Church of England Diocese of Lichfield Alrewas

From the Curate

30 Jan 2021, midnight
stations_of_the_cross.jpg Download
LENT MESSAGE.

What is Lent? Lent for some people is a time to reflect on their lives. What is good and works, and what isn’t quite as good and needs to change. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and continues until Palm Sunday. On Ash Wednesday, some Christian people will attend church to receive the imposition of ashes. This involves having the sign of the cross placed on their foreheads in remembrance that we were but dust and to dust we shall return. This year this may not happen as we do not know if our churches will be safe to open for this service.
On the 21 February the period of lent begins in earnest and we reflect on the Cross and what it means for us as individuals. Some churches will have stations of the cross. These are 14 pictures which depict Christ’s journey from the time he is condemned to death, until his resurrection. They invite us to journey with Christ and to think about areas of our own lives where we are struggling. They help us to reflect on our journey and are a conduit between the here and now, what went before, and what is to come. At each station we are invited to pray, for ourselves and the world, and for our lives to be Christ centred. This year due to the pandemic, life in church is going to be very different to how we usually reflect on Christ’s journey. But even though it will be different, we should not lose hope. If we all continue to follow the rules, then just maybe we can return to church to celebrate the glorious resurrection of our saviour Jesus Christ.

I come from a tradition where stations of the cross are led on the first Monday of each week. On Passiontide Sunday, we re-enact the Passion of Christ. Then begins a time we refer to as Passiontide, or the last two weeks of lent. Then we have Palm Sunday when Jesus rides triumphantly into Jerusalem. The week after Palm Sunday, the tradition I come from would hold a service every night of the week. On Maundy Thursday, some of the congregation would have their feet washed, by the priest and or curate. The service would end with the Holy Sacrament being taken in procession from the Alter and placed in the tabernacle.
On Good Friday we would walk in procession from church to the town centre carrying a wooden cross. There we would gather with people from all the churches in Burton and have a service in the town square. That evening, we would have the veneration of the cross. At the end of the service, the church is stripped, leaving a bare and empty church. All lights are extinguished apart from the one on the lectern, which is used to read John’s narrative of the Crucifixion. When the words "and He offered up his spirit” are read, the final light is extinguished. People can then remain in church to pray or sit through the night and keep watch, or return home in silence.

I would like to finish by sharing with you the stations of the cross and my own thoughts on how we can use them through lent. I offer them to you with grace, in the hope that you may find them helpful.
Please click on the download to see the pictures that relate to these.

In these first three stations, we see Jesus being condemned to death, carrying his own cross and falling for the first time. At this moment in time, it feels like we are being condemned through no fault of our own. We are being asked not to visit our families and our friends, not to go to church for services and for some to live in isolation. This, we are told, is to protect us from this unseen virus which takes no account of age or status. This is a fear that we live with daily and for some it compounds their own cross that they have to bear. Those that have mental health needs, those who have addiction to alcohol, medication and those who live in abusive relationships, not to mention the strain that it puts on relationships when we are suddenly expected to spend most of our days together.
Is it any wonder that so many of us are falling under the weight of the cross that we have to carry? Let us reflect on our own journey, our own needs during these strange times, as well as those for whom life is harder than our own.

Lord, we ask that you help us to carry the burden of our own cross, whatever that may be. Open our hearts and our minds to those in need. Help us to carry our burdens with hope, and when we fall under their weight help us to get up and carry on, knowing that you are with us to guide us now and always Amen.


Stations four, five, six and seven. Station four is when Jesus comes face to face with his Mother, who so desperately wants to help her son, but who knows this is the cross that only her son can bear. How must her heart break for longing to take away this burden from him and carry it for him? Maybe she pleads with him not to do it, but Jesus knows that this is his fate. Whether we are parents or not, seeing someone whom we love can cause us heartbreak and unimaginable pain when we know that they are suffering. We may wish to take away their pain, but we know that we cannot. We can walk with them, helping them to recognise that they are not alone. That one far greater than us is walking with them and who will one day take away the pain. If not in this life, then in the next. The next station helps us to see this. Veronica wipes Jesus’s face and his image is left on the cloth. It is the image of Christ, that we need to imprint on ourselves and by doing this we open the door so that Jesus can imprint himself on our very souls. When we open that doorway between the now and our future, then God can work great things in us and through us.
In station seven Jesus falls under his burden yet again. This can happen to us as well. Just when we think we have everything in place and all is well, something happens that may alter our lives and that can cause us to fall to our knees in despair. We feel pain and suffering and feel that we cannot go on and yet we know that to be an example of Christ we must bear our burdens with grace, no matter how many times we are tried and tested. Jesus did not give up neither must we.

