We began Lent at Eliot Church with Ash Wednesday prayer stations fit into the time and space of our usual worship service. We will be bookending Lent by using prayer stations again on Maundy Thursday. Since we do not hold a service on Good Friday, these stations are meant to move worshipers from the Last Supper to the crucifixion. They would also be appropriate for use on Good Friday.
The set up and supply list for each station is described just below the title. The instructions follow. I printed these as a booklet so that worshipers each had their own set of instructions and could move through the stations at their own pace.
Set up an area with several basins of water and clean hand- or dish-towels. You may also want to provide a basket for used towels.
During supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ . . .
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. — John 13:3-15
Which is harder for you? To wash someone’s feet or to allow someone else to wash your feet? In this reading, we see Peter resist having his feet washed. For him, it felt inappropriate for the teacher to wash the student’s feet. Today we might feel vulnerable or embarrassed to let someone wash our feet; it means letting them see our dirty, smelly side. In our germ-obsessed culture, we might not want to wash another’s feet because it means touching what is often thought of as unclean.
In this station, you are encouraged to take on both roles, washing and being washed. Each requires a different sort of humility. Ask someone nearby if you can wash their feet using the bowl of water, then dry them with a towel. If someone asks to wash your feet, accept the gift with humility.
After washing and being washed, meditate and pray with these questions:
How does it feel to serve someone in such an intimate way?
How does it feel to be served in this way?
How can you allow Jesus into the most intimate parts of your life?
How might Jesus be calling you to love others in unconventional or frightening ways?
Use some or all of these 18 verses (courtesy of Deb Guess) that describe various postures of prayer. Hang them on the wall around this station. Make sure there is enough space for worshipers to practice the postures without bumping in to others too much.
He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” — Luke 22:39-42
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” — Matthew 26:36-39
The gospels depict Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as one full of emotion that is even reflected in his posture of kneeling down or throwing himself on the ground. Throughout Scripture we see people praying in ways that reflect the posture of their hearts.
In this station, you will have the opportunity to “try on” different postures of prayer. Using the verses posted on the walls, pray as indicated by the underlined words. Use the following questions to guide your meditation and prayers:
What feeling does this posture convey? Gratitude? Joy? Sorrow? Guilt? Dependence? Submission? Resistance?
When you hold this posture, what prayers surface from your own heart?
Which prayer posture speaks most to your current spiritual, emotional, or physical state?
After you have tried on several postures, hold the posture that best conveys the current prayer of your heart. Pray from this posture as long as you desire.
From the Cross
Search the internet for images of the crucifixion. I aimed for a mix of 15 different classical and modern art images, including global perspectives. Spread the images around a table.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. —Luke 23:34
Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. —Luke 23:43
Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother. —John 19:26-27
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? —Mark 15:34
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. —Luke 23:46
I am thirsty. —John 19:28
It is finished. —John 19:30
The four gospels record seven different sayings of Jesus spoken as he was dying on the cross. Throughout the centuries, artists have attempted to capture and interpret the crucifixion through painting and sculpture.
In this prayer station, you will reflect on Jesus’ crucifixion through his last words and images.
CHOOSE an image from among the artwork presented on the table. Select one that particularly moves you or that you feel drawn to this evening.
SIT with that image and meditate on why this image spoke to you. What statement might the artist be trying to make by painting the crucifixion this way?
REFLECT on which of the last words of Jesus you see most reflected in this picture.
LISTEN for what God might want you to believe, feel, know, or do based on these last words and this image.
PRAY as you are led by the Spirit.
Tearing of the Veil
You will need some cotton fabric that tears fairly easily. I prefer a rich color like burgundy or purple. You will also need black markers, either permanent or washable. It helps to have a pair of scissors on hand in case the fabric does not tear well. The instructions call for the fabric strips to be tied to the cross. At Eliot, we have a wooden cross covered by chicken wire that we cover in flowers on Easter morning; I used that.
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” . . . Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” —Mark 15:33-39
The curtain in the Temple separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the inner sanctuary. The Holy of Holies held the Ark of the Covenant and was believed to be the place where the glory of God dwelled on earth. The place was so sacred, that even the High Priest was only permitted to enter once per year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
For Christians, the tearing of the curtain at the time of Jesus’ death is symbolic of the end of the sacrificial system required by Judaism. Because of Christ’s death, we have atonement for our sins—once for all. The tearing of the curtain also symbolizes an end to the separation between God and humankind. The sin that has long separated us from God and one another has been dealt with in Jesus. We are now able to dwell in God’s presence.
In this station, you will reflect on the sins that have separated you from God or from other people.
Using a marker, WRITE or DRAW something that symbolizes any sin that weights heavy on your heart or anything that separates you from God or another person.
Then, TEAR a strip from the fabric. It is okay if some of your writing is left on the cloth. Someone after you may come and tear that section.
Take the strip of torn cloth and TIE it to the cross.
MEDITATE and PRAY guided by the following questions:
What does it mean to you to believe that because of Jesus’ death your sins are forgiven?
How do you experience reconciliation to God and to others?
When and where have you experienced God’s presence in the world?
Burial in the Earth
This station is adapted from Marci Glass. You will need paper cups, potting mix, and some kind of seeds. You may also want to provide hand wipes for people to clean the dirt off their hands.
Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. —Mark 15:43-46
In our culture, we tend to fear death, and we are often afraid to talk about death with the people that we love. As Christians, though, we believe that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, our deaths are not final. Our lives continue in God’s kingdom. Not only that, even on earth, death and burial is part of the cycle of new life. In our own lives, we often find that something has to die in order for something new to be born. Jesus teaches his disciples that when they die to themselves they will find a new and richer life in Christ, not only in the afterlife, but now. In this station, you will think about the relationship between death and new life.
TAKE A FEW SEEDS and hold them in your hand. Consider that this little seed contains all of the information needed to reproduce.
PLANT THE SEEDS in a small pot with some of the soil. As you do, feel the moist earthiness of the soil and remember the tomb in which Jesus was buried. Think of the darkness the seed experiences before it can spring to life—on the brink of creation, there is darkness. The seed has to die for the plant to be born.
The cross event is darkness and death as well, but new life emerges from the darkness of the tomb on Easter. As you prepare for Easter, meditate and pray with the following questions:
What part of your life could use some new life now?
How could you be a part of bringing new life to your community?
What might need to “die” in you in order for something new to spring forth?
You may TAKE HOME your seed pot, plant it in the ground or a container, and nurture it until it sprouts and flowers.