Fish sticks and cheese pizza. That’s pretty much what Lent meant to me as a child growing up. Maybe even giving up chocolate. I remember getting ashes on my forehead and marching in the parade waving palms on Palm Sunday. The most significant day for me, though, was the Good Friday service – observing the Stations of the Cross—solemnly remembering the price that was paid for our sins.
Last year, as we walked the Via Dolorosa (the Way of Suffering) in Jerusalem, I realized I would never look at the “Stations of the Cross” the same. Instead of pictures on a wall, I got a glimpse of pure hatred and cruelty–the reality that Jesus was beaten, tortured, wounded, abandoned– for me.
So this year, Lent looks a little different. In most Protestant churches it is rarely brought up (mostly due to the fact that people think Lent is basically a Catholic tradition) but we recently had the experience of leading a workshop on Lent at our church. We researched the early church history, the Biblical basis for practicing self-examination, penitence and self-denial especially during Lent, and ways to make this time preparing our hearts for Easter more meaningful.
For the workshop, we created centerpieces for the tables (pictured above) and we wanted to share the ideas, because these can be meaningful visual reminders of the power and importance of this season:
Paper Heart Chain
Similar to paper chains made at Christmas to countdown days during advent, inside each paper heart is a scripture verse. Made into a chain draped over a simple wooden cross to tear off and read one-a-day throughout the 40 days of Lent.
A simple table centerpiece consisting of votive candles shaped in a cross surrounded by sand and rocks which remind us of Jesus spending 40 days in the desert. Like an advent wreath, each week one candle is lit. The first one (purple) is lit on Palm Sunday; then each week a pink candle is added. The red candle is lit for Holy Week.
Crown of Thorns
Made from a grapevine wreath and toothpicks, this centerpiece powerfully reminds us that Jesus suffered for our sins.
Each stone is marked with a specific sin. Together in a glass vase topped with a red candle. On Good Friday, we will light the candle and let it burn from noon to 3:00 p.m. at which time the red wax will melt over the stones signifying the ultimate price paid for our sins.
The three crosses made from sticks and twine remind us of the crucifixion but also the fact that the large stone was rolled away. Jesus is risen and the tomb is empty! In the dirt I planted small flower seeds, so on Easter the entire “hill” should be covered with white flowers. Another idea is to use quick-growing grass seed to show the hope of new life each spring.
Will you join us in making Lent a time of intentional contemplation?