that moment
that nipped his heels daily
served as mortar
He set his face.
Knowing not the particulars
of future time.
who he was,
teaching and learning
with integrity and love,
Deborah Lynn is a massage therapist and poet who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2001. Art is by Robert Darden.
by Deborah Lynn
Somewhere between setting one's face
and living into one's Vision
a death does occur.
But all of the time
for those with eyes to see'
ears to hear'
and a bent towards adventurous mystery.
Deborah Lynn is a massage therapist and poet who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2001.
by Mark McClintock
Note: When the children have come to the designated place for the children's sermon, turn your back to them before you begin.
Good morning. I'm glad to see you all this morning'that is, I'm glad you're here. How many of you know the story Jesus told about a son who ran away? Sometimes it's called the story of the Prodigal Son. No, don't raise your hands, I can't see them. The story is found in Luke 15 in the Bible, and it's about a young man who asked his father to give him a lot of money. The son left home and wasted all the money. He had to work for a pig farmer, a really disgusting job, and he was so hungry, he wanted to eat the pig slop. The son began to understand that he had done something wrong.
Speaking of wrong, does something seem a little strange this morning? Usually I can see you, but today, I can't seem to find you. Oh! I'm facing the wrong way!
Turn around to face the children.
Oh, hi, there! What do you know? You were there all along, I was just turned around backward. It wasn't a very good choice to face that way, was it? No, this is much better. Well, this young man in Jesus' story realized he had made some bad choices, too. He wanted a happy life, and he thought he could get it by running away and spending lots of money on silly things. That was the wrong way to go! When he understood that he was wrong, he had to make a choice. He could keep living with the pigs. Or he could go back to his father, who might be angry and might yell at him and might tell him to go away. Should he stay with the pigs? Should he go back to his father? Even though it was hard and he was a little scared, he decided to back to his father.
Have you ever done something you knew was wrong? Something that might get you in trouble? Something that your parents might be angry about? Doing something wrong is like going the wrong way. What should we do about it? Should we lie and say somebody else did it? Or should we run away and hide? No, even though it may be hard and we might be scared, it's much better to go to our parents and tell the truth. Then we're doing the right thing, going the right way, just like it's better when I face the right direction.
You know what? When that son in Jesus' story went back home, his father didn't yell at him or tell him to go away. His father ran to meet him, gave him a big hug, and threw a party to celebrate his son coming home. And that's a story about the way God loves us. When we've done something wrong, if we turn and go the right way, telling the truth about our bad choice, God welcomes us back. And God helps us keep going the right way! Let's pray.
God, our Perfect Parent, thank you for loving us when we make good choices, and even when we make bad choices. When we're doing something wrong, help us stop and do what's right. Help us go the way you want us to go, just the way Jesus did. Amen.
Lenten Activity Idea:
Have the children make Easter cards to take to a local prison or juvenile detention center. The cards might follow the theme of the Prodigal Son story.
Mark McClintock, a former children's minister, is the director of Passport for Kids, a Christian children's camp program for church groups. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2001.
by Katie Cook
The author Frederick Buechner says that, during Lent, Christians are supposed to ask themselves what it means to be themselves. Using the following questions, provided by Buechner, you can guide your group through a time of meditation. You could pose all of the questions in one setting, or use one for each Sunday in Lent.
You will probably want to designate a room for this exercise'a cozy, peaceful room, with carpet or rugs on the floor and comfortable chairs or couches. If you have throw pillows, scatter a number of them around the room. Set up a table, and a few chairs, with things like writing paper, pens, art paper, colored markers, water colors, and modeling clay. If you have any control over the light, try to make it soft, but strong enough for participants to be able to see to write or draw. (Candles are always nice.)
It will be important to provide some silent time at the end for participants to write about their thoughts, or perhaps explore their feelings with art supplies. During this time you may want to play some kind of contemplative music. There are many kinds of music designed for this purpose. Instrumental hymns played quietly would also be appropriate.
