Monthly Archives: April 2014

“Peace-making be with you”: A Radical Call for Resurrection-Living

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{This post is my contribution to the monthly Spirit of the Poor syncroblog. The conversation is hosted by Luke Harms this month with the theme “Resist.”  Join the conversation.}

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Christ is risen! Alleluia!

We shouted these joyful proclamations on Easter Sunday. The One we had been following through the wilderness for 40 days and watched as he was arrested, wrongly accused, crucified on the cross, and buried is now alive. His tomb is empty and he has been raised from the dead.

Christ is risen indeed!

And on Easter Sunday we celebrated as we sang the “Alleluias” that had been buried over Lent. The black veil over Jesus’ cross has been lifted. The sanctuary is now decorated in white and gold. And the cross has been covered with bright and colorful flowers.

We finally can take on the luxuries we had fasted from over Lent. Everything seems to be back to normal… Or, for many, everything seems to be even better than before… knowing that Jesus is alive. That Christ could not be conquered by death.

Christ is risen! All is joyful and full of celebration.  Alleluia!

But wait a minute.

Not so fast!

This week, our Lectionary does not take us to a party with streamers, chocolate bunnies, and Easter egg hunts. While we do come to a gathering, it is not one that is filled with celebration.

Earlier that morning, Mary Magdalene is visited by the resurrected Jesus and goes to the disciples to tell them of this great news. But instead of rejoicing, they hide behind closed and locked doors… out of fear.

Out of fear that the Jewish leaders who attempted to silence Jesus by putting him to death would now come after them. And maybe out of fear of Jesus, himself. Now that he is alive, what would he think of his friends who denied him three times, fled after his arrest, and left him to fend for himself in his most excruciating moments on the cross?

Christ is risen? Christ is risen… indeed?

Last week, I wrote about my experience watching the Jesus I knew growing up – who had loved and advocated for me and had called me into ministry at a young age – get spit on, beaten down, put on trial, and eventually crucified as I kept hearing “You Can’ts” because I am a woman. And though these loud voices in my first marriage and campus ministry continuously tried to silence and crucify this Jesus, death did not have the final say. The tomb was indeed empty, and the Jesus I knew and loved was not, in fact, silenced.

And yet, though I could at times shout out “Alleluias” of great joy, there were still times I – like Jesus’ closest disciples – decided to run and hide behind closed doors.

Because this news that Christ is risen may be good news, but it does not come without great responsibility…

Because this news that Christ is risen may be good news for many, but it is not good news for all.

When I saw the Jesus who loved me for who I truly am hanging from the cross, I panicked, thinking I’d never see him again. But when he finally appeared to me at the empty tomb, calling me to follow him into this crazy ministry of radical love that loudly advocates for the “least of these,” I wasn’t so sure I wanted to accept this call, after all. Instead, I wanted to resist it.  I wanted to run and hide out of fear. Out of fear of those who would wish to silence me – were I to follow this resurrected Jesus. Out of fear of what so many of my friends, colleagues, and in-laws would say. Out of fear of how this “speaking out” and “standing up for myself and others” would add more tension to what was already taxing in my friendships and marriage.

Couldn’t I just privately accept the love and peace of this radical Jesus for myself and hold onto it for my own personal healing? Couldn’t I just quietly share the good news of this radical Jesus with only the people who I know would accept him?

But if we know this radical Jesus in the first place, we also know the answer.

We know that when we look into the eyes of the resurrected Jesus and touch the wounds of the crucified Christ, we will understand that his death and resurrection were for a far greater and more powerful purpose than just ourselves. And when we place our fingers on the holes in his wrists and feel with our hands the deep cut on his side, we will not be able to do anything other than loudly confess that Jesus is indeed, “My Lord, and My God!”

…So we run.

But even in our times of fear and questioning – when we resist our call to proclaim this radical Gospel of Jesus; when we choose to deny, flee, and hide – Jesus will keep returning to us over and over and over again. Until we are ready to open our eyes to see him, reach out our hands to touch him, and accept the “peace” he offers to us that comes with a commission.

