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Visions from the Cross
An Alternative Lent/Easter Celebration (Cycle C)
- First week of Lent
- Second week of Lent
- Third week of Lent
- Fourth week of Lent
- Fifth week of Lent
- Sixth week of Lent
- Good Friday Liturgy
- About the author
This intergenerational resource is based on social justice issues that permeate our lives. Unless we totally isolate ourselves from television, newspapers, the actions of our government, conversation at the office and/or community functions, we cannot escape from the interaction of "other's justice" in our lives. And we must balance our actions -- our judgment, our vote, our monetary power -- with the teachings of our Christ.
This resource includes sessions for each week in Lent and ends with a final Good Friday celebration where groups present gifts, skills, and offerings as a hope for resurrection. These activities serve as reminders of the crosses that many people -- no, most people -- carry through this life on earth. A "wise" organizer will plan ahead and seek volunteers to be primary players in each section.
SUGGESTED SETTING: This resource would be a creative addition for Wednesday evening worship or a special weekday worship setting during Lent. It can also be used as a intergenerational event during the education time on Sunday morning or on Sunday evening. If your church is unable to have a Good Friday service, you can perform the litany on Easter Sunday.
When doing some of the activities, it might be necessary to adjust the schedule. The sessions can be adapted to meet the needs of your particular group.
Biblical Text: John 6:9-10, 11-12
Call a soup kitchen in your area and volunteer your group to cook and serve a meal. (This is a wonderful opportunity to involve the youth of your congregation.) Obtain the protocol for the soup kitchen. Include an invitation for the director or head of volunteer services from the soup kitchen to come and speak to your group. Seek volunteers for the following tasks (Make sure each group includes people of all ages):
1. MENU PLANNERS -- This group should plan the meal keeping in mind the four food groups and amount of protein and vitamins that constitute a well-balanced meal. Remember that many people eat only one meal per day.
2. FINANCIAL PLANNERS -- Money is needed and food is expensive. The task of this group is to develop a budget and to decide how money will be gathered -- a special offering, donations of food, money from the church's budget, etc.
3. SHOPPERS -- These persons will take the planned menu, consider the portions needed and calculate the amount required to feed the number of persons to be fed. Then they must decide upon a place and time to shop.
4. COOKS -- This is the group that will prepare the meal. This probably needs to be done in the church kitchen. (Make sure that the needed utensils, cookware, etc. are available.) Although "too many cooks spoil the broth," make sure that there is enough help.
5. TRANSPORTATION -- This is the group that will package the food and transport it to the soup kitchen. This group also will need to make arrangements to transport the servers.
6. SERVERS -- Try to include everyone that wishes to participate. Keep in mind that children can qualify to do such tasks as set the tables. Don't just serve the food, but be involved with those that are being fed. Have people circulate to refill beverage glasses or just to say "hello."
7. CLEAN-UP CREW -- Ascertain what is involved in the clean-up. Abide by the rules of the soup kitchen. Do you need to supply soap, garbage bags, etc.?
Plan a "debriefing" after the group has served the meal to process how people feel about the experience. You may have some strong feelings about persons who eat at a soup kitchen and yet seem to be able to buy cigarettes and/or wine. Be prepared to deal with the concept of "judgment."
PREPARATION FOR GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY: In the "feeding of the multitudes," prepare an offering of canned soups. Prepare labels for the soup cans printed with the biblical text. Ask each person involved to sign a label, placing it around a can of soup. Gather these for Good Friday.
Biblical Text: John 14: 1-3
- After discussing this activity with the group, call your area's Habitat for Humanity office and offer the services of your group during this time span. If this time frame is not available, pledge so many hours during another time. During your session, identify the skills of those in the group.
- Identify a person in your congregation or community that might need assistance with housing repairs. Offer simple tasks such as replacing broken window panes, adding insulation to crawl spaces, providing and installing smoke detectors, etc. You could also offer assistance in paying gas/electrical bills. Don't just offer money, but take the time to visit and talk.
PREPARATION FOR GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY: Print a list of the names of the persons involved in this activity on a roll of adding machine tape and the number of hours that have been donated. Wrap the list of names around a hammer for the offering.
Biblical Text: Isaiah 24:3-5
PRE-PLANNING: Ask a family to do research on the value of a single tree. What does it do for the environment? What products does it produce? What is the effect of cutting down a single tree? What is the effect of planting a tree? Ask them to conduct the session.
- Plan and execute a tree planting at your church.
- Locate a "housing project" in your area and determine places where trees are needed. Trees can curb pollution, provide a shade area for socialization, and provide cooling for individual units.
- Plan a community garden. This could be a plot on your church's property where all the produce grown could be given to agencies that provide food for the needy. Provide soil, containers and seeds for everyone to plant seeds -- early vegetable crops and flowers. Let people adopt the seedlings until they are large enough to be planted in the garden.
PREPARATION FOR GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY: If you chose to plant a tree(s), present a symbolic shovel. If you chose the garden(s), ask all those persons that have adopted seedlings to bring them to the liturgy. Place a large, clay pot in the church and ask parishioners to place donations of seed packets in the pot.
