The empty cross is the Christian faith.
Easter is not a destination, but a journey to be lived every single year.
Every year, we do just that. We travel through lent, trying to remove the things that have been getting in the way of God until we reach Holy Week. We start Holy Week with Jesus' entry into Jerusalem (usually with donkey!), then we walk the journey with him to the cross.. and then the empty tomb. This is not just a fan-boy approach to Christianity, its a chance to enter into the drama, highs and tragic lows of this period that defines what it means to be a Christian.
Here is my journey this year, in pictures!
This year I thought long and hard about what might help me connect with God in new ways and decided on something I would give up, and something I would take up. I decided in the end to give up .. Facebook! Yes I know, it sounds rather pathetic but I was, almost without thinking, using whatever spare time I had to scroll down that timeline. I decided to buy back some of that time by doing an online course, looking at the context the New Testament was written in. I would like to tell you that both giving up Facebook and taking up this course was easy .. but it was scary how much time not having Facebook gave me, how much I missed scrolling through that timeline, and how much I was enjoying filling it with something a bit more productive. My journey through lent was exactly as I had hoped .. I spent more time reflecting on the nature of God and less time doing things that distracted me.
Our lent group this year watched the film ‘The Kings Speech’ and we tried to draw parallels between the film and the things that hold us back in our walk with God. It was thought provoking, challenging and really helped me in my journey. Very often I would reflect on our discussions from the session before, trying to put them into practice.
So I arrived at Holy Week feeling refreshed, and more connected than ever than what was to come. It also meant this year that I walked the final road with Jesus more attuned than ever, and that comes at a cost!
We really did recreate Jesus entry into Jerusalem as we paraded though Wookey with our ‘plonkey’ (pony pretending to be a donkey!). We got some of the expectation of those original crowds of people as they welcomed Jesus into the city shouting and waving palm branches.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we were in the hands of Rev Prof David Thomas for ‘Sacred Space’; an hour of reflection culminating in evening prayer. I could literally sit and listen to David speak about Jesus everyday, so it was a treat to be able to take part in those evenings, to watch and consider these final days of Jesus life in ways I have never considered before.
Maunday Thursday arrived ..
and so did our meal and recreation of the last supper. There was something very special about this meal as a good gathering of people arrived at Wookey Church Hall to some rather fine shepherd/cottage pies. As we passed around the bread and wine, I really got a sense of how poignant, puzzling and strange it must have been for those disciples as Jesus said ‘do this to remember me’.
We then went over to the church, which was in candlelight.. to meditate on the final hours before Jesus is arrested and taken away. I sat in the church until 10pm and got the overwhelming sense of God's presence. All I could do was sit ... and pray.
Good Friday arrived and we spend an hour at the foot of the cross in those last moments before Jesus died. The people who played parts of those around the cross were very powerful this year, and it brought the whole horrifying scene to new depths for me. There were tears, the realisation of just how much Jesus suffered and how this moment became the stuff of conversation for centuries afterwards.
Then Saturday. haven't got a picture for Saturday and that's exactly what kind of day it was. Good Friday left me with a sense of something being incomplete. I was unsettled, and didn't really know what to do with myself, other than to prepare for ..
Which began when my alarm went off at 5am.
It was dark, we woke up our two bewildered youngest children and began the journey up to Henley Hill for the dawn service. There was a hush of expectation as we got to the top of the hill and warmed ourselves by the fire pit. The awkwardness of Saturday remained, but something wonderful was waiting for us in just a short time. We held stones to remind ourselves of the things we carry and waited...
And we waited...
Sunrise was down to be at 6.32am.. but that time arrived and still we waited!
But that all just added to the moment .. and when the sun did arrive, it was spectacular! And I got it on video below!
We then celebrated the risen Jesus with songs and renewed our baptism vows around the fire pit. It really was a moving start to the Easter celebrations. I travelled onto the communion services at Henton whilst David Thomas took the service in Wookey. I was running late after the Henton service as I rushed over to Coxley.
Coxley Church was a special way to end Easter Day, as I had the absolute privilege to baptism two boys who are part of the church family. To celebrate resurrection this way, and the new life and freedom we can have because of it, was something I don't think I will ever forget.
We were also very Kindly invited to the party afterwards and had the best lasagne I have ever tasted, thanks to the Italian grandfather.
As we left the hall we passed by the church once again. The cross had been decorated by flowers and stands proudly beside the road announcing to all the love, new life and joy that only Easter can provide to all.
It's still there if you want to see it.. drive on by.
Easter .. done :)
How was your Lent and Easter journey? Do reply and let me know.