Earlier this year, while in the Phoenix area for my mission community’s annual meetings, I spent a Sunday morning at a Lutheran retreat center where a Sister guided our group through the “Stations of the Cross.” Desert sunshine filtered through the branches of the olive trees lining our gravel pathway. Our walking tour took us from tableau to tableau. Beautiful, life-sized sculptures in appropriate settings helped us see and feel something of what Jesus experienced His last days leading up to the cross. It was one of the most moving worship experiences of my long life. Indeed, I felt the sweet presence of Jesus as I was helped to imagine where He walked.
I found myself thinking, more than once, how much I wished I could share this with my grown children and grandkids. Since we live more than a half day’s travel from Phoenix, this is not likely to happen. And you may never make this place part of your travel plans either. But, I’d like to suggest you can create a walking tour of your own and give your family an opportunity to enter into the last days of Jesus before His death on the cross.
It’s possible to set up “stations” with simple props you can find around the house and some poster board. It will take some time and thoughtful preparation to create an experience that fits your home, designed with the make-up of your family group in mind – the ages of your children, whether extended family can participate.
To begin with, I’d recommend you consider four locations: the ‘Last Supper,’ ‘Gethsemane,’ ‘Jesus’ arrest,’ and ‘Peter’s denial.’ (I’ll give references for these four locations at the end of this blog entry.) Save the crucifixion itself for Friday and ponder Jesus’ last words then. Sunday, read together your favorite resurrection passages.
The format for each ‘station’ (of the first four) will reveal who is involved, the number of children, the time you can devote to preparing for the experience, the time you actually give to entering into this Jesus walk with your family.
In each location, present the Scripture from contemporary Bible versions, but do, indeed, read from the Scriptures. For the ‘Last Supper,’ you might consider sharing communion with your family and/or having one person wash the feet of the rest.
In Gethsemane, let two family members act out the parts of the disciples describing to the others what they saw and overheard before they fell asleep. They might confess their shame over sleeping at this time of the Savior’s deep, agonizing suffering.
If you have school aged children, they’ll rise to the challenge of taking parts and acting out Judas’ betrayal and the soldiers’ arrival. And, indeed, it could be possible to devise a plan to dramatize the scene where Peter denies Christ.
Perhaps this year you’ll decide to simply pick one of the four scenes and spend your whole time with that. Or…if the weather cooperates, you could do the ‘Last Supper’ in your living or family room and then go outside to your backyard for one or more of the garden scenes.
Someone once wrote that we do well when we tell stories so that children see themselves within the story. I hope you’ll take ideas like these presented in this entry and use them to create your own plans, finding ways to draw your children into the events of the days before Jesus went to the cross.
- A VIRTUAL PRAYER WALK: Poster board and color markers can make visuals for each ‘station.’ Prop them up some distance apart where family members can walk around, pausing to pray before moving on.
- TALK IT OUT: Discover/discuss a character quality that each site demonstrates. For instance, humble service to others from the ‘Last Supper.’ Submitting to God’s will, even when it’s difficult, praying for those who are falsely arrested because they are Christians, standing up for Jesus, when challenged by a hostile classmate…these are just a few that come to mind.
- GET INTO IT: Give children time to consider a particular ‘station,’ declare who they’d like to be in the action, what truth they can carry away and remember from this particular scene from Jesus’ life.
- START SMALL: Since this is already Holy Week you’ll probably need to start with a simple plan…but, please do start something that draws your kids into the Bible stories and gives them memories upon which to peg the decisions they make at these times of walking with Jesus.
- RECORD IT: Keep track of what you do this week and build on it next year, when God brings this celebration of Jesus’ life and death around again.
- LOOK FOR MUSIC: Don’t forget the grand Easter hymns. You may not know the melodies, but you can supply the words and let your family members read or memorize them.
Dying for me, dying for me, there on the cross He was dying for me;
Now in His death my redemption I see, all because Jesus was dying for me. W.G.Ovens
Last Supper: Matt. 26:17ff. Mark14:12ff. Luke 22:7ff & John 13:1ff. Gethsemane: Matt.26:36ff. Mark 14:32ff. Luke22:39ff & John 13:1ff. Jesus arrested: Matt 26:47ff. Mark 14:43ff. Luke 22:47ff & John 18:1 Peter denies Jesus: Matt 26:69ff. Mark 14:66ff. Luke 22:54 & John 18:15ff, 25ff.