When you are ready to begin, explain exactly what will be happening so that no one feels confused or uncomfortable. Ask the participants to find a comfortable position in which lower backs, knees and joints will not be vying for their attention. Some of them may want to lie flat on the floor, with perhaps a pillow under their heads. (Contemplative leaders claim that this has a desired psychological effect on people who tend to be too cerebral.)
After the participants have gotten comfortable, give them a minute or two to relax, and then quietly present the question or questions, giving them time to ponder. Don't rush the process'especially if you do all the questions at once. After a few minutes, invite them to move to the art table in silence'if they feel like this would be helpful. Some may want to stay in their contemplative positions. Some may want to write in their journals. Others may enjoy making a set of six writings, based on the weekly sessions.
And so, in the words of Buechner:
1. If you had to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn't, which side would get your money and why?
2. When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore?
3. If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be, in twenty-five words or less?
4. Of all the things you have done in your life, which is the one you would most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you happiest to remember?
5. Is there any person in the world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?
6. If this were the last day of your life, what would you do with it?
Buechner says of these questions (and of self-scrutiny), 'It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.'
Katie Cook is the editor of Hunger News & Hope and Sacred Seasons, publications of Seeds of Hope, and Baptist Peacemaker, a publication of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2004. Buechner quotes and questions are from Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (New York: Harper & Row, 1973.)
When the first star appears in the sky on Nisan 15th, it is the beginning of Passover. At that precise moment, just after sunset, it was time for the Passover meal. Jesus told his followers that this meal was very important to him; he had been waiting to share this last supper with his friends before his death.
There is something about eating with people'especially in our homes and their homes'that causes us to relate to each other more deeply. It is more difficult to feel an 'other' feeling about someone who has sat across the table from us. Some of the best moments of bonding happen over a sandwich and soft drink, or even over a cup of coffee.
I often teasingly say that I consider coffee to be a sacrament, but I suspect that there is some mysterious truth to the statement. The act of preparing a good, strong, fresh cup of coffee for someone and serving it, and the act of receiving it'somehow cause our hearts to be more open toward each other. Sharing a drink or a meal with this kind of companionship is something like observing communion.
Eating with his friends seems to have been a significant part of Jesus' life. The gospels record innumerable times when he shares meals with all kinds of people. He becomes notorious for some of the people with whom he eats.
The feeding of the four thousand and the feeding of the five thousand are significant stories in the gospels. In fact, the feeding of the multitudes is the only miracle story recorded in all four gospels. In one of the resurrection appearances, he walks and talks with two followers for quite some time without their recognizing him. Then, when he breaks the bread for supper, they suddenly recognize him (Luke 24:13-35).
'Eat. Drink. Remember who I am,' Ann Weems paraphrases Jesus in a poem. Eat. Drink. Remember who you are. Remember to whom you belong. Know each other. Take off your shoes; it's holy ground.
Katie Cook is the editor of Hunger News & Hope and Sacred Seasons, publications of Seeds of Hope, and Baptist Peacemaker, a publication of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. The above was adapted from 'In Remembrance,' a lesson written for the Smyth & Helwys adult curriculum Formations, January-April 2004.
take up your cross and follow me
In him was LIFE
and that LIFE was the LIGHT
The LIGHT shines
in the darkness
but the darkness
has not understood it
I am the RESURRECTION and the LIFE.
Dawn Grosser, who now lives in Memphis, Tennessee, originally wrote this meditation for Inscape, a Lenten booklet published by Seventh & James Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. It also appeared in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2000.
by Matthew Hanchey
I have mixed feelings about Easter. Part of it has to do with the fact that Jesus has so many names, so many roles in God's plan, that I cannot keep track of them all. I have trouble identifying all the things he is to me. Here is Jesus: the King of Kings and a personal friend, all-knowing yet concerned about the most trivial events in my life. Frequently, in reflections and conversations, God reveals a new face to me, so I try to explore it, to learn how God fulfills my needs and desires more completely than I had known.