Fourth Week In Lent: Homeless Shelter
Biblical Text: Luke 9:58
PRE-PLANNING: Call a shelter for the homeless and request a list of personal/comfort items that your group can donate. Offer an invitation to a representative of the shelter to come and address the group.
- Discuss -- "If you did not have a home, what would you miss the most?"
- Rather than ask for a monetary offering, ask your group and your congregation to donate some of the supplies on the list of personal comfort items (shampoo, soap, toothpaste and brushes, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, etc.).
- Combine the collected articles in bags for homeless men, women and children. Ask people to write short notes that express caring for those the gifts will reach. Plan for the delivery of these packages.
- Conduct a "blanket campaign" for the homeless. Often the shelters are full and the only aid that can be offered when the weather is cold is to distribute blankets to those that must remain on the street.
PREPARATION FOR GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY: Offer the names of those that have given gifts to the homeless by pinning their names on a blanket or gift bag.
Biblical Text: Matthew 18:10-14
PREPARATION: Call a shelter for runaways and invite a speaker/counselor to speak at your session. To increase awareness among those in your congregation, display the following statistics on a chalkboard or poster board.
- There are an estimated 1.5 million teenagers classified as runaways.
- There are an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 children and youth who live on the streets of the United States.
- 40% of these children are running away from abusive or chaotic homes.
- Shelters are often not an option because of lack of space.
- 25-35% of those kids placed in the foster home system run away and end up back on the streets.
- View the video "Hope Is the Last Thing to Die" to explore the scope of the international problem. (Order from: Church World Service, 219- 264-3102.)
- Ask each person in the group to volunteer so many hours at your local shelter for runaways. Plan a party or activity for the kids at the shelter.
PREPARATION FOR GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY: Ask someone to loan an old telephone. Make a list of the names of any children in your congregation who are "on the street" or the names of youth you met at the shelter.
Sixth Week In Lent: Public Policy Advocacy
Biblical Text: Luke 6: 30-31
Public policy advocacy is perhaps the action that Christians struggle with the most. We must vote the ticket that benefits all humankind and not just ourselves. If we do not agree with the status quo, then we must exercise our political conscience.
PRE-PLANNING: Ask individuals and/or family units to pick a political topic that involves the rights of humankind and ask them to make a presentation on that topic based upon the teachings of the Bible. Be prepared to offer suggestions such as:
- Racism vs. Reenactment of Civil Rights Bill
- Global Conflicts vs. Peace
- U.N. Resolution on the Rights of the Child
ACTIVITY: Provide envelopes, stamps and paper (or form letters, if necessary) for those involved to prepare an offering of letters. Make available the names and addresses of senators and congresspersons that represent your community.
PREPARATION FOR GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY: Place the letters written by your group in a basket to be placed at the cross. Have supplies available if others in the congregation would like to participate.
In preparation for the liturgy, place a cross in the sanctuary. Select a representative(s) from each of the six sessions to present the offering. During the offering time, have the representatives come to the cross bearing their gifts.
LEADER: As Christ offered his life for us, we offer these gifts on behalf of humanity. We pray that Christ's vision from the cross may be that we are living out the principles that he has taught us. We not only believe the words in our minds, but we translate them into action. May we value all persons that God has created.
REPRESENTATIVE(S) FROM WEEK ONE: We present these soup cans as one more way to help feed the hungry. We also offer prayers for ________________ (name the soup kitchen) where persons are involved everyday in partnership with the poor and hungry. (Place the offering at the cross.)
REPRESENTATIVE(S) FROM WEEK TWO: We present a symbolic hammer as our offering that all persons are entitled to housing, a safe shelter. Our gift represents our skills and our time given to _________________ (name the organization or individuals that received your offering.) (Place the hammer at the cross.)
REPRESENTATIVE(S) FROM WEEK THREE: We present a symbolic __________ (if you planted a tree, present a shovel; if you planned a garden, present the seedlings) on behalf of our concern for justice for the environment. Our offering represents our action to preserve our creation rather than destroy it. (Place the symbol at the cross.)
REPRESENTATIVE(S) FROM WEEK FOUR: We present a ____________ (either the blanket or the personal comfort pack) on behalf of those persons who walk the streets of our community because they have no homes. We offer our prayers for the homeless in this world and we present these gifts as an offering of concern for these persons. (Place the symbol at the cross.)
REPRESENTATIVE(S) FROM WEEK FIVE: We present a telephone that represents better communication among broken families. We offer our prayers for the "street kids" in the world who yearn for a secure home. (Place the phone at the cross.)
REPRESENTATIVE(S) FROM WEEK SIX: We present an offering of letters on behalf of the poor and marginalized in our society whose destiny is so often determined by others. We ask you to join us in praying for ___________ (name your political representatives) that they might determine our needs based upon Christ's teachings. (Place the basket of letters at the cross.)
LEADER: These gifts represent Christ-like action in a world that is starving for commitment and justice. On this day of darkness, we welcome this offering of hope for the return of life and light. Amen.
This resource was written by Vennie Constant, formerly Director of Christian Education in the Episcopal Church and Administrative Assistant in the Presbyterian Hunger Program, currently Director of Christian Education at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Kentucky.
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