Because when we receive the words: “Peace be with you,” we must remember Jesus’ words that come after it: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

This resurrected life we are called to live – this peace-giving and peace-making ministry we are sent out into the world to do – is going to lead us to places, people, and situations we will fear and question. When we really follow this radical Jesus of the cross who loudly and boldly advocated for the “last and the least,” we are going to run into some pushback. We are going to get ourselves into trouble. We are going to bump into people who will try to spit on, ridicule, beat, and silence us.

But the good news is that we are not alone. Jesus is with us. He has breathed onto us the Holy Spirit, our loving Advocate, who will continuously comfort and guide us along the way. And he has called us to join together as one body to share the joys and the burdens that come with receiving and passing on this peace of Christ.

Easter is not over after we sing “Alleluias” on Easter Sunday. It did not end when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb. And it did not end when Jesus appeared to the disciples who were hiding behind closed doors.

It continues with each one of us as we choose to live this resurrected life by accepting and boldly passing on the peace that comes in and through this radical Jesus who was resurrected from the dead.

Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

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For the Women Who Hear “You Can’ts”: An Easter Story of Hope #StoriesofEaster

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{This post is my contribution to the Stories of Easter syncroblog hosted by Convergent Books.}

It was a Sunday morning my senior year of college. I was sitting in church with my fiancé and his family as I thought about how nice the service was: the music was incredible and the people were really friendly.

But then came the sermon.

I began to feel a little uneasy when the pastor started reading 1 Corinthians 14 about women remaining silent in the church. And things only got worse when the pastor continued to preach about how women had their own special “roles” in the faith community… And that these “roles” did not include teaching adult men, preaching, or serving as pastors, among other things.

This troubled me… as I had been raised in a church with a female pastor, in a family where women were seen as equal to men and could be anything they wanted to be, and where I – myself – started to feel called into ministry in high school.

At a young age, I met and had fallen in love with a Jesus who loved me for who I truly was and who – despite my struggles, faults, and failures – kept washing my feet, calling me his “beloved,” and for some odd reason kept urging and empowering me to follow him.

But there – on that Sunday morning with my fiancé and soon-to-be in-laws – this Jesus I loved was being silenced. He was being beaten down, spit on, and mocked.

And this was not the only place I heard these messages… I had been hounded by “you cant’s” because I was a woman in my campus ministry since my freshman year and would continue to be hounded by them later in my marriage for many years until my divorce.

The Jesus I knew for so long – who had been my true friend, advocate, and encourager – was on trial and the prosecutors were winning. And I began to fear that I would never see or hear from him again.

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I wonder if this was how the women who knew and loved Jesus felt as they watched him from afar during his arrest, his trials, and as he slowly and painfully journeyed toward the cross.

The Jesus who had allowed women to touch his cloak, rub his feet with their hair, sit in the places where disciples sat, and who rebuked the men who criticized such women was now being spit on and mocked. The Jesus who not only taught these women the Scriptures, but also empowered them to speak their voices and allowed them to accompany him on his ministry was now being flogged. The Jesus who had loudly and boldly proclaimed that these women – “the least of these” – were just as cherished and beloved in God’s Kingdom as any man was now being silenced, as he was forced to walk – with a crown of thorns on his head and a heavy cross over his back – toward his violent death.

I wonder what those women who loved this radical Jesus thought as they gazed up through their tears at his broken and bloody body as it hung silently and still on the cross.

Would they ever see or hear from him again? Were they really going to be cherished in the Kingdom of God or was all that he had proclaimed and done for them done in vain? Was Jesus truly the One he said he was or did they completely misunderstand him?

Who would advocate for them now?

Their grief, confusion, and anger over the loss of their beloved Jesus must have been incredibly overwhelming as they heard Jesus cry out in anguish on that dark night: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and watched him take his final breath.

And yet, in the midst of this grief, confusion, and anger, some of these women decided to go back to his tomb after he was buried. We don’t know why. It may have been the same reason they chose to follow him to the cross, while almost all of Jesus’ other disciples bailed out on him.

Maybe they wanted to make sure the tomb was being taken care of, just like he had made sure they were taken care of. Maybe they needed more opportunities to say what they didn’t have the chance to say to Jesus before his arrest. Maybe they thought they would feel closer to him if they were close to his body.

Or maybe they held onto hope that this Jesus really was the One he said he was, and that death would not defeat him.

Whatever the reason, they went back to the tomb.

