Contemplating the cross

I’ve been following the book Contemplating the Cross a Pilgrimage of Prayer by Tricia McCary Rhodes.

Her Last chapter – epilogue is entitled Resurrection and starts with a quote by Dorothy L. Sayers…The Disciples had seen the strong hands of God twist the crown of thorns into a crown of glory, and in hands as strong as that they knew themselves safe…They had expected a walkover, and they beheld a victory; they had expected an earthly Messiah, and they beheld the Soul of Eternity.

Each daily prayer / section of the book has a reflection, read, respond, pray.  It is an amazing book to follow through lent or use with Lent groups – it is very good at making you think about how horrific the cross was and how lucky we are.

The last Supper

I found this liturgy on Hold this Space.

Judas

This is proof that you can sit at a table surrounded by friends and be the loneliest you have ever been.

Everyone seems to think this is what Jesus has been on about all this time:
that if everyone’s welcome and everyone’s home, that’s enough.

They think that it can go on forever just like this,
that this table is enough to change the world,
but it’s not.
And Jesus knows that too.

human love has a limit
and we need to know what lies beyond that limit.

They love me tonight
but they’re fickle.

When they look back through the annals of history
they’ll say Jesus paid the ultimate price
and that i got what i deserved.

They’ll say i sold my soul for 30 pieces of silver
but no amount of money goes close to making up for the thousands of years
of abuse i’ll now be dealt
from those who never even bothered to get to know me,
or find out why i’m doing this,
or thought about how much this story needs me
so it doesn’t simply become idealised politics or a religious cliche.

For everyone else, sitting round this table tonight
all concepts of welcoming the unloveable
and forgiving the impossible
are still purely theoretical
and therefore gospel truth.
Tonight no one questions my place here.
Tomorrow theylll just wish I was dead.

Mary of Bethany

[standing against a wall]

They sit over there and talk about how the world has changed
how radical all this is.
They’ve never felt like this before.
They never knew this was possible.

i can hear them talking amongst themselves
remembering things he’s said:
the last shall be first… blessed are the poor… come to me all you who labour…

They’re telling stories of the woman at the well
of Zaccheus coming down the tree
and even of me, just the other day, rubbing oil into Jesus’ hair

remember her,
i hear them saying.

I know they think i should be grateful i’m even in the room.
that it wouldn’t have been the case
years ago.
we know you want more, i hear them say. give us time, we’ll get there.

But let’s be honest, if i gave them 2000 years i’d still be waiting.

If this is the only way i can be here
i’m not sure here is where i’m meant to be.

Because I’ve tasted it now.
i know what it’s like to have a place at the table
to have my place at the table.

i’ve sat with jesus.
i’ve eaten that bread and drunk that wine.

i owe it to myself – and jesus – to not go back.

Thomas

i look around at all this:

it’s too good to be true
too impossible, too fragile.

It can’t last. It’s got to end sometime.

Part of me longs to lose myself in it,
to embrace it all,
to be as sure as all of them,
but i just don’t have that bit inside me that will let me let go.

Thomas, they say to me. Stop doubting.
What they don’t get is, if i give into it completely, and it all ends tomorrow
it would break me.

I don’t think i could recover.
i don’t have their faith in miracles
and that’s what it would take.

Sometimes i almost tip over into their life
where a brave new world is possible
and i am part of it.
I get it, just for a moment.
but then it’s gone.

Faith’s a gift you know, and it’s not mine.
not tonight.

John

I got here early so i could sit next to Jesus
but then i turned my head for a minute
and someone else took the space.

They know i’m his closest friend.

i’m not being selfish. He needs me there.
it’s been such a strange week
and he needs someone who will keep his glass full
who will take the weight off his shoulders for a while
who will just stop people bugging him
and expecting more from him.

And i need to know he’s ok.
It’s all changing,
and i want it to be how it was before
when right was right
when up was up
when we all knew where we belonged
and what could be expected.

I wanted to sit next to him
to get just a moment of that back.

i’m his best friend
his beloved
i’ve shared him with the world for the last three years
is it too much to have him next to me?
just for tonight?

Peter

I’ve been part of this meal every year of my life
but it was always a pale imitation of this.
i get it now, i really think i do.

though you won’t believe that.
it’s hard to imagine how anyone could get things more wrong than me
even now,
even three years on.

I so don’t deserve to be here.
i’m not worthy of all this.

i want to understand
but none of it makes sense.
the rules are all different in this game and every answer i’ve been taught
no longer fits.
Nothing prepared me for this.

i just look stupid.

But, every time, just when i think i need to give the whole thing away
because i’ll never get it
something happens
something so remarkable and incomprehensible
that i know i can’t leave.

Like tonight.
It feels like the earth is shifting
and we’re just beginning
everything’s just opening up
it’s all possible.

look how far we can go with this
look how much more we can do

Who wouldn’t want to be part of this?
I can’t believe I am.

Liturgist

The first time this story was told
they gathered around a table
a ragged collection of people –
sinners
betrayers
power-hungry
fragile
lost
lonely.

The first time this story was told,
Jesus promised that it was for all time
that whenever the bread was broken
and the wine was poured,
wherever the story was told around the table
he would be there.

Today we tell the story
as its been told a thousand times over;
we break the bread,
and we pour the wine;
sure, as we do,
that we belong at this table
and that Jesus is here with us.

On the night Jesus was betrayed…

The Dream of Rood

Many years ago – the memory abides –
I was felled to the ground at the forest’s edge,
Severed from my roots.  Enemies seized me,
Made of me a mark of scorn for criminals to mount on;
Shoulder-high they carried me and set me on a hill.
Many foes made me fast there. Far off then I saw
The King of all mankind coming in great haste,
With courage keen, eager to climb me…
Then the young Hero – it was God almighty –
Strong and steadfast, stripped himself for battle;
He climbed up on high gallows, constant in his purpose,
Mounted it in sight of many, mankind to ransom.
Horror seized me when the Hero clasped me,
But I dared not bow or bend down to earth.
Nor falter, nor fall; firm I needs must stand.
I was raised up a Rood, a royal King I bore,
The High King of Heaven: hold firm I must.
They drove dark nails through me, the dire wounds still show,
Cruel, gaping gashes, yet I dared not give as good.
They taunted the two of us; I was wet with teeming blood,
Streaming from the warrior’s side when he sent forth his spirit.
High upon a hill helpless I suffered
Long hours of torment; I saw the Lord of hosts
Outstretched in agony; all embracing darkness
Covered with thick clouds the corpse of the World’s Ruler,
The bright day was darkened by a deep shadow,
All its colours clouded; the whole creation wept,
Keened for its King’s fall; Christ was on the Rood.
Yet warriors from afar eagerly came speeding
To where he hung alone. All this I beheld.
 

Anon., translated by Helen Gardner.

I took this from Signs of your kingdom by Michael Perham.

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village,
the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in still another village
where he worked in a carpenter’s shop
until he was thirty.
He did none of the things one usually
associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only thirty-three when
public opinion turned against him.
He was turned over to his enemies
and crucified.
When he was dead he was laid
in a borrowed grave.
Nineteen centuries have passed and today
he is the central figure of the human race.
No one has affected the life of man on earth
as much as that one solitary life.
 

This was originally a sermon written by Dr James Allan Francis in 1926.  It has since become shorter and tweaked by various people and from an anonymous source.