Recently, I was explaining to a friend how my understanding of my relationship with Christ was based on my dealings with my earthly father. She pointed out that God was also a listener, a comforter, a healer'in other words, like a mother. I was taken aback, not that I couldn't conceive of God that way so much as that I never had before. So I prayed that I might more fully see God as a nurturer and listener.
Soon after that, another friend expressed his concern that he was not giving back to God enough of what he had been given, and that this made the thought of judgment a terrifying one. How different a picture than mine! I think that I understand God as one thing, and then I find I've lost my handle on the others.
This was in the back of my mind when I was sitting around a campfire with some of my friends. One girl present was a stranger to me, a friend of a friend, but when she learned that I was a Christian, she asked me this question: 'How do you feel about the crucifixion?' I knew the answer without thinking.
'It's the most important part of Christianity,' I replied, and then, to show I meant business, I followed by stating, 'In fact, it's the most important event in history.'
'So you think it was a good thing? You're glad it happened?' she asked.
In my mind I retraced the steps that led to the cross. It's a familiar story, and I always have the same reactions. I feel betrayed myself when Judas kisses Jesus in the garden. I'm indignant at the way the Pharisees railroad Jesus and the way Pilate surrenders his authority. Why didn't somebody do the right things and put a stop to this?
'No, no. It was a terrible thing. If I had been a Pharisee, I would have spoken up,' I proclaimed proudly.
'But if anyone at all had done the right thing,' she returned, 'it seems that that person would have condemned you to a life without hope for salvation.' I tried to explain to her that it was a necessary evil and that Jesus really wanted those things to happen, and she nodded and smiled but seemed dissatisfied with my eventual explanation.
Actually, I was, too.
I cannot bring myself to rejoice in the events leading to his death, but I obviously have no cause to rejoice in anything otherwise. I can soothe myself a little by thinking that he knew ahead of time everything that was going to happen. That he knew how he would be treated, who would betray him, and how he would die. That the final outcome was already assured. But I also know that nobody likes to be betrayed, rejected, and murdered'especially by loved ones, and everybody is Jesus' loved one. Jesus didn't pray, 'Let this cup pass from me,' just to have something to say. He suffered, and that is why it was a sacrifice.
This Easter I have to deal with two perspectives on Christ. When I rejoice in the risen Messiah, I am going to have to mourn for the fallen one. When I am grateful to the risen Christ for the life he has given me, I won't forget how each day I betray him and crucify him all over again. I have mixed feelings about Easter and about Jesus, too, but I rest in the faith that he does not have mixed feelings about me.
Matt Hanchey lives in Durham, North Carolina. He wrote this meditation as a student at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. It was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2001.
by Matthew Schobert
ONE: Was not Jesus an extremist in love?
MANY: 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.'
ONE: Was not Amos an extremist for justice?
MANY: 'Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.'
ONE: Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ?
MANY: 'I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.'
ONE: Was not Martin Luther an extremist?
MANY: 'Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.'
ONE: Was not John Bunyan an extremist?
MANY: 'I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.'
ONE: Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist?
MANY: 'This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.'
ONE: Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist?
MANY: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all humans are created equal.'
ONE: So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists will we be.
MANY: Will we be extremists for hate'or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice'or will we be extremists for cause of justice?
ALL: God, help us to be what we need to be.
Matthew Schobert is a social worker at the Methodist Children's Home in Waco, Texas. The above is adapted from a passage found in 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' by Martin Luther King, Jr. It was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2003.
Giving our lives away may mean:
turning the other cheek;
standing with the people who are losing;
doing good that will receive no applause;
sitting in a home where someone has died;
treating discarded people as children of God;
shopping for someone else's groceries;
baking cookies that we won't eat;
reading stories to someone else's children;
taking flowers to someone who's not our type;
visiting someone else's mother in the nursing home;
walking someone else's dog;
watering someone else's plants;
washing dishes we didn't dirty;
discussing current events that don't interest us;
sending cards when we don't know what to write;
talking about faith when we would rather be silent;
doing good for people who will do no good to us in return;
weeping when others weep;
praying not for an easier life, but for strength to give our lives away;
discovering that if there's nothing for which we would die,
then we don't have enough for which to live.
Brett Younger is the pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2003.
The forest stands tall, green, and spacious.
Tall, towering, teasing trees dancing in the wind.
The sky where birds fly, clouds of all shapes and sizes
Glide, and the sun shines its light, its warmth, and fun
On the forest.
The breeze dances with all that frolic fantastically
In the wonder of the woods.
It whispers secrets, laughter, love, and truth
To the core of creation that is in all.
In fun it tickles, teases, and torments, the trees, squirrels.
Deer, beavers, bunnies, birds'
It flies, whips, blows, breezes through the breathtaking
Beauty of a forest, fast.
Then faster, and fastest, the wind swirls, whirling,
Swooping, picking up all in its path.
The sky changes from light blue to dark.
No sun, no clouds'nothing'just dark.
The wind, the sky took the breathtaking beauty
And turned it into dreadful destruction.
The sun shone after the wind was no longer fierce,
It shone on the sad scenery which was lying beneath it.
A scene of all the disaster, destruction and
Skated pieces of debris,
But then the sunlight shone upon one root,
Shone upon hope.
Heather Herschap, a native of Laredo, Texas, is studying psychology and theology at Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2000.
Dear God, you are outrageous. You do the inexplicable'you forgive us our sins. You ask of us the unimaginable'to be a confessing community in eager anticipation of the coming of your kingdom. As we embark on the adventure of worship, continue doing the unexpected among us and through us. Jostle us, O Lord, into being a people who dare to take seriously the implications of life in the Realm of God.
May we be extreme in our love for you and for our neighbors, wherever and whomever they may be; may we be extreme in our efforts to pursue justice for victims and those who suffer, both from the things we have done and the things we have left undone; and may the Holy Spirit sustain us with the most revolutionary hope of all, a hope that is at once both terrifying and joyous, the coming of Christ and the re-creation of all things, whether on the earth or in the heavens.
In the Name of the One who came, who reigns, and who is to come again, Amen.
Matthew Schobert is a social worker at the Methodist Children's Home in Waco, Texas. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2003.
A Reading for a People in Exile
by Ken Sehested
FIRST READER: O God, I am frightened. Anxious are my waking hours and fretful is my sleep. Even as I pray, I sense that desert sands in remote places are bleaching the bones of mothers, sons, fathers, daughters, children of us all. The corrupt, lustful glory of vain rulers now erupts across parched land. Hear our prayer, O Lord.
SECOND READER: The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.
FIRST READER: O Lord, if only my hands were powerful enough to shape a new future. If only my legs could run, run and tell, tell of mercy, of kindness. My heart trembles within me, shaking my flesh, shaking the earth. Is no one to hear, to rescue, to avert this bloodletting? Have hearts so hardened, more brittle than crusts of bread?
THIRD READER: Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, 'Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. The Lord will come and save you.'
FIRST READER: God come! Come and see. Come and hear!! None see. None hear. Blindness rages like a wounded lion; deafness sears shut the mouths of ancients. No music swells, except that of rhythmic cannon. No water flows for parched bodies, souls. All laughter is of ravenous jackals. All life is grass.
FOURTH READER: Then the eyes of the blind shall open, and the ears of the deaf be unstopped; then shall the lame leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
FIRST READER: Fools are confirmed: there is no God. None but the vengeful escape. Holy Ways and Holy Days are crushed to gravel. Ransom comes as human flesh, bargained for gold (or oil). Joy is mocked; gladness, a sneer. Sorrow, sadness is all I hear. Those who know say Zion is won only by the barrel of a gun. Is it really so? Tell me, if you can, if you will, if you know: What road is this?