And it must have been a shocking and horrifying moment when the women found the tomb empty. Had someone stolen Jesus’ body? What did this mean for them now?

And yet, they must have been even more shocked when they were greeted by their loving Jesus, himself – before anyone else – and were commissioned by him to be the bearers of the good news of his resurrection.

The Jesus they knew and loved really was the One he said he was. And this Jesus who loved, advocated for, and empowered them before his arrest was now continuing to do so in and through his very death and resurrection.

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When I felt voiceless as I heard and watched others mock and deny the Jesus I knew and loved, no matter how strong and loud their voices were, I could not give up hope that Jesus might still be the One I had experienced him to be. And so I followed him on that long, bumpy road toward his death. There were times when I felt hopeless: at the bottom of the cross, gazing up at what seemed to be just a broken and bloody body hanging silently from it.

And yet, somehow I felt a constant urge to keep returning to his tomb. To see if he was still there. To see if he was, indeed, the One I knew him to be long before. And though there were times I felt alone when I found the tomb empty, after continuously returning to it, I finally realized that those loud voices that led him to his crucifixion did not, in fact, win.

For there standing in front of me was the very Jesus I knew and loved for so long: calling out to and commissioning me – his beloved – to go out and spread this great news of his resurrection to all who fear that his death would keep him away forever.

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For all the women out there whose loving Jesus has been crucified before your very own eyes: may you find hope in this Easter Story, as well. When others around you ridicule, spit on, and beat down the Jesus who has claimed and cherished you, follow him to the cross. When you witness his crucifixion, visit his tomb… over and over and over again.

The promise in this Easter story is that no matter how loud those voices are around you that mock and deny your Jesus, death will not defeat him. And though these voices wish to silence him, he is proclaiming on your behalf louder than ever as he hangs silently and still from the cross.

And in a few days time, the Jesus you once knew and loved will appear to you in full form – claiming you as his own, and commissioning you – his beloved – to speak your voice and share this good news.

 

 

“You’ve Been Served: A Maundy Thursday Reflection”

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It’s Maundy Thursday, and today we recall Jesus gathering his disciples together before the festival of Passover for a meal… The very last meal he has with them before he heads toward the cross.

In John, we see that Jesus gets up from the table in the middle of dinner, takes off his outer robe, and ties a towel around himself. Then he does something that would have shocked his disciples… Something that only a servant would have done for a houseguest. He gets down on the ground on his hands and knees, pours water into a basin, and then begins to wash his disciples’ feet. As he gets to Simon Peter, Peter calls out to Jesus in complete bewilderment: “Lord, are you seriously washing our feet?! You, my Lord and Rabbi, can never wash my feet!”

I completely relate to Peter. I understand how it may have been incredibly baffling for Jesus to serve me… at the place only a disciple of a rabbi would sit.

Why in the world would Jesus sit at my feet… and wash them as a servant would do, for Pete’s sake!?

As a pastor who tested off the charts as a #2 on the Enneagram: “The Helper,” I tend to give and serve… and serve and give… and give and serve. This can be a great asset for a pastor – for someone who is in the human services field. And yet, this can also be my greatest detriment. I tend to give and serve so much that I have difficulties saying “no.” And when all of the “yeses” add up, I end up sacrificing my own time for myself.

I give and serve so much that I struggle to give up control to others who have great ideas and resources.

I give and serve so much that I make little time to take care of myself.

I give and serve so much, that I end up not allowing others to sit at my feet and wash them… To serve me every once in a while. I think sometimes I forget that I am also Jesus’ beloved… That I deserve this, too.

And eventually, it all catches up to me.

I will never forget when I first started hanging out with my husband, Jonathan. I had previously been in a marriage where I was often giving and serving and caretaking, and this was rarely being reciprocated. And so when Jonathan had me over to make me homemade meatloaf and mashed potatoes, I immediately went into his kitchen and picked up the pan. Jonathan stopped me, grabbed my hand, and walked me to the dining room. “Sit,” he said. “Sometimes you just need to allow others to serve you.”

It was a foreign feeling. And yet, as I began this practice of receiving service from others, I felt liberated. I felt renewed. And I felt more equipped to better serve others in my ministry and personal life.

