Jesus told his disciples, &quot;If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.&quot; In the name of Jesus, we pray: Lord, help us to take up our cross and follow you.
Jesus Is Condemned to Death You stood before Pilate, your life condemned, your word rejected, your innocence ignored: Keep us from rejecting your word of truth and salvation. Here is a tremendous irony: Jesus, who will come again to judge the living and the dead, stands judged before Pilate. Yet if truth be told, we put Jesus to death far more than any Roman ever did. We, through our weakness and sin, reject him over and over again, preferring death to his life, division and anxiety to his love, slavery to his redemption, and losing our way rather than be saved by his grace. Let us pray that God give us strength to remain with Christ rather than reject him once again.
Jesus Carries His Cross You carried your cross on the wounded stripes of your back, for love of us and for all the world. Help us to bear our cross, for love of you and for love of others. We are so weak, so human. We feel that we cannot carry our own weight, much less that of others. We have no sense of the burdens we lay on others, and we are quick to judge them when they weigh us down more than we would like. Even when we imagine that they have burdened them, we are quick to scold! May God always keep us in mind of one another, keep us aware of the crosses we lay on one another and of those we must carry for ourselves.
Jesus Falls the First Time The weight of your cross was the weight of our sins which make us stumble and fall. In our weakness, we turn to you for strength. To be human is in many ways to be weak. We are aware of all that we could have, and unable to reach it for ourselves. But we are also prone to sinfulness. We are weak, we are unable, and this leads us to justify all sorts of wrongdoing. We exploit others to reach our goals. We lie. We cheat. We steal. We excuse our abuse of drugs and alcohol or our failure to uphold our covenants on the basis of being too weak. We can't help ourselves, we say, or we deserve it just this once. Our pride blinds us to the strength of Christ, which is to meet and accept his weakness in freedom. God grant us peace in our hearts to do likewise, to find the strength of Christ and to search for new and better ways of life.
Jesus Meets His Afflicted Mother Although you suffered, you still reached out to care for your mother. May our cross-bearing never keep us from caring for our families. We cannot help feeling pity for Mary, who loses this day her son to this injustice. There are many mothers around us who have lost children before their time, to miscarriage, abortion, stillbirth, violence, disease, and accident. Each loss is its own tragedy. Yet nothing could be greater than Mary's loss as her son and her God died on the cross. May Jesus' death and resurrection serve as a final victory so that all loss and separation is only temporary, and every mother may be reunited with her children as Jesus is united with Mary. Until that time comes, unite us with the mothers around us and with all their children, that we might provide for them and give them comfort in the absence of their loved ones.
Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross As you struggled to bear your cross to Calvary, a passerby was drafted to help you. Make us as willing as Simon to bear the burdens of those in need. Who knows if Simon wanted to help Jesus or not? He may have, or he may have resented the interruption of his day. Too often we see those in need around us as distractions, problems to be solved and disposed of quickly so that we can get back to our real life. Let us begin to see the people in our lives as true life, and those things we prefer to do as the interruptions. Let us never shrink from what we must do, but accept our burdens gratefully. Let us not resent the needs, but see the human face behind them.
A Woman Offers Comfort to Jesus Others also took risks to comfort you. Strengthen our faith to take loving risks for our needy brothers and sisters. To show even the smallest kindness—to wipe the brow of a dying man—is threatening to the authorities. In the days of Jesus, to interfere with an execution could earn you a beating or much worse. In our own lives, the powers that be are not brutal occupying armies but the disapproval of our family and friends. God give us the chutzpah to do what is right and loving in the face of doubt and anxiety and meanness, and God give us the power to love another without shame.
Jesus Falls a Second Time Sin weighed heavily upon you as you stumbled along the way. Forgive us, Lord, for the sins which make us fall. It is perhaps less remarkable that Jesus stumbled on his way than that each time he stumbled, he rose and walked again. He persevered to the end where many of us would have been crushed, not by the weight of the cross, but by the weight of the sin and the shame. We add to our own burdens with resentment, anxiety, distraction, cheapness, insularity, and many more. God teach us to lighten our loads that we may carry more of the burdens of others and less of our own baggage.
Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem Your suffering under the cross caused the women of Jerusalem to weep. Make our suffering in life a share in your suffering. To be human is to be weak. It is also to suffer. We hunger. We thirst. We fear. We feel pain. We feel loss. We sense the death that is to come upon us before it arrives. Jesus came to join us in our suffering, that it might never divide us from God the Father. He suffered and died that we might be freed from pain and fear and the power of death. May the inevitable suffering that we experience turn us back to Jesus in the same way that he stood with us, and may it gain us a portion in the glory that Jesus will share at the end of time.
Jesus Falls a Third Time The full burden of our sin crushed you mightily to the earth. Do not forsake us in our falling, but bring us to repentance and faith. It is sometimes said that the first lie of the Devil is that he does not exist. But this is not the case. The first lie the Devil tells is that it is too late to choose the way of life. There is no power, no strength, no time, that can keep God from choosing us, and this makes it possible for us to amend our ways and so choose life over death. Even as he stumbled and fell, God in the dirt, Jesus chose to remain with us so that we could know new ways of being and new ways of doing. It is never too late. May God give us the courage to take advantage of the ever-present opportunity.
Jesus Is Stripped of His Clothes Stripped and jeered, you endured humiliation without complaint. Humble us in our work and daily lives. We all enter the world naked, but few of us choose to leave it that way. Our clothes are our pride and source of joy, the insulation we carry against the world. But no clothing can protect us against death. In the end, our clothes are only one more possession we can't take with us. They are, as strange as it sounds, burdens we are so used to carrying that we hardly notice them. To become humble is to find ourselves free to choose the burdens we will carry and the ones we will not. Jesus' humiliation frees us, not from social conventions like wearing clothes, but from all the other burdens we never knew we were carrying until we found we could let them go.
Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross Nailed to the cross, you took your place among the condemned. Take your place beside us sinners, and bring us through faith to the Paradise of God. Jesus could have run. Jesus could have given up the ghost before he came to the cross. Jesus could have saved himself in a thousand different ways, yet he chose to remain with us up to the very end. He chose to remain faithful to the children of God. May we remain faithful to him.
Jesus Dies on the Cross When your sacrifice was complete, you handed your life to the Father, and he did not forsake you. Keep us close to your cross and death, now and at the hour of our death. At last, shorn of every burden, even of the weight of freedom, Jesus died. He called out to the God who did not respond but who had not forsaken him. The paradox of our faith is this: in Christ Jesus God became a man. In separation from God, he overcame the division between God and humanity. In dying, he destroyed our death. In rising, he restored our life. In leaving us, he became closer to us than ever. Stay with us, Jesus, abide with us our Lord Emmanuel, as you die, as we die.
Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross Faithful friends and loving women took loving care of your lifeless body. Turn the darkness of death into the brightness of day for those we love. In her grief, your mother has nowhere to turn but to you, the one she has loved and lost. You are gone in her moment of need as your friends abandoned you in yours. Lord Jesus, to whom else can we turn? You and you alone have the words of eternal life. Turn this awful corner, O Lord, from night to dawn, that we may love and tend to you in the ministry of your body, the church.
Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb In the tomb you were laid, but from the tomb you arose. Be the Lord of the resurrection for us and for all the baptized. There is nothing else to do now but wait. We know, as Mary and the disciples could not, how this story will end. Yet we don't know, we couldn't, until the story becomes actual in our lives, until the story lives in us and we in it. We have heard your story once again this year, O Lord Jesus Christ. Now give us the courage to wait until its end, the patience to watch unfold in our lives, and the strength to remain with you when we are tempted to reject you yet once again. Loving Jesus, for the sake of your cross and passion, we are justified in faith, washed cleaned of our sins by baptism and repentance, and made one with God. We thank you for your cross and for the depths of your love for us. Help us to bear our cross in the world and follow you until you bring us into your heavenly kingdom; where you reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.