We are stuck on our compound locked down in Nigeria doing all we can to avoid the Covid-19 causing coronavirus. We have been gathering for a compound Sunday service together for a couple of weeks now and I agreed to ‘do a sermon’ for today. I read up and looked into the whole stages of the cross thing. I’ve not really explored it much before as a thing to do, it was fascinating. What I found intriguing is, a bit like Christmas, so much that we think happened isn’t’ actually described in the Bible it seems more tradition than anything else. I challenge each of you re-read the Easter story in all 4 Gospels, maybe you will be as surprised as I was looking at it a fresh again.
I had to do some preparation but it was in fact a neat reminder of what it took for Jesus to die.
We didn’t have a good Friday service – so I thought I’d combine the focus of multiple services down to 1. There are many versions of the stages of the cross, and so I picked 5 highlights to take us on our journey. I am a firm believer that doing something helps us to remember, so I designed our time to have a scripture reading, an activity and a prayer that we read together. The prayers were inspired by the Franciscan Friars who use a very short version of the prayers for the stages of the cross while on their missions. I adapted for less stations and modernised the language to make it more appropriate for us.
I carried my iPad so we could do the readings and zoomed the text bigger so we could do the prayers and reading together. Jono, my neighbour opened our time in prayer.
First Station – Jesus Condemned to Death
Matthew 27 :20 – 24 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
Activity: Washing Hands
PRAYER: O Jesus! So meek and uncomplaining, teach me how to remain strong in times of trial.
Second Station – Jesus Carries His Cross
John 19: 16-17
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).
Luke 23: 26
As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
Activity: Picking up a cross. The cross were not clean and well finished for crucifixions. Be careful of our crosses, they are rough, have nails sticking out and possible splinters.
PRAYER: O Jesus! This Cross should be mine, but you bore it for me; help me know how to serve you as Simon did.
Third Station – Jesus Stripped of His Garments
Luke 23: 32-34
Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.
Activity: Tie a strip of cloth to your cross.
PRAYER: O Jesus! As you were stripped of your clothes, strip away our selfishness and clothe us with your righteousness.
Fourth Station – Jesus Dies on the CrossLuke 23: 44 – 49
By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last. When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow. But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.
Activity: Smear some ketchup on the edge of your cross.
PRAYER: O Jesus! You died for my sins so I could be forgiven. Help me remember and not take it for granted.
Fifth Station – Empty Tomb
Luke 24: 1-7
But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”
Activity: Grab a stone from the driveway to symbolised the stone that was rolled away from the tomb.
PRAYER: O Jesus! You rose again defeating sin and death. Thank you that we are redeemed and reconciled.
Head upstairs and we’ll read this scripture together before we sing.
READ TOGETHER: Romans 6:10+11
The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus