So Happy Easter to you all, I hope you're having a good one. I'm currently waiting for Janelle to get home, she stayed during the second service at Crossroads to help watch the little kids.
I ran into one of the women I wanted to shame by declaring their foolishness in assuming I was having a boy. I went up to her after the church service and said "We're having a girl," and as I was proceeding to say "in your face" she interrupted me with some sort of girly shout of glee and a torrent of encouraging, happy, and excited things poured out of her mouth. I didn't really have it in me to continue to try to rub her wrongness in. Sometimes people make it so difficult to be a right proper curmudgeon!
This past Friday, on Good Friday, I helped put together a bit of a Good Friday worship time. Instead of a church service, we set up the church building with four worship "stations." People got a paper that guided them through each station, and at each stop they would spend time reflecting on something different, all in the vein of Good Friday and in an attempt to give Easter some context.
The first station was about our need for a savior - it was a reminder that all humanity is sinful, that we all mess up, and none of us can justify ourselves before a holy God. We had a list of Bible verses people could look up to remind themselves that they're in need of some divine intervention, and we also had some bitter herbs and saltwater on a table. In Jewish tradition, bitter herbs serve as a reminder of the bitterness of captivity in Egypt - we used them here for people to taste as a reminder of the bitterness of sin, and as a reminder that we are all in captivity to the darker parts of ourselves when we're without God.
The second station was about the life of Christ. We had a list of verses about Jesus' life that people could look through to remind themselves of the kind of life Jesus lived. He healed the sick, loved the untouchables, and called the religious to a life of submission to the Father and participation in the Kingdom of God. he claimed to be the Messiah, and stirred up some trouble. So we had Bibles out for people to look stuff up, as we did at each station, and a TV showing parts of the recent movie, "The Gospel of John." I really appreciate the guy who played Jesus in that, I think He did a great job and I enjoyed his interpretation of Jesus' attitude during some of the scenes.
The third station was for communion. We had a table with some bread and juice and candles, and encouraged people to read an account of the Last Supper in the Bible. The night before His crucifixion Jesus gathered His disciples, washed their feet, and shared the Last Supper with them. At that time they had no idea what He meant when He said "this is my body, broken for you," and "this is my blood of the new covenant." So we encouraged people to take the time to sit and read the account and take communion themselves.
At the last station, we had a large wooden cross laying on the ground, with some nails and hammers near it. We also had the Passion of the Christ movie showing on a screen there. The text in our handout reminded them that Jesus died for our sins and our imperfections. He lived a perfect life and didn't deserve this fate, but endured it for our sake. People could, if they wanted to, drive a nail of their own into the cross, as a tangible reminder that we are the cause of and reason for Jesus' sacrifice. So often we sanitize the story of Jesus' Passion, and forget just how much we need Him. Christians can get awfully self-congratulatory and talk about how Jesus died for all those sinners, all the while forgetting that we ourselves are in desperate need of God's grace. It was particularly moving/touching/disturbing to watch the scene of Jesus' crucifixion, with the Romans driving nails into Jesus, while hearing someone pound their nail into the cross.
And that was it - after people went through those four stations, that was the end. Good Friday doesn't have a happy ending. Jesus is dead. This man who came, living a perfect life, performing miracles and loving the rejected, was betrayed and crucufied. What must that have felt like for those who loved Him? Saturday must have been a really dark day. And we invited people to live in that Saturday and try to give Easter a real context. On Easter we celebrate Jesus rising, but so often we forget how He died, why He died, and our part in all of it. Easter was a lot more joyful for me after having gone through that stuff with Good Friday.
I think we'll do it again next year, with some more fine tuning and whatnot. But overall I was happy with what we did - mostly because unlike many ministry endeavors, this was only about bringing people to a place where they could, individually or with their families, focus their attention on Jesus. It was so awesome to see parents going through with their kids, reading scripture, telling them the story, as a family. It was great to know that nothing about that night was bringing focus anywhere but on Jesus - and when you're doing that, you know that you're doing the right thing. So unlike many ministry tasks it was easy to know that this "worked," if only for the reason that its complete focus was on Jesus. I want every ministry work to feel that way.
Okay this post has gone on quite long. Have a great Easter!