For Jesus, this act of allowing him and others to serve us is a crucial practice. He later explains to his disciples that he has set out an example for how they are to love others. And that just as he – their Lord and Rabbi – washes their feet and serves them, they ought to do so for one another. And yet, they cannot fully love and serve others without first allowing themselves to be served.

We must not forget that we, too, cannot give, serve, love, and care for others without first being served… By Jesus and by so many of our brothers and sisters who are called to be Christ to us.

Because when we do allow our feet to be washed, we just might be surprised at how much we really needed to be cleansed so that we might be better equipped to return this loving act.

 

“From Palms to Passion” – Sermon for Palm Sunday for the Passion of Our Lord

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Palms Text: Matthew 21:1-11                     Passion Text: Matthew 26:14-27:66

 

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Well, it’s Palm Sunday for the Passion of our Lord. And it’s the beginning of Holy Week, which means we are finally coming to an end of the Lenten Season. I don’t know about you, but I am getting a little weary of wandering in the wilderness. This cold and snowy Chicago polar vortex went on way too long, and I’m definitely not looking forward to the snow that is predicted for tomorrow; I am sick and tired of soup dinners, somber reflections, and the practice of self-emptying; and – quite honestly, I am ready to get back to drinking the coffee that I gave up for Lent.

Give me Easter already!

And how many of us here wish we could have just gathered outside the chapel this morning for our great Palm Sunday procession, waving our palms, shouting joyful shouts of “Hosannas” to the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and singing “All Glory Laud and Honor…”

And then have called it a day…?

Or, I guess, for many of us, even called it a week… Until we come back next Sunday to celebrate the resurrection – and, of course, skip all that comes in between?

I think that author Anne Lamott puts into words what I – and so many others of us – feel as we begin this long, solemn Holy Week. She says:

“I don’t have the right personality for Good Friday, for the crucifixion. I’d like to skip ahead to the resurrection. In fact, I’d like to skip ahead to the resurrection vision of one of the kids in our Sunday School, who drew a picture of the Easter Bunny outside the tomb; everlasting life and a basketful of chocolates. Now you’re talking!”

Isn’t this familiar? Isn’t it common for us to just avoid and skip over the cross?

Don’t we tend to avoid the suffering that is constantly dominating the headlines of our international, national, and local news? Don’t we tend to skip over the pain that is continuously taking over the lives of our friends, our colleagues, our neighbors, and those we pass by as we walk to the train? And don’t we even sometimes tend to avoid the betrayals and persecution that we – ourselves – would have to experience if we did – in fact – speak out against injustices that marginalize the “least of these” in our society and sometimes even us?

I get it. I am with you. I am sick and tired of the wilderness and just want chocolate bunnies and Easter egg hunts. I want Hosannas, Alleluias, and new everlasting life.

And I especially want coffee!

And yet, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be resurrection people, living lives here and now that bring forth light into darkness and proclaim the promise of new life that comes with the resurrection to both our neighbors and ourselves.  And to avoid and skip over the pain and suffering of those around us and even within our own lives is to choose to not live into the resurrection.  It is making the choice to not accept and proclaim new everlasting life.  For we know that we cannot have and experience the resurrection and the promises that come with it without first experiencing what comes before it.

We cannot have the resurrection without first having the cross.

And so, for those of us who are here this morning – on Palm Sunday – wishing we could just hear about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and then “call it a day,” I’m sorry to disappoint…

After waving palms and shouting and singing joyful “Hosannas,” we must suddenly take a quick turn and hear and accept what comes next on our journey… and what was once bright and joyfully loud becomes dark and eerily silent as we veil the cross in black and hear the long, dark readings about Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, persecution, and suffering as he slowly journeys – with a crown of thorns digging into his skull – toward the cross.

Those joyful shouts of “Hosannas” have now become angry shouts of “Crucify!”

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But this is life, isn’t it? There have and will be times in our lives when we think we are just about out of that wilderness; just about ready to see and experience new life… But just as we begin waving our palm branches and shouting “Hosanna! Salvation has come!” things unexpectedly take a downhill turn. Those we trust the most may turn on us and betray us, the crowds around us might spit on us and mock us, and what looks like our escape and release from captivity sometimes ends up being the very thing that captures us and leads us on our own painful journey on a dirty and bumpy road through Jerusalem.

