Prayer Stations for Good Friday
On this Good Friday, we encourage you to spend time in prayer and active contemplation. Below is a series of prayer stations for Good Friday. These prayer stations are meant to be self-guided, using materials you can find at home. There is no order to follow. Each station has a list of materials, an explanation for setup and a prayer to offer.
Reflecting on the Imago Dei
Arguably the most famous human of all time, Jesus has been depicted by artists of every conceivable culture and nationality in a variety of forms. As you look at the various representations of Jesus, ponder to yourself, who do YOU say that Jesus is? How do you speak about Jesus to others? Who is Jesus to you? How do you see Jesus reflected in these images? Consider drawing a picture of Jesus as you see him in your mind.
Jesus' Last Meal
שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת, בְּשוּב ה' אֶת שִׁיבַת צִיּוֹן הָיִינוּ כְּחֹלְמִים. אָז יִמָּלֵא שְׂחוֹק פִּינוּ וּלְשׁוֹנֵנוּ רִנָּה. אָז יֹאמְרוּ בַגּוֹיִם: הִגְדִּיל ה' לַעֲשׂוֹת עִם אֵלֶּה. הִגְדִּיל ה' לַעֲשׂוֹת עִמָּנוּ, הָיִינוּ שְׂמֵחִים. שׁוּבָה ה' אֶת שְׁבִיתֵנוּ כַּאֲפִיקִים בַּנֶּגֶב. הַזֹּרְעִים בְּדִמְעָה, בְּרִנָּה יִקְצֹרוּ. הָלוֹךְ יֵלֵךְ וּבָכֹה נֹשֵׂא מֶשֶךְ הַזָּרַע, בֹּא יָבֹא בְרִנָּה נֹשֵׂא אֲלֻמֹּתָיו.
A Song of Ascents
When the Lord will bring back the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers. Then our mouth will be full of mirth and our tongue joyful melody; then they will say among the nations; "The Lord has done greatly with these." The Lord has done great things with us; we are happy. Lord, return our captivity like streams in the desert. Those that sow with tears will reap with joyful song. He who surely goes and cries, he carries the measure of seed, he will surely come in joyful song and carry his sheaves. (Psalm 126)
Materials: (to be found at home) Vinegar, Hammer, Nails, thorns, Bible
Read Mark 15:1-40.
As Jesus was crucified, the soldiers put a crown of thorns on his head. They used large nails to hammer his hands and feet to the cross. From the cross, when Jesus said he was thirsty, the soldiers soaked a sponge in vinegar and offered it to him to drink.
See if you have a hammer and nails and maybe a small piece of wood. Feel the nail in your hand. Place it on the wood and carefully, strike it with the hammer. Listen to the loud noise it makes. Look around your house and in your yard for plants or bushes that might have thorns. They are sharp, be sure to examine with your eyes and don’t scratch or hurt yourself. Can you imagine what it would feel like to have those thorns scrape your head? If you have vinegar in your kitchen, take off the cap and smell it. You can pour some in a small dish and smell it if you like. It has a very pungent smell. It’s not likely something that would taste very good if you were thirsty and in pain.
Gracious God, you sent Jesus to live among us, to experience the fullness of humanity. On Good Friday, we know that Jesus experienced great pain and suffering. As we take a moment to think about his suffering, may we be mindful of his tremendous sacrifice. We know that you were with Jesus as he suffered just as you are with us when we are suffering, even if we cannot recognize it. Thank you for your peace and presence with us, and thank you for Jesus. Amen.
Ashes & Dust Meditation
Read these words from the Reverend Ashley Anne Masters, chaplain of the Raleigh Presbyterian Campus Ministry serving multiple schools in the Raleigh area:
With earthy things that thieves can come in and steal will always come tangible loss and violation. Yet, the beauty of knowing just how finite we are, enables us to find great hope in our most treasured dust being that of each other-our memories, the sound of voices, the smell of their favorite sweater-that no earthy thief can ever steal.
It is my hope for us this Lent that amid the ash heaps of our finitude and earthly pain, we pay special attention to other dust that some say should be been left in a corner.
It is my hope that we will collectively gather as dust to share the beauty of the human condition together.
It is my hope that even on our hardest days, we will never forget that we were created with the stardust of the Divine, and nothing, absolutely nothing in this life can ever change the value we have as children of God.
Remember that you are beloved.
Remember that you are marked by grace.
Remember that you belong to God.
Remember that you are a treasure.
Go forth into this intentional Lenten wilderness adventure expecting to be amazed and surprised by just how much God can do with our dust.
For we are beloved dust. And to dust we shall return. And nothing, not social distancing, or quarantine, or postponed graduations, or months of not seeing significant others [or dear friends or church family], or frantically packed up dorm rooms, [offices and worship spaces] or cancelled [spring breaks, vacations, or] study abroad, or anything else in this pandemic can ever separate us from the contagious love of God and the grasp of God’s hands.
With gratitude for modern technology, we shall continue to gather as collective dust. Because resurrection always gets the last word. Amen.
