“Stations of the Cross” originated in 17th century Catholicism as a way to mark the movements of the last day of Jesus’ earthly life. There are a couple different versions of the original list, and these fourteen stations are adapted from those.
Holy Week is one of the most significant weeks of the Christian year, and even though faith communities are having to do things a little (or a lot) differently this year, we hope these digital stations will be a way for us to walk through these holy moments together, even while we’re apart.
Each “station” features a Scripture reading and a reflection in audio, visual, or written form. We hope you’ll approach these stations in whatever way works best for you. You can do them all at once, but if you need to break them down into smaller chunks, that’s okay too. Either way, don’t rush it. And one more note: most of the stations have at least two slides, so make sure you don’t miss anything. 🙂
You’ll want a Bible, some paper or a journal, a writing utensil, and speakers or headphones that work.
If you’ve got a candle handy, you might consider lighting it each time you begin, inviting yourself into a meditative mindset.
1. A woman anoints Jesus
Read Mark 14:3-9.
In this intimate space, where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, we are reminded of the importance of these simple moments. With this act of grace, the woman floods the room with the scent of perfume and deep love, that fights against the fear that surrounds this space.
Read this poem by Malcom Guite.
What words or phrases stand out to you?
Where do you see yourself in this room in Bethany?
What jars do you need to break in your own life?
What needs to spill out?
“Come close with Mary, Martha, Lazarus
So close the candles stir with their soft breath
And kindle heart and soul to flame within us
Lit by these mysteries of life and death.
For beauty now begins the final movement
In quietness and intimate encounter
The alabaster jar of precious ointment
Is broken open for the world’s true lover,
The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
With all the yearning such a fragrance brings,
The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
Here at the very centre of all things,
Here at the meeting place of love and loss
We all foresee, and see beyond the cross.
“The Anointing at Bethany” (Malcom Guite, 2012)
2. Jesus eats with his disciples
Read Luke 22:14-20.
It is hard to think about Communion in these days of scattered communities, when we cannot be together around our beloved tables wherever they may be. We are having to figure out what connection looks like now. Then again, we are always trying to figure that out. Whether we are together or apart, creating and sustaining community is who we are as the church, and it is these communities that hold us when things are weird and uncertain. It is in these spaces that God shows up.
This image of the Trinity by Andrei Rublev faces out to the audience. There is room at the table, the community still gathers, even through Zoom and Facebook and screens. God continues to show up, and connect us in unexpected ways. Especially when we allow ourselves to be brought back to the essence of this upper room, to the simplicity of the table, the cup, the community.
Find a table in your house, and pull up a chair. Close your eyes and imagine you are sitting at this table with the Trinity.
Do you feel the welcome? Do you feel the grace? Do you feel the community?
3. The disciples sleep in the garden
Read Matthew 26:36-46.
This image, Vincent Van Gogh “Les oliveres,” is a poignant image of olive trees that evoke the garden that we can image Jesus in. The image almost vibrates with energy and yet there are no figures that we can see.
The disciples had been traveling with Jesus as the threat against his life increased day by day, the air around them was alive with fear and anxiety, and when you are living in a state of vigilance for long enough, you become exhausted, so no wonder they could not stay awake. Their bodies could not go on without rest. Jesus continues to wake them up though, reminding them to stay alert.
This passage troubles me, because I believe strongly in the power of rest, especially in times of trauma and anxiety. And yet, maybe Jesus is speaking to the strength of the human spirit, that even though the ground vibrates around us, that we are able to endure, to find reserves we did not even know were there, that with Emmanuel, God with us, we find ourselves able to wake up and keep going.
Take a deep breath and look at this image.
What does this garden bring up in you?
Write down three words that come up for you, and let them lead your prayer.
4. Judas betrays Jesus
Read Mark 14:10-11.
In his song “Judas,” Griffin House sings the words “my name is Judas, someone had to be me…”
We know this character primarily from his betrayal of Jesus. That is the story that is told about him. We know nothing of his childhood, his background, what trauma he endured. Instead we label him as traitor and move on. Our world is quick to label people as broken and throw them aside.
Where have you felt this? Who have you thrown aside?