SECOND READER: And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not pass over it, and fools shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come upon it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
FIRST READER: Tell me, if you can, if you will, if you know: What road is this?
THIRD READER: Hear our prayer, O Lord.
ALL READERS: Hear our prayer, O Lord. Incline thine ear to us, and grant us thy peace. Amen.
Ken Sehested is a cofounder and copastor of the Circle of Mercy, a faith community in Ashville, North Carolina. The above was originally printed as a meditation in the Spring 1991 issue of Baptist Peacemaker, a publication of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. It was reprinted as a theatre reading in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2003.
by Katie Cook
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God's word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning'
Suggested Musical Invocation:
'Out of the Deep' from John Rutter's Requiem
Scripture: Psalm 42
ONE: Deep calls unto deep in the roar of the waterfalls.
MANY: Out of the depths I cry unto the Lord.
ONE: Schedules and deadlines roar over my head, voices clamor around me,
and old tapes keep running in my mind.
MANY: I cry out to my God for a moment of peace, a season of silence,
a glimpse of the holy.
ONE: Pain comes crashing down upon me like angry waters,
and despair wells up from deep within.
MANY: I cry out to you, God, for healing; I cry out to you for hope.
ONE: Just when I feel that I cannot stand the chaos,
MANY: You whisper, softly, and my world is remade.
ONE: Just when I feel that I cannot stand the pain,
MANY: You come to me with healing in your wings.
ONE: I wait for your touch. I hope in your word.
MANY: More than those who watch for the morning,
I watch for you.
ONE: More than those who watch for the morning,
I wait for your touch.
ALL: More than those who watch for the morning,
I hope in your word.
Scripture: Isaiah 55:6-13
Suggested Musical Benediction:
'Non Nobis, Domine' (Patrick Doyle)*
*from the Henry V soundtrack
Katie Cook is the editor of Hunger News & Hope and Sacred Seasons, publications of Seeds of Hope, and Baptist Peacemaker, a publication of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. The above is adapted from a service written for Willow Meadows Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2004.
What smothers the flame?
Does loneliness, fear, or
a broken heart?
Does separation, anger, or
a spoiled dream?
Does pain, grief, or
NO! I shout, NO! These can't
extinguish the blaze.
There must be a resurrection.
no, I whimper, no, this must not
black out the flame.
Please God, please'
there must be Life.
This Flame needs to keep breathing
This Savior needs to keep saving.
Or else'there is no
Yet, I am alive
I am alive
The Mystery continues.
Greg Kershner, who now lives in Dallas, Texas, originally wrote this meditation for Inscape, a Lenten booklet published by Seventh & James Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. It also appeared in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2000.
You who multiplied the loaves and the fishes,
teach us a blending of sod, seed, sprout'
and your Spirit,
that we might find no separation between food
for the hungry and faith for the righteous;
that we might so liberate ourselves
this Lenten season
from lust for more and our self-seeking ambitions
that we will turn and see
those whose empty hands outstretched
yet bear the nail scars
of your own hand'the scars of prejudice
and the torture of rejection.
Lord Christ, make us your own.
Surrender us wholly to you
so that, as we fill the bodies of others,
we restore our own souls to health.
In your blessed name we pray,
Susan Cowley is part of an ecumenical faith community ministering in an impoverished neighborhood in Waco, Texas. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 1998.
by Katie Cook
ONE: Now the time has begun in which we turn our thoughts away from the Bethlehem manger, away from the carpenter shop in Nazareth;
MANY: Now is the time in which we look toward Jerusalem, toward the last days of our Savior.
ONE: Now we remember the difficult decisions, the sorrow, the frustrations that he experienced.
MANY: We will see the hatred in the faces of the religious folk, the anxiety of worldly wisdom in the faces of the Romans.
ONE: We will see the anguish in Jesus' own face as he weeps over the stubborn city of Jerusalem.