But it is in these times when we need the cross the most. It is in these times when we realize that we – indeed – need a God who not only was resurrected, but who also walked a similar path. That we need a God who knows what it’s like to experience broken relationships, grieve the loss of loved ones, watch those closest to him look directly in the face of injustice, and be betrayed by friends and ridiculed by crowds. And when things get really dark, we need a God who knows what it is like to feel completely and utterly alone and abandoned – even by his own Father, even by God – to the point where he cried out in his final moments of anguish and pain: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When we skip over and avoid the cross, we miss out on a God who knows and understands our pain, our suffering, and our doubts. We miss out on a God who is personal and who is near us. A God who is with us in the flesh, walking alongside us as we walk what may sometimes be a long, lonely road.

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But to skip out on the cross also causes us to miss out on a radical and bold Jesus we are all called to follow.

One of the reasons that we read the Passion texts (the texts about Jesus’ arrest, persecution, and suffering as he journeys to the cross) on the same day we celebrate Palm Sunday is because Palm Sunday is not an event we should separate from the rest of the events that occurred after it that led up to Jesus’ crucifixion.

In fact, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem – the center of religious and political power that alienated and marginalized so many – was “the moment of dramatic confrontation,” as Walter Brueggemann puts it.  It was the inaugurating event and the beginning of a series of actions Jesus took that ultimately led him to his violent death.

And though riding in on a humble donkey and colt rather than on a chariot pulled by warhorses – as the worldly kings would have done as they began their kingdom ruling – Jesus entered Jerusalem boldly and loudly… In the name of the Lord, proclaiming a new Kingdom – the Kingdom of God – that would soon turn the unjust worldly empire upside down.

And it was his loud voice that angrily shouted as he turned over the tables in the temple after he entered Jerusalem and saw that the temple was being made into a den of robbers; a place where the religious leaders and the money changers were taking advantage of the poor.

It was his loud voice that cursed the religious leaders for placing heavy burdens on others that were hard to bear, for seeking honorable seats in banquets and synagogues and exalting themselves in public while exploiting the poor and the sick, and for publicly tithing expensive elements while neglecting justice, mercy, and faith.

It was his loud voice that preached that the greatest commandment is to love God fully and in doing so, to love ALL our neighbors as ourselves; that those who welcome, feed, clothe, and visit the least of these, do so for him and will be blessed, while those who do not do these things for one of the least of these, will be cursed.  It was his loud voice that declared that those who humble themselves will be exalted and those who exalt themselves will be humbled.

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Jesus was a rebel rouser. A troublemaker. He challenged the unjust and dehumanizing hierarchical political system that not only took over Rome but also dominated the way of the Temple.  And it was Jesus’ loud, subversive voice that shouted and proclaimed on behalf of the “least of these” that got him into trouble in the first place and led him to be silenced on the cross.

But – although those who nailed Jesus there did so to suppress him, after Jesus breathed his last breath, the temple curtain tore in two, the earth shook, and the rocks split.

Death did not have the final say that dark night.

And after three days, we will realize that Jesus’ voice was shouting and proclaiming louder than ever before as his broken and bloody body hung silently and still on the cross.

Brothers and sisters, when we skip over the cross, we miss out on the center of the Gospel. We miss out on a God who came to be with us in the flesh, walk alongside us in our darkest moments, and carry and release us from our heaviest sins and burdens; a God who came to advocate for all who have been dehumanized, to conquer death and bring about life, and to enter in a Kingdom here and now that will elevate the humble and humble the elevated…

A Kingdom that is brought forth on and through the cross.

So this Holy Week, let us not forget the cross. Let us choose this resurrection life and do so by following Jesus on his journey through Jerusalem, remembering – as we do – that Jesus is right alongside us as we take every step, guiding us on which way to go.  Because when we do, we might be overwhelmed at how much we really do need this loud, radical, and personal Jesus of the cross that we too often miss.

