the empty tomb

this Good Friday i helped the youth at my church host the Journey to the Cross, a 13 station reflection on Holy Week using readings, props, and devotional activities. the kids did such a great job, and it was really powerful. i was thankful that they were willing to let me run with it, especially since our church is pretty traditional and significantly older than the church where i'd staged it before. bellefield was a university church with lots of young people, and st. michael's has far more senior citizens than college students, but people were just as eager to worship and participate in something different.

the library was reimagined as the upper room, where Jesus shared a Passover meal with his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. we transformed a sunday school classroom into Gethsemane with dozens of plants, and participants read about Christ's ordeal there and drank a cup of grape juice, remembering Jesus' willingness to drink the cup and submit to his Father's plan.

in the parish hall, participants reflected on Jesus' trial, death, and burial. some stations had big newsprint tacked to the walls, where people could write prayers and responses. everyone went through at her own pace, and quiet music played in the background. the only other sound was an occasional hammering, at the station where participants could confess a sin on a piece of paper and hammer it into a large wooden cross.

something like this has the potential to be emotionally manipulative, but the writers took care for that not to be the case. the Journey to the Cross is powerful because each station is anchored in Scripture. it creates space for people to be still before the Lord and let the significance of Jesus' sacrifice impact them.

it was cool to see families and couples going through it together, as well as individuals of all ages. jim's parents and my sister tiffany were in town, and i was glad to be able to share it with them. i was thankful to be able to work with the students and to serve the church in this way. hopefully, we'll get a chance to do it again next year--i know it's easier to stage the second time around:)

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?
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, "He's calling Elijah."
Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, "Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to save him."
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!" (Matt. 27:45-54)


  1. This sounds fantastic! Our church has a special Good Friday service with dramatic readings, which was very moving. They also had a children's program, which sounded similar to yours, but on a smaller scale.

  2. My parent's church did that one Easter and it is fantastic. I was battling severe depression at the time and it really helped turn things around for me. Thanks for the reminder.


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