MANY: We will watch as Judas plants his kiss of betrayal on the face of Jesus, and as the impetuous Peter tries to mend the situation with a sword.
ONE: We will watch the angels cease their songs, and the miracles cease for a short time'while the Maker of the heavens and the earth chooses the painful death of a convict.
MANY: We will never know the utter agony that the friends of Jesus suffered at this time, because we know what happened on that Sunday.
ONE: But let us promise for Lent this year that we will try to remember, try to understand, all that Jesus suffered, all that the followers suffered.
ALL: Let us promise that we will not take the gift of Easter for granted.
Katie Cook is the editor of Hunger News & Hope and Sacred Seasons, publications of Seeds of Hope, and Baptist Peacemaker, a publication of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2000.
ONE: God, we come to you in confession. More than we seek you and your will, we seek our own comfort and advantage. We have allowed ourselves to become blinded to the needs of our brothers and sisters so that we can enjoy our privilege.
MANY: Disturb our peace, O God. Give us clear eyes to see the suffering around us on all sides and the courage to ask what you require of us.
ONE: We confess that we protect our hearts from pain by judging those in need, although we have not walked life's paths in their shoes.
MANY: Give us the true humility to know that we do not know the hearts of those we judge. Give us a glimpse of your love that sees us all as your beloved children.
ONE: And we confess that we would rather talk about what your teachings mean than be taught by the struggles of trying to live them.
MANY: God, help us to trust you enough to follow you into a life of loving. Give us brave companions for the journey into hope.
Sherry Castello, a magazine editor for 25 years, is now the chef for an urban ministry called The Gospel Cafe in Waco, Texas. The above was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 1998.
Monologue for Easter Sunday Morningby Katie Cook and D. Bruce Pate
The following was written to be delivered by a woman. It was originally used, in an outdoors Easter sunrise service, as the call to worship. If you use it inside, we suggest a dark stage or pulpit area when the woman begins, and a gradual lighting until her features are clear at the end. We suggest that she be in period costume, although this is not necessary.
The man whom they crucified?
Yes, I remember him,
standing beside us,
walking beside me,
If you could have seen him
you would have loved him, too.
We all loved him.
He was kind and gentle and caring,
even to women.
It was as if we really mattered.
I guess that's why so many women followed him
from place to place.
He was especially approachable to poor people,
and even more so to widows
and children without parents.
He worried all the time about defenseless people.
He had this ability
to look inside us,
to somehow know our pain,
all our brokenness;
And we knew, I don't know how,
we just knew, somehow,
that he felt it, too,
that he cared about each one of us.
I knew that he loved me
for who I was,
in spite of who I was.
He understood loneliness, rejection,
He experienced those things himself.
He was wonderful.
There was something unearthly about him,
but I never felt that he was out of my reach.
Most of the time, I remember,
at least toward the end,
he was exhausted.
But it was as if his greatness
came out of his weakness,
out of his needs.
Not only did he love us,
but he allowed us to love him back.
I will always remember when he let me
bathe his feet with perfume.
He let me serve him
even when the men objected.
They never quite understood
what Jesus meant to us.
It was amazing to them
that he would speak and explain things to us,
that he would listen to our thoughts.
We couldn't believe it ourselves!
Yet, in spite of how he treated us,
even after his death
they wouldn't believe me
when I told them that he was alive,
that I had seen him,
No, they had to go and see for themselves.
Jesus wouldn't have called upon a woman
to bear such a message.
But he did.
And that's why I am here now,
to say that I have seen him,
to tell you that he is alive.
Bruce Pate was trained in religion and drama and has spent many years incorporating the dramatic into worship experiences for churches in Texas and Kentucky. He now lives in Missouri. Katie Cook is the editor for Seeds of Hope Publishers. This litany first appeared in the worship resource series Sacred Seasons, for Lent 1999. The Bible & Lily art is by Lara Luksis.
