For the first time in living memory, Christians will not be able to gather in groups to celebrate Easter weekend.
While church leaders are doing all they can to help us have a meaningful worship experience, watching a live stream cannot replace a physical act of worship. To make matters worse, for many of us the line separating work life and home life has been erased.
The same screen we are using to school our children and video conference for work is now the only place we have to go for corporate worship and small group fellowship.
Many of us are beginning to feel a screen-based nausea that could easily be labeled ‘Zoom-Exhaustion.’
Walk the Stations of the Cross Outdoors
The past is filled with hidden treasures and traditions. One of these is the Christian tradition of prayerfully following the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.
The idea behind the practice is to use physical movement and a series of gospel readings to slow down time and imaginatively retrace the events that led finally to Jesus dying on the cross. While this practice has often been performed within church buildings, it can be (and has been) adapted for outdoor settings.
This becomes particularly useful during a pandemic...when most of America is limited to staying at home or walking through a neighborhood or park. The Scriptural Stations of the Cross are a means for ordinary Christians to escape their living rooms and engage in an outdoor worship experience that doesn’t compromise social distancing.
Five Simple Steps to Your Outdoor Worship Walk
The following instructions can be used for individuals or families and can be performed in one’s own backyard, by walking through a local neighborhood, or by visiting a quiet park or public space. Of course, your practice will need to vary to fit into local protocol.
Step 1: Choose Your Starting Place
Pick a starting place. If you are walking a neighborhood, any stop sign will do. If you are at home, select a corner of your yard.
Step 2: Do the First Reading
If you are alone, prayerfully imagine the scene as narrated. Smell the air, listen to the crickets, feel the moonlight on your skin. If you are with children, ask questions and talk through the details of the story together.
Step 3: Choose Your Next Location and Do the Next Reading
When you are finished with step 2, pick a second location and walk to it. This can be another stop sign or another shady place in your yard. The important thing is to move physically, so that you can clear mental space for another reading.
Step 4: Do a Reading and Any Relevant Song at Each Stop
Each time you stop, do another reading. Note: for some of the readings (included below) there are links to songs on YouTube. Use these songs to reflect more deeply on the suffering and death of Jesus.
Step 5: Move to and Read through 14 Stations
Keep following these instructions until you have completed all fourteen stations. The benefit of the spiritual exercise is that you will have mentally retraced all of the key moments leading from Gethsemane to Golgotha. The entire activity should take less than an hour.
This spiritual exercise is best performed on Good Friday or Holy Saturday in preparation for Easter Sunday. The final station leaves the worshiper at the grave of Jesus. The reason for this is not to undermine the climactic moment of the resurrection, but to leave reflective space to ponder deeply the suffering and death of Jesus so that the full hope and joy of the resurrection can be felt.
Remember the spiritual rule from the Psalms: those who sow in tears will reap in joy (Psalm 126:5).
Readings for the Fourteen Scriptural Stations of the Cross
Station 1: The Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-41)
Station 2: Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43-46)
Station 3: Jesus Is Condemned by the Sanhedrin (Luke 66-71)
Station 4: Peter Denies Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75)
Station 6: Jesus Is Scourged (John 19:1-3)
For additional reflection listen to ‘Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted’
Station 8: Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross (Mark 15:21)
Station 9: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:27-31)
Station 10: Jesus Is Crucified (Luke 23:33-34)
For additional reflection, listen to ‘O Sacred Head Now Wounded’
Station 11: the Repentant Thief (Luke 23:39-43)
Station 12: Jesus Speaks to Mary and John (John 19:25-27)
Station 13: Jesus Dies on the Cross (Luke 23:44-46)
For additional reflection, listen to ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’
Station 14: Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb (Matthew 27:57-60)
Conclude your outdoor worship walk of the Stations of the Cross by listening to ‘Man of Sorrows’
Enjoy the glory of Easter, even during social distancing and distress, because He is Risen indeed—and worth remembering with reverence and awe.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/McIninch
Joe Barnard is the Director of Cross Training Ministries and the author of The Way Forward: a Road-map of Spiritual Growth for Men in the 21st Century (Christian Focus Publications).