Listen to “Judas” by Griffin House.
Reflect on whose story isn’t being told.
Who has been silenced by the labels of the world?
How can we find those voices again?
5. Jesus is arrested
Read Luke 22:47-53.
This is the moment where the narrative begins to accelerate. Throughout the gospels Jesus has been telling his disciples he is not long for this world, and here is the pivot point. It is no longer an abstract concept, Jesus is arrested, he has been betrayed, the moment is here. And yet, the disciples still act out of fear, because no matter how much you prepare yourself for a moment like this, it will still surprise you, break you down, and shake you to the core. It is the turning point. We are in this moment where fear is dominant, we do not know the way forward. What would you say to yourself in this moment, where it all comes crashing down? Where the future is here and the way forward uncertain?
Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center of it.
Set a timer for three minutes. With your non-dominant hand, free write about where fear is manifesting itself in your world. Try not to take your pen off the page. It will take intentional focus, and may be hard to write with the hand you’re not used to. Do not judge it or curate it, just let the words flow. At the end of the three minutes, read over what you have written.
Set the timer again. Now, with your dominant hand, write a response on the other side your paper. What do you need to tell yourself? What do you need to hear?
6. Jesus is tried and Peter denies him
Read John 18:12-27.
Peter’s story is all of us. He thought he had all the answers, he was the one whom Jesus loved, the favorite. And yet, in the the crucial moment he denies Jesus three separate times. Peter is fallible because he is human, like all of us. If you google Peter’s denial of Jesus you get hundreds of images of Peter covering his face in shame and guilt, desperate to be out of the eyes of the accusers, the eyes of Jesus.
And yet, this isn’t the end of his story, he is the beginning for the church. Reminding us that we will not do this perfectly, we will deny Jesus in crucial moments, but we will always be welcomed back in the body of Christ. That we will always be found.
Listen to “You Will Be Found” from the musical Dear Evan Hansen. This version was recorded from the cast while they have been at home, led by Benjamin Platt. (The song starts in the video around 2:15.)
Where have you covered yourself in guilt, inadequacies, and shame?
Where do you need to be found?
7. Pilate judges Jesus
Read Mark 15:1-15.
I believe this is one of the loneliest moments that Jesus will ever encounter. There is not one single advocate fighting in his favor. His friends are gone, the crowd is against him, even God feels absent. The loneliness is crushing. And yet, he does not falter. He does not sway. He knows this feeling is not forever, and it is one that can be endured, one that can be survived.
Read the poem “For Loneliness” by John O’Donohue on the following slides. Write down words or phrases that stand out to you. Read it more than once. See where the loneliness in you is speaking today.
“When the light lessens,
Causing colors to lose their courage,
And your eyes fix on the empty distance
That can open on either side
Of the surest line
To make all that is
Familiar and near
Seem suddenly foreign,
When the music of talk
Breaks apart into noise
And you hear your heart louden
While the voices around you
Slow down to leaden echos
Into something stony and cold,
When the old ghosts come back
To feed on everywhere you felt sure,
Do not strengthen their hunger
By choosing fear;
Rather, decide to call on your heart
That it may grow clear and free
To welcome home your emptiness
That it may cleanse you
Like the clearest air
You could ever breathe.
Allow your loneliness time
To dissolve the shell of dross
That had closed around you;
Choose in this severe silence
To hear the one true voice
Your rushed life fears;
Cradle yourself like a child
Learning to trust what emerges,
So that gradually
You may come to know
That deep in that black hole
You will find the blue flower
That holds the mystical light
Which will illuminate in you
The glimmer of springtime.”
John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (Doubleday, New York: 2008).
8. The soldiers give Jesus a crown of thorns
Read Matthew 27:27-31.
This scene is intense, to say the least. As if being sentenced to death wasn’t bad enough, now Jesus is being publicly humiliated, the soldiers’ biting sarcasm questioning his very identity.
Just so we’re clear, bullying is never okay. That being said, it’s also so often a sign of the bully’s own insecurities or traumatic experiences. It can be a defense mechanism, intentional or not, just like the thorns on the vine from which the soldiers fashioned Jesus’ crown.
