During Lent, the sermons have explored how followers of Jesus are called to lay aside their stories and scripts to be hidden in the Victorious Wounds of Jesus so that His life-scripts can be revealed in us and through us.
On Good Friday, this Holy Week, we’re going to take time in the service to symbolize that “laying aside” and “taking up” in a tangible way that involve Stones and Scripture.
The idea for this took shape over a number of weeks through conversations and reflection and prayer, as I and others asked, “How might we bring our ‘scripts’ to the cross of Jesus in a way that’s personal yet corporate, public yet confidential, simple yet substantive?” We believe we’ve found a meaningful way to do so, and I’d like to invite you to participate on Good Friday.
Many of you know sculptor and long-time member of All Saints, Jim Zingarelli. Some years back, Jim created a series of three hundred small sculptures called Sacramental Stones. The stones were designed to be used within liturgy, symbolizing our need to sacrifice and seek unity. They seemed to us to be a fitting way to symbolize our personal and corporate intentions to “lay aside” scripts that need to be transformed.
Reflecting on the sculpting process, Jim writes: “Each stone represents possibilities for transformation. But for anything to happen, I must take my hammer and chisel and essentially break the stone, destroy it, sacrifice the original block, hoping that, over time, a sculpture will ultimately result. No true beauty is ever made without sacrifice…. Something must go. Something must yield to the hammer’s blows and the chisel’s cutting edge.”
“As is true in the passion of our Lord, the culmination of the resurrection would not have been possible without his being broken, without his willing sacrifice for humanity.”
For the Sacramental Stones series, Jim chose “scraps of stone . . . collected from builders who have considered these unusable, cut-offs from countertop and fascia. These stones, rejected by the builder—but sound stone for the sculptor—have now become the very substance of new work, and with hope and patience, some yield may yet come of it. With hammer in hand, the work continues. Something is broken. Some ‘sacramental’ transformation is taking place. Something new is being made.” (Read the longer article here.)
These stones will be on display this coming Palm Sunday. On Good Friday, anyone who comes will be invited to select one or two stones to sit with during the service. We will prayerfully bring them to the foot of the Cross to lay them, symbolically, near the Stone The Builders Rejected. As we lay them down, they symbolize the scripts we’re laying aside, to be transformed by the Master-Builder and Master-Sculptor. We leave them there in the hope that out of something broken, something new is indeed being made.
Having laid down these stones at the foot of the Cross, we’ll take up envelopes that enclose the Scripture passage Jesus read near the beginning of his ministry, that outlined his mission and the hope that he would inaugurate and involve us in.
Scriptures of the Jesus-Kind-of-Life.
Shortly after his baptism and wilderness testing, Jesus stood in his hometown synagogue and read from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (see Luke 4:14-30). It gave a partial glimpse of the fuller mission Jesus was pursuing on his way to the cross.
As I planned the sermon series for Lent, the Lord brought into focus remarkable ways in which the promises of Isaiah 61 articulate an Easter Hope, paralleling all we have been “laying down” and “taking up” throughout Lent:
- When we lay aside scripts of earthly family and of personal longing and take up our heavenly family-identity and Kingdom mission (Lent 1), the Spirit rests upon us to Preach good news… Isa. 61:1-2
- When we lay aside scripts of sufferings (and health) and of losses (and gains) and take up the transforming Cross and guiding voice of Jesus (Lent 2), the Spirit gives us beauty for ashes, and joy instead of mourning… Isa. 61:3-6
- When we lay aside scripts of (dis)honor and of (mis)understanding and take up hope in Jesus’ return and zeal for Our Father’s household (Lent 3, John 2:13-22), the Spirit replaces our shame with the honor of a “double portion”…. Isa. 61:7-9
- When we lay aside scripts of (not) having and (in)capability, and take up gifts to give and blessings to share (Lent 4), the Spirit clothes us with garments of salvation…. Isa. 61:10
- When we lay aside scripts of (missed) opportunities and (failed) outcomes, and take up pursuit of the Father’s glory in the hope of fruitfulness (Lent 5), the Spirit makes righteousness and praise spring up …. Isa. 61:11
I believe that God has been doing a deep and transforming work among us, not only during this Lenten season, but also over the past four years. I believe that God is bringing us into a season of fruitful ministry that may well surprise us. I believe that God is making us to be “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” and that we will, over the next several years be “rebuilding the ancient ruins and restoring places long devastated; . . . renewing ruined cities that have been devastated for generations” (Isa. 61:3-4).
Join in that hope, in that call, and in the Holy Week ahead, dedicate yourself afresh to the mission of Jesus that we are called to live in this place and time for his Glory.