Ashes from Our LivesA Service of Ashes
by Katie Cook
The Sunday school class of eleventh and twelfth graders which Donna Kennedy and I are assigned to teach has taken up the practice of burning pieces of paper to represent the fact that we are turning problems, fears, and hurts over to God. Every now and then, when we all seem to come to class burdened with something, someone will suggest that it's 'time to burn something.'
We each take several pieces of paper (about the size of an index card) and a pen (sometimes the color of the pen is significant to the writer), and we write down whatever is weighing down our hearts and spirits. Then, one by one, we burn them in a stainless steel bowl, using the Christ candle (left over from Advent) to light them.
This year we came up with the idea that we would add some the ashes from these pieces of paper (we haven't emptied the bowl in a long time) to the ashes from last year's palm branches.
Our class also has a tradition of doing our own personal ceremony of ashes at the beginning of Lent. This year the ashes that we put on each other's foreheads will have extra meaning; they will include the ashes of tears and griefs of the past year.
So all of this gave me an idea for a meaningful Ash Wednesday service for a youth group'or a group that includes adults. Below is a rough outline. Please feel free to adapt this to your group's needs and realities.
Preparing the Room
You will need chairs, a small table, a metal or ceramic bowl, a hot pad or trivet (we use a small wooden cutting board), a candle, matches or a lighter, note-card-size pieces of paper, and pens or pencils. Place enough chairs in a circle to accommodate your group. Place the table in the middle of the circle. Decorate as you wish; a purple or black cloth, a small carving of Christ might enhance the atmosphere. Place the bowl on the trivet (this is to ensure that you don't damage the table or cloth.) Place the candle near the bowl.
Turn the lights in the room low, but light enough for people to be able to write. (All candlelight would be nice, but low electric lights and candles or lamps would also work.)
As participants enter, give each one several pieces of note-card-size paper and a pen or pencil. It would be effective to play somber, contemplative music as people are entering. (I'm fond of the prelude to John Michael Talbot's The Lord's Supper for this kind of thing. Or perhaps someone in your youth group plays an instrument and could play a prelude.) Place the remaining cards (make sure there are plenty) on the middle table, in case someone wants to use more.
Make sure the ashes have cooled before you begin the ceremony of imposition. An a cappella solo or group hymn would help with this.
(participants prepare for the service by entering into a brief moment of silence)
LEADER: As we enter into this service of ashes, we think about these things:
' that we are admitting our mortality,
which reminds us how vulnerable we are,
and how dependent on God
' that our renewal of promises to God happens
internally and is not just an outward
show of piety
' that our Lenten journey is to free us to use
our lives and our possessions
in ministry to others
' that we will spend these weeks examining
our lives and our relationship to God
' that we offer all our suffering to God,
and ask that it be transformed into resurrection.
LEADER: Almighty and everlasting God, we know that you love everything you have made, and that you readily forgive our transgressions. God of mercy, create in our spirits a newness, that we, admitting our mortality and our tendency to falter, may be assured of your unconditional love. Through Jesus Christ, for whom we live. Amen.
Lighting of the Christ Candle
Introduction to Lent
LEADER: Dear people of God, the first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time for reflection, confession, and a restoration of fellowship within the church. It became a time for all Christians to renew their covenant with God, and to strengthen their faith.
I invite you therefore, in the name of the universal Body of Christ, to the observance of a holy Lent, to self-examination, prayer, fasting, and self-denial; to reading and meditating on God's word. And now, to make an appropriate beginning of Lent and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now begin a time of reflection.
A Time for Reflection
(To the participant: this is a chance to write down all the things that have been weighing down your heart and mind. Take whatever time you need to reflect and write down the fears, problems, and hurts that you want to turn over to God. After you have put your burdens on paper, use the Christ candle to light your paper, and let it burn in the metal bowl.)
A Time for Letting Go
(Participants burn papers in bowl)
Litany of Penitence
LEADER: Most holy and merciful Creator;
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have made mistakes and acted selfishly
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as you have forgiven us.
PEOPLE: God, have mercy on us.
