When I was growing up, we used to sing a song at church: “I love to tell the story… to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.” In Sunday school, I would belt it out, but by the time I got to high school I was holding back.
Frankly, I’d grown tired of the story. I had heard it too many times and it no longer held the power it once had. It’s like many of my favorite movies today- I still recommend them to others, but I really don’t pull them off the shelf and watch them anymore.
Last year, I was scheduled to preach on the Tuesday of Holy Week at Lighthouse and as I was preparing, I was struggling to find a way to do justice to the story of Jesus’ execution. How do I convey the power of the story when everybody already knows it? Talk louder? Ask Chloe to choose some really sad songs? Play clips from The Passion of the Christ? No, maybe, and no way.
As I thought about ways to invite students further into the story I remembered a statue at my seminary of Jesus dragging his cross. It was part of a city-wide Stations of the Cross installation that invited people to experience Good Friday any day of the year by walking all over Pasadena to sculptures and paintings that depicted significant moments in Jesus’ final hours. It got me thinking: what would it look like if Lighthouse had its own Stations of the Cross?
With only 48 hours to plan, we looked for ways to bring as many stations to life as possible. That Tuesday, as we read through the story in Matthew, we took the last supper along with the disciples, washed our hands with Pontius Pilate, and denied Jesus with Peter. We read poetry, sang songs, told stories, and reflected on art that depicted those last hours. It was beautiful, and heart-breaking, and somehow uniquely real.
This year, we started planning months in advance and found more ways to incorporate the gifts of the Lighthouse community. One of our own, an incredibly talented beat poet named Anna wrote and shared two poems about Judas’ betrayal and suicide. Kyle and the worship team wrote all-original music, with an a cappella quartet, a violin duet, and beautiful leitmotifs that musically unified the narrative. And at the pinnacle of the evening, seven student artists nailed their paintings of different parts of the crucified Christ to a big wooden cross while a recording of monks chanting Psalm 22 played.
I struggle to put into words what this new tradition means to me. Somehow it brings to life that moment in history that I have longed to experience anew. But it also reminds me what I love about the Lighthouse community: our students share a broad diversity of talents, passions, and beliefs. And yet we all come together like a living mosaic to tell each other that old, old story in a way that no individual telling of the story could do.
A special thank you to all of the artists, musicians, poets, and planners who shared their time, energy, passion, and abilities with us during Holy Week!