How do you capture this moment in all its horror and glory? How do you communicate the depth of suffering and the height of sacrifice and love that this day represents? The short answer is that you can’t. Not completely. Not in a way that becomes as transformative as we would like. And yet there is so much here that every attempt can bring us something of the day when it is done with sincerity and respect. It is the task of the worship planning to simply gather at the foot of the cross and point. Direct the attention of the passersby to the king on a cross.
Here is where we deal with our expectation and stereotypes. We expect our leaders to be strong, to be in control, to be wielders of power in every situation—power as we have come to understand it, power that often results in violence, power that subjugates others. But this king has come to upset all our understandings of what real power is and how real strength is shown. We are encouraged to rethink what it means to follow this Christ, to pledge allegiance to this king. We are called to understand the vulnerability that loving demands, especially on this day.
We tell this story in a whisper. If we choose drama, it would be better to focus on those around the crucifixion rather than on the cross itself. We tell the story of those affected by this moment—the women at the foot of the cross, the disciples who ran and hid, the one who denied him, the one who betrayed him. Depict those stories. Because it is beyond us to capture the crucified king, except indirectly, through these others.
We sing “Were You There?” knowing that had we been there, we would have failed him as assuredly as his other followers did. We sing “What Wondrous Love Is This” or “O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done” because we can barely comprehend love as profound as this. We sing “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” because all we can do is stand and let that shadow fall over us and be amazed that even in this moment, this dying of the light moment, this suffering unto death moment, even here, we can be gathered up into Jesus.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.