LEADER: We have been deaf to your call to serve others as Christ served us. We have not been true to the teachings of Christ. We have grieved the Holy Spirit.
PEOPLE: Christ, have mercy on us.
LEADER: We confess to you, God, all our past unfaithfulness, and the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience in our hearts;
PEOPLE: We confess all these things to you.
LEADER: Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people;
PEOPLE: We confess all these things to you.
LEADER: Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those seemingly more fortunate than ourselves;
PEOPLE: We confess all these things to you.
LEADER: Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work;
PEOPLE: We confess all these things to you.
LEADER: Our negligence of prayer and worship, and our failure to take seriously the faith that is in us;
PEOPLE: We confess all these things to you.
LEADER: Accept our repentance, God, for the wrongs we have done; for our blindness to human need and suffering and our indifference to injustice and cruelty;
PEOPLE: Accept our repentance, God.
LEADER: For all false judgment, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us;
PEOPLE: Accept our repentance, God.
LEADER: For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us;
PEOPLE: Accept our repentance, God.
LEADER: Restore us to full communion with you, and let your anger depart from us;
PEOPLE: Hear our prayer, God. Amen.
Imposition of the Ashes
(Participants kneel in a circle)
LEADER: Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth; Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our dependence on you, that we may remember that by your gracious love we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, who became dust like us. Amen.
(each participant takes ashes and makes the mark of a cross on the forehead of the person to his or her left, saying the following words:)
By the wearing of these ashes, we offer our suffering and brokenness to God.
Worship Through Music
Litany of Renewal
(Participants kneel, if able.)
LEADER: Most holy and merciful Creator, we know that we are unworthy of your love. We also know, with joy and gratitude, that we do not have to be worthy. We thank you for your everlasting mercy and grace.
LEADER: We kneel before you now, in our brokenness. We all have pain and sorrow and anger in our lives. Heal us, and give us peace.
LEADER: We all have burdens that make our hearts heavy and keep us from walking with you as we should. Take them away from us.
LEADER: We all have anxieties and fears that take over our minds and keep us from knowing the goodness of life. Cleanse us of these thoughts and feelings.
PEOPLE: Continue in us the work of your salvation, that we may show your love and truth to the world.
LEADER: By the suffering of your Son our God and brother, Bring us through these weeks to the joy of resurrection.
Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth, we know that you want to be in communion with all of us, for you have told us so. We often turn away from you, and create a chasm between ourselves and you, and between ourselves and other people. Our inner selves are fragmented. We know that you will meet us more than halfway, if we open our hearts to your love. Teach us how. Make our hearts clean and ready for your love, that we may never be cut off from you again. Through Jesus Christ who gave his life in love, Amen.
Passing of Peace and Removal of Ashes
(Participants now pass the peace of Christ to each other in a circle, and in doing so remove the ashes of the person to each one's right. This is a sign that God's love and grace are more powerful than our mortal mistakes, and that this love can heal our brokenness.)
LEADER: Go in peace, and may your hearts soar with the knowledge that God can make a difference in your life. May your minds rest happily in the possibilities that are before you. May you go in peace and prepare for resurrection.
Katie Cook is the editor of Hunger News & Hope and Sacred Seasons, publications of Seeds of Hope, and Baptist Peacemaker, a publication of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. Art is by Erin Kennedy Mayer. The service above is adapted from the Anglican service for Ash Wednesday and was first printed in Sacred Seasons, Seeds of Hope Publishers, Lent 2001, with permission from Donna Kennedy and the 11th & 12th grade Sunday school class at Seventh and James Baptist Church.
(originally ©2005 Alternatives for Simple Living)
Worship Alternatives collection compiled, edited and prepared by Katie Cook from Seeds of Hope and by Gerald Iversen.The collection contains sermons, worship items and art. It is part of the CD-ROM Simply the Best: Over 30 Years of Alternatives, available from the ELCA Archives.
Page updated 2 April 2015
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