 


Related Articles:

 The Politics of Palm Sunday (Adam Erickson on ravenfoundation.org)

Palm-Powered Protest (Rev. Adam Copeland on adamjcopeland.com)

Palm Sunday Ponderings: Jesus and those in Need (Rev. Grace Ji-Sun Kim on gracejisunkim.wordpress.com)

Holy Week and the Importance of Weekday Christians (Rev. Emily C. Heath on Huffington Post)

Prepare the Way (Again) (Sermon from All Peoples Christian Church)

 

Stations of the Cross – for Youth Group

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(This is a multi-sensory stations of the cross that was created by Youth Specialties – with a few of my own adaptations.)

Materials Needed: Chant music, several copies of the Stations Instructions at each station.

Station 1: Sandals

Station 2: Perfume, cotton balls

Station 3: Coins

Station 4: Bread

Station 5: Grape juice, cups

Station 6: Rope

Station 7: Robe

Station 8: Large cross, pens, sticky notes

Station 9: Candles and matches or flameless candles

Station 10: Bowl with rocks in it

Station 11 and 12: nothing (besides the station instructions)

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Station 1

God in the Flesh

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

—John 1:14

Today you’re invited on a journey through the last days and hours of Jesus’ life.

In front of you is a pair of sandals, the kind that any ordinary man or woman would wear.

As you begin this journey, focus on what it means for the eternal God to become a man. Think about what it means that Jesus once stood in sandals like these, just like any of us might.

The God who created the world stepped into an ordinary human body. Take time to meditate on the mystery, majesty, and humility of Jesus, the Son of God.

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Station 2

Mary Anoints Jesus

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” —John 12:1-8

 

Mary poured out expensive perfume onto Jesus’ feet as an act of worship. Spray a few sprays on a cotton ball. Smell its fragrance. The fragrance may not be strong at first, but you will smell it for hours. It’s long-lasting.

Mary’s act of worship was pure…passionate…real…expensive…extravagant. And it touched the heart of Jesus.

Jesus knew he was headed to the cross, and Mary’s act of worship was a blessing to him.

How can you pour out your love to Jesus, extravagantly, in a way that will spread the beautiful fragrance of Jesus where you are?

When you leave, take the cotton ball with you. Let its fragrance remind you that we are called to live every moment of our lives in fragrant worship of Jesus.

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Station 3

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

—Matthew 26:14-16

 

Judas was one of Jesus’ closest friends, one of the twelve disciples who had been with him for three years. He agreed to betray Jesus for just thirty silver coins.

Hold one or two of the coins in your hand. How could Judas betray Jesus, his friend, for money? How do you think Judas felt when he looked at the coins in his hand and realized what he had traded for them?

Is your own heart tempted to betray Jesus over material things? Take this time to talk with him about it.

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Station 4

The Last Supper

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

“What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.  —John 13:21-30

 

Jesus was celebrating the Passover feast with his disciples.

Tear off a piece of bread and eat it as Jesus did. As you’re eating, think of the heartbreak he must have been feeling at the betrayal of one of his own disciples.

He knew his disciples would soon face confusion and fear. Contemplate his sorrow and compassion for them.

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Station 5

Gethsemane

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”—Matthew 26:36-38

 

This scene reveals the sorrow in Jesus’ heart that night. He prayed to his Father that he would not have to go to the cross if there were any other way. Yet he prayed the hardest prayer any of us can pray: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

When Jesus said, “May this cup be taken from me,” he was referring to the difficult thing his Father was asking him to bear. Yet he chose to drink the cup, even though it was painful.

Pour a cup of grape juice and drink it. As you do, remember that Jesus chose to bear the agony of the cross—to drink the cup—for you.

Is there a cup that God is asking you to drink—something about which you need to pray the prayer of Gethsemane: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.  Not as I want, but as you want.”

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 Station 6

Jesus’ Arrest

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” —John 18:1-11

 

Even though Jesus could have given the word and overpowered all the guards, he let himself be bound and led away.

Pick up the rope and hold it in your hands. As you do, remember that Jesus was bound with a rope like this one. He chose to submit to the difficult way of the cross with every step that he took.

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Station 7

Jesus’ Trial

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. Matthew 26:57-60, 27:27-31

 

Imagine yourself in Peter’s shoes. You are looking out over the courtyard where Jesus is being tried and mocked. You know that he is being unjustly accused. As you stand here, you see men telling lies about him. You watch him being beaten, spit on, and ridiculed.