MUSIC & HYMNS
Excerpt from Plenty Good Room by Marilyn E. Thornton:
This song is one of lament in which African American slaves ask an existential question concerning an event at which their physical presence was impossible: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” However, anyone who had seen the brutal punishments of the era trembled in empathetic thought. Even as Billie Holiday grew up in the North (Philadelphia), she was able to sing hauntingly of the strange fruit on poplar trees in the South; and contemporary events such as the Charleston massacre of 2015 chillingly bring to the collective memory of black Americans cross burnings and lynchings of the not-so-distant past. As we travel down the path to the cross, it is truly time to lament, to mourn, and to wail. Where are we? Why does this keep happening? We are trembling with grief, with dismay, and with fear. Others may await the terror beyond the borders, but we know that it has always been at our doorstep. Where are you, Lord? We are here.
Throughout church and society, there are various roles and responsibilities persons assume in order to promote equality and dignity for all. Some are called to be clergy persons or politicians. Others are called to be activists who challenge systems of social, economic, and political oppression. This is particularly important in the case of the poor, African Americans, immigrants, and other ethnic groups who suffer disproportionately from the oppressive forces of poverty and economic exploitation, police brutality, unjust court systems, and sheer neglect in the United States. Striving for equality for all oppressed persons is viewed as an issue of freedom. We must continue to ask ourselves how this theme may be applied to increasing levels of understanding deliverance for all humankind today.
Christians often speak of crucifixion as if it only happened to Jesus—my Lord. In fact, it was the preferred extreme mode of capital punishment of the ancient world. In Latin, it means “fixed to a cross,” but it was practiced from the ancient Persians all the way to the Britons. Thousands of people had their hands and feet fixed to a cross: “Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?” The cross was then hauled upright so that gravity could do its work of draining bodily fluids, dehydration, and asphyxiation. Crucifixion was a death penalty for traitors and other criminals, of which Jesus was one. He, like the thieves on either side, was considered to be a threat to the peace of Rome—Pax Romana. It was used because it usually took so long for the crucified to actually expire—sometimes days. It took time for the sweat glands to rupture so that perspiration appeared as drops of blood; time for insects to lay eggs in the wounds, causing infection; time for all fluids to drain from the body or to pool in the abdomen, for the brain to begin to shut down and tell the heart and lungs to cease their function. Three centuries later, the Roman Empire outlawed crucifixion. The carrying out of death penalties is public and necessarily cruel. Regardless of method, it is supposedly meant to act as a deterrent to crime. In the case of crucifixion, it was hoped that people passing by would look upon the spectacle and remember in some later desperate moment to refrain from stealing. Centuries later in the United States, in towns with prisons where the electric chair was used, townspeople knew the hour of an execution because of the surge on electrical capacity. Their lights dimmed; their radios cackled. In the United States, death sentences cost taxpayers millions of dollars while the convicted go through the appeals process. With the advent of DNA testing, many convictions have been overturned. This means that in the past innocent people were executed. Christians may question why a so-called “Christian” nation would utilize the death penalty, realizing that it brought Jesus to his death. Jesus was innocent. Although the charge was that he claimed to be “king of the Jews,” he had not committed treason as accused by his enemies. As he told Pilate, his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified Jesus (Mark 15:25).
One of the last verses in the complete lyrics of “Were You There?” asks about our presence when Jesus was laid in the tomb. While no one reading this story today could have literally been there, we have all gone through burial rituals for loved ones. Timing is crucial. Black families usually allow more time between death and burial. Our families are far-flung due to migratory patterns, and folks need time to get off from work and find the money to get to the funeral. For Jesus’ community, the concern was that the work of burial could not be done on the Sabbath. They had to move quickly to bury Jesus before sundown, when the Sabbath would begin. Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body. After checking whether Jesus was actually dead (only six hours), Pilate gave his permission. Joseph lovingly wrapped the body in the traditional burial cloths and closed up the tomb with a stone while Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched. They were there when they laid him in the tomb. This is where our journey of Lent ends, at the tomb. But it is not the end of the story! Life with God does not end in the graveyard. The dead places and spaces in the world are to be overcome by the light and life of God. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it” (John 1:5). As we await the celebration of Easter, let us meditate upon how we must move quickly to accomplish the work of bringing new life to a world so desperately in need of hope.
Thornton, Marilyn E.. Plenty Good Room (p. 40-44). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
Materials: 3 maps (world map, NC map and Hickory map), find at home: ribbon, yarn, or string about 1 foot or longer, Bible
Read Matthew 27:27-32. Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry Jesus’ cross when Jesus could not bear the weight himself. When we follow Jesus’ pattern, we can follow the pattern of asking for help when we cannot do something on our own. When have you needed to ask for help?
We can also hear Jesus’ words that instruct us to carry the crosses and burdens of others in our midst through their struggles. Look at the maps and consider those who are struggling. You might put your finger on a particular place on one of the maps. Offer a prayer for that particular pray and tie a knot in the ribbon or string that you have in your hand. You can pray for multiple locations and tie multiple knots as you offer prayers for others as they struggle and prayers for the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit in your own struggles.