Consider what defense mechanisms you might have built up in your own life.
How do those affect the people around you?
9. Jesus encounters the women of Jerusalem
Read Luke 23:26-31.
When Jesus encounters a group of despairing women on his way to be crucified, his reaction is to shift their concern away from him. He doesn’t promise them that everything will all of a sudden be better (actually he kind of says the opposite). But he does tell them that it’s okay to be affected, deeply, by what’s happening around them. He does tell them it’s okay to worry about their loved ones.
In seven deep breaths, pray the following breath prayer written by Carol Howard Merritt:
We breathe in your life,
knowing that in our stories of creation
your breath is our breath.
We breathe out our anxiety,
acknowledging the stress that increases
with every blaring headline and dire prediction.
We breathe in your hope,
knowing that you can make a way
out of no way.
We breathe out the despondency,
that creeps upon us,
paralyzing us from doing good.
We breathe in your grace,
as we pray for patience with our loved ones
and endurance in our sheltering.
We breathe out our petty annoyances,
and menial irritations
that make us forget the importance of our bonds.
We breathe in your peace,
which surpasses all our understanding,
and guards our hearts and minds.
We breathe out our worries,
all of our need to be in control,
and the tension in our guts.
We breathe in your abundance,
knowing that we have enough
when we live as a beloved community.
We breathe out our fear of scarcity,
that whispers lies to us
and keeps our fists clenched in greed.
We breathe in your wisdom,
that keeps perspective in our crisis,
reminding us of what is important.
We breathe out despair
that blocks us from seeing possibilities
and blinds us from your vision.
We breathe in your love,
knowing that your presence surrounds us,
and encircles us.
We breathe out the suffering
acknowledging that our pain happens
within your loving embrace.
10. The soldiers crucify Jesus
Read Matthew 27:32-37.
Spend some time looking at this sculpture from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
What about it unsettles you?
The artist didn’t sculpt it about Jesus, but does it shed any new light on this Scripture for you?
11. Jesus promises a criminal eternal life
Read Luke 23:39-43.
The song “Heavy” by Birdtalker is originally about the songwriters moving forward in their own relationship, but its lyrics can also resonate with the way Jesus invites this criminal beyond the labels and misdeeds of his past. His past isn’t the entirety of who he is.
Listen to “Heavy” by Birdtalker.
What are the heavy things you’re carrying?
How might God be meeting you in the midst of them?
What would it look like for you to move beyond them?
12. Jesus dies
Read John 19:28-30.
Here we are. Sitting in the dark after Jesus has been put to death. Imagine a just-snuffed candle, the charred smell of a smoking wick lingering in a darkened sanctuary or a lamp-lit living room. Some churches remember Jesus’s crucifixion through a tenebrae worship service, which includes extinguishing a candle after each Scripture reading. As wisps of smoke curl up from the last candle you can almost hear, almost feel, the heavy exhale of Jesus’s last breath.
Barbara Johnson once said, “we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world.” So here we are. Sitting in the dark, waiting for Easter. Still, the candle’s wick is glowing. Just barely, but when it comes to rebuilding a campfire from embers, that that’s all you need.
13. Joseph of Arimathea buries Jesus
Read Mark 15:42-47.
Rituals are part of doing life together, and especially of doing faith together. The act of burying Jesus would’ve been an important way for his followers to honor the leader they had just lost.
In these socially-distanced days, a lot of our rituals don’t look like they used to. Our worship services, our social gatherings, our classes and meetings and ways of marking special occasions, have all been turned upside down.
Joseph of Arimathea’s position in society meant he could approach Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body. His resources meant he had a tomb in which Jesus could be laid to rest.
What gifts of your own might you use to mark important moments in this season?
14. Mary, Mary, and Salome set out in the morning
Read Mark 16:1-3.
These three women don’t know Jesus is risen. All they know is that someone needs to take care of their loved one’s body. Raw with grief and worried that they won’t even be able to get to him, in the quiet of the morning, they gather their supplies and set out toward the tomb.
“It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
“Praying.” Thirst: Poems by Mary Oliver (Beacon Press, Boston: 2006).
Compiled April 2020 by