As a church we believe it is important to be creative and as part of our commitment to that we have a service planning team. The team regularly meet to discuss the upcoming series and services, to come up with new and old ways of doing things to help create an environment where we all can feel comfortable and meet with God.
Our communion services are really important. It’s a time for us to come together as a community and remember what Jesus did on the cross and a time where we can join together in thanksgiving and collective worship.
Last night we opted for an ‘ alternative’ communion service based on a multi-sensory experience. In small groups, people were led around different areas by guides who aided our thoughts with reading and prayers. Each area represented one of the last seven phrases Jesus said on the cross.
1. FATHER FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO
The gospel of Luke records that as Jesus hung on the cross with a criminal to his right and to his left, he called out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” In the midst of pain, suffering and humiliation, Jesus called out “Forgive”. What do we think of when we hear forgive and how ready are we to forgive others as Christ forgives us?
A short video presentation on forgiveness followed, that prompted us to respond to God for His generosity and graciousness in offering us forgiveness.
2. TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE
As Jesus called on his heavenly Father to forgive those who were punishing him, he offered the same forgiveness to the thief who recognised Jesus’ innocence. The criminal said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Jesus response was mind-blowing. “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Paradise, the very Kingdom of God was open to that petty thief and to us. But what do you imagine when you think of heaven?
Prior to the service we got some children to paint their idea of what Heaven might be like. We looked at the paintings and then ch;;anged ourselves about how our view of heaven has changed and matured from when we first found faith, and to thank God for the promise of Kingdom living here and now.
3. BEHOLD YOUR SON: BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER
John 19:26-27 tells us Mary Jesus’ mother, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene all stood near the cross of Christ. “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciples whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son’ and to the disciple, ’Here is your mother’” Even as he was physically dying on the cross Jesus was concerned about his family. He recognised that families are precious gifts from God to us and we should love, pray and protect them.
As we gathered around the tree we wrote the name of a family member or friend that we were particularly thankful for and prayed for them as we placed the tag on the tree.
4. MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME
The Cross – Mark 15:33-34
These words show the anguish that Jesus was experiencing. This cry is from the painful heart of the human Jesus who was feeling deserted by His Father, not to mention his earthly companion. His loved ones “looked from afar,” not close. This cry echoes Psalm 22 where David made a striking prophecy of the crucifixion of the Messiah, at a time when crucifixion did not exist: “They have pierced my hands and my feet, they have numbered all my bones, they divide my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. Forsaken and alone. In his humanity, Jesus has experienced some of the very worst of our human emotions.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
5. I THIRST
After Jesus expresses the emotional pain and suffering of the cross, he then expresses the physical effect, “I thirst”.
We encouraged people to touch the instruments, smell, taste the vinegar that was offered to him, and allow themselves to imagine the sounds and sights of that day, thanking the Lord for his endurance of the physical pain.
6. IT IS FINISHED
John 19 says that, “When he received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished”. With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” To the background of a ticking clock, we listened to a poem which focussed on the simple, yet profound nature of these final words.
7. FATHER, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT
For the final word we gathered together to worship and take the bread and wine.
This was a one-off communion service, very different to a tradtional communion experience. What were your thoughts? Did this help you connect with God? Did this help you remember what Jesus has done for us?
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