Heavenly Father, open our hearts to the message of your love. Let us fully accept you as our Saviour and our hope for the future. Help us to be strong, just as Christ was strong, so that we too may carry our own burdens safe in the knowledge that you will be there to guide us on our journey. Give us grace and strength, the will to accept all that life brings, and the hope of light in our darkness. Light that will overcome the dark and bring us to a new life in you.
Amen.

Nine, ten and eleven, the last three stations before the crucifixion and even now Jesus is focused on the needs of others. In the first of the three pictures above, Jesus is consoling the women of Jerusalem. They may have suddenly realised who he is and want to find consolation for their own wrong doings. Jesus is showing that it is never too late to turn our backs on the wrongs that we have done or that we are still doing. It is our own acceptance that for some of us we will have to live daily with whatever ails us. That for some of us there will be no freedom from our suffering in this life. We may feel that this is not fair, especially when others never seem to have anything wrong in their lives. And yet no one knows what others have to deal with. When Jesus falls yet again, it is a sign of hope for all of us, that no matter how many times we fall down, when we ask, we will be lifted up and we will be given the tools we need to journey on. That may be through friendships outside of the church, our church family or through prayer, scripture or meditation. In the final picture of these three, Jesus is stripped of his clothes. This is symbolic of his earthly life and showing that there is no need to focus on earthly things. It is a sign that we need to separate ourselves from the call of money and possessions, a sign that we should be more in tune with what God wants from us. A sign that it is not what we have when we die, but what we have done whilst alive, that matters to God. Have we given freely of our time and money, have we made ourselves available to those in need, when they need us? Or did we turn our backs and make them wait until we were ready, when their need of our listening or help was needed no longer.

Lord, help us to be more Christ like in our giving to others. Help us to be ready to listen, when the need is there. Give us the strength to put aside our own needs to help others. Help us to be grateful for all that we have, and for all that you give us. Teach us to be less judgemental and more accepting of others. Help us to set aside our own sin and find a new and everlasting life in you.
Amen.

Stations 11 and 12. Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies. Even when we have seen a loved one die, we can have hope that in their dying they will have a new life free from pain and suffering. God’s love is for all people, of all faiths and none. He does not discriminate, but opens his arms wide for all to come in. When we die to our old selves and live a new life with Christ then we open the doorway to a new way of being and living, not just with ourselves but with others that we will meet on our journey. It is how we treat all people, those we like and those we don’t, especially those that we don’t, that enables God to see and celebrate the change in us. Even when on the cross, Jesus pardons one who dies with him. Jesus came to teach us the message to love our neighbour as he loves us and to have a forgiving heart, even to forgive those that have hurt us. When we do this, we are at one with Christ. There are two other pictures that go before the empty tomb, that of Jesus being taken down from the cross and then being placed in the tomb, the tomb of a stranger. I have not ignored these, but I wanted the final focus to be on that empty tomb. I feel that this is a place where most of us sit in these trying times. We sit sometimes alone, or amongst our families, feeling lost and abandoned. Sometimes feeling that there is no way out of this dark pandemic; this world where money seems to be more important than life. The exact opposite of the message that Jesus brought to us. But I wanted us to reflect on that light, the light outside of the tomb. The light that is showing us there is hope, there is new life and that all things will be well. Even if we cannot see or feel that hope now, it is there FOR ALL OF US. All we need to do is reach out and pray for help.

Lord, in our darkness, may you be our light, in our anger, may you be our peace, in our sorrow, may you be our Joy. For all of us that have lost our loved ones in these difficult times may you be the light that guides them home and the light that brings us hope for the future of this world. May you always fill us with your Grace, hope and most of all and forgiveness, now and always.
Amen.

Revd Ashley Hines Curate. January 28 2021.