Here is the man you have followed for three years, the man you had put all your hope in, being sentenced to death. In your heart you have believed he is God, the promised Messiah of the Jewish people.

Your whole world is crashing around you, and worst of all, you have denied that you even know him.

Pick up the robe; hold it in your hands; put it on.  As you do, think about how Jesus wore a robe like this and a crown of thorns on His head so that angry soldiers would wound and humiliate Jesus. What do you want to tell Jesus right now?

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Station 8

The Crucifixion

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ “ In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. —Matthew 27:32-44

 

Here is Jesus, dying a brutal death on a Roman cross, an instrument of torture. Kneel in front of the cross. Imagine yourself there at the scene. What is going through your mind? Don’t rush this part.

God’s great love for God’s children is the reason Jesus went to the cross. Jesus died on the cross in order to relieve all of us from our sins and our burdens. He could have answered the taunts by calling the angels of heaven to bring him down from the cross, but he didn’t. Because He loves us, and YOU, He chose to stay.

Near you are several pieces of paper and pens. Think of a burden (something that makes you feel pain in your life or worries you) or a sin or something that you did that you know hurts others or disappoints God and keeps you from God. Write it down on a piece of paper.

Take the paper, rip it up, and place it on the cross. As you rip it and place it no the cross, think about how your sins and burdens were nailed to the cross that day with Jesus. With each rip, remember Jesus’ words: “It is finished.” He bore the pain of the cross so you could be forgiven and set free from slavery to your sin and burdens.

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Station 9

Jesus’ Death

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

—Matthew 27:45-54

 

When Jesus died that day, so many people watching must have thought that their hopes had died as well. Darkness came over all the land that day.

Remember the darkness that covered the world that day. Think about the darkness that covers the world today in your neighborhood, school, church and among your friends, family, and classmates that is in need of the light of Jesus. (violence, depression, death of loved one, bullying, etc.)

How can you be a light of Christ to those who live in darkness around you? Light a candle and ask God to help you be Christ’s light to the world.

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Station 10

Jesus’ Burial

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. —Matthew 27:57-61

 

The rocks you see here are a fraction of the size of the rock that sealed Jesus’ tomb. Imagine the heaviness of it. Pick up one of these rocks. Feel its texture. Feel its weight.

Can you sense the heavy weight the disciples and those who loved Jesus must have felt as Jesus’ tomb was sealed? In their eyes, death had won. This was a stone that no one could move. It was final. Jesus was gone and buried.

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Station 11

Jesus’ Resurrection

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

—Matthew 28:1-10

 

Imagine the cold, heavy, anxious fear and sorrow that these women must have felt as they journeyed to the tomb that day. Imagine them arriving at the tomb and finding the stone rolled away, the empty grave clothes in the place where Jesus’ body was supposed to be.

Imagine the shock and the overwhelming joy they felt as they met the risen Jesus in the garden. Their Lord was alive! Imagine how these women were transformed in that one moment.

How do you think the risen Jesus wants to transform you today?

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Station 12

Crossroads: What Will You Do with Jesus?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

—Matthew 16:24

 

You are at a crossroads.

Look over the Journey you have just taken through the final days of Jesus to the cross and beyond. Every step Jesus took was purposeful, deliberate, by plan. Every moment of pain, betrayal, and agony was borne by him out of love for you. You were—and still are—a part of his journey.

Jesus bore and carried your sins and burdens on the cross. Therefore, when you ask for forgiveness, you are freed from all sin and guilt. You can leave tonight knowing that Jesus journeys with you every day. You are not alone in your life journey.

You experienced tonight some of the emotions Jesus Christ experienced on his journey to the cross. You can leave here still holding on to parts of your life, the parts you don’t want to surrender. Or you can leave choosing to surrender everything to Him because He chose to do so for you.

If you feel led, tell Jesus that your life is His. Then ask Him to reveal to you what is in your life that keeps you from being fully in relationship with Him. Ask Him to guide you and help you make changes in your life so that He is first in your life.

Pray the prayer of Gethsemane: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

What is Jesus saying to you tonight? Stay at this station or sit in a pew or chair until everyone else is finished with the stations. Reflect, pray. You can write your response to Jesus, draw, think, etc. Take this time to respond to Jesus’ love for you.