“Crucified with Christ”
The following is not a sermon, but a series of stories and prayers. Read through them slowly as you remember and pray for those who are crucified in our world today.
Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) Today, on Good Friday, we follow Jesus on the road to crucifixion. We accompany him to a hill called “Golgotha,” which means the “place of the skull.” It is there, on that hillside, that Jesus is raised up on the cross and left to die.
On our journey, we discover that Jesus is not alone. Two criminals are being crucified on either side of him, but they aren’t the only ones. There are many people in our world who face crosses of suffering and pain. These are people, like Jesus, who are forced to endure torment and anguish. They, too, are being crucified.
As we travel with Jesus, we call to mind some of those who are experiencing particular suffering during this COVID-19 pandemic. We will pray and remember those who must daily carry a cross. We will affirm that they are not alone in their struggle. The church is present with them through our caring, through our prayer, and through the practical help we are able to provide. And most importantly, God is with them.
I have invited a variety of people to share brief statements from the perspective of people who are being crucified with Christ. Following each one, we will all join Marianne is singing “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Then I will offer a short prayer before we go on to the next story.
- A health care worker
I am a nurse in a large Canadian hospital. Although I don’t work in the special unit that has been set up for COVID-19 patients, I’m feeling more and more anxious every day. All our units are short on supplies, and we were already run off our feet every shift before all this started.
When I’m at work, I worry about whether I’m keeping myself and my patients safe, and then I worry when I go home that I could be bringing the virus home to my family. I feel like I shouldn’t complain because at least I haven’t been laid off, but the pressure is enormous, and everyone is saying that things are going to get much worse.
Remember me and my co-workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and emergency services. We are taking on significant risks every day.
God, we pray for health care workers – for the nurses, doctors, and paramedics that we know personally, and for all who are putting their lives at risk to fulfill their vocations and commitments to care for the sick and injured. Keep them safe. Give them courage. And help our leaders and communities to equip them properly for their work. May they be encouraged by the support and prayers of the community, and by the assurance of your presence with them. Amen.
- A community leader
I am the mayor of a mid-sized Canadian city. I’m into my second term, and I was just starting to feel like I know what I’m doing in this role. But then everything changed. We quickly had to figure out how to do our regular work digitally and from home, while also trying to give leadership to the people of our community as we all moved into isolation and physical distancing.
I don’t know if our city has ever declared a state of emergency before, but that’s what we had to do, and I feel like everyone is looking to me for guidance and support, and I hardly know what I’m doing. I’m doing the best I can, but I’m scared to death that my city and its people are going to be devastated on my watch.
Remember me and other community leaders, including those at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels. We are carrying heavy loads that are difficult to bear.
God, we pray for our government leaders, our health authorities, and all who hold positions of responsibility, oversight, and care for our communities. Give them wisdom and courage to make good calls in order to keep people safe and well. Assist them in identifying the needs of the most vulnerable and responding to them. And provide people in their lives that will pray for them and support them personally throughout this crisis. May they also know your presence with them, and be guided by your love for all people. Amen.
- A woman who is homeless
I haven’t had my own place for many years now, ever since I started to have mental health issues and lost my job. I do have a few good friends, and some of them used to let me sleep on their couches occasionally, but that’s out of the question now. I’ve never felt very comfortable in the shelters. Even though the staff and volunteers are nice enough, I always feel like I need to sleep with one eye open, worrying that someone is going to attack me in the dark.
The shelter I sometimes go to has added special measures for physical distancing now, but my anxiety level shoots way up when I try to make myself stay there with all those other people. Even with several metres between us, I keep thinking I’m going to catch something. So I’m mostly trying to sleep outside. I really need Spring to come a little quicker because it’s so, so cold at night. I don’t really sleep much at all.
Remember me and others who do not have the safety and comfort of their own home in which to self-isolate. We are struggling a lot right now.
God, we pray for the homeless people of our world. We pray for those who suffer from mental illness and those who are forgotten by society. We pray that you will walk beside them, particularly during this pandemic, and they will come to know that they are not alone. Amen.
- A small business owner
I’ve been running my own dance studio for the last ten years. I knew it was a risk when I started the business, but it was my dream to teach dance to kids and adults alike. And I wanted to provide a place where everyone could discover movement and art as one of the great joys of living.
Like everyone else, my business has been shut down for three weeks now. Since then I’ve been trying to figure out online classes, and some people are accessing those. But it’s a tonne of work, and it’s only reaching a small portion of my former students.
I’m worried about how long this lockdown is going to last. Will I be able to begin a new series of classes in the summer, in the fall? How will I pay the rent on my studio if I can’t offer real live classes? I’m trying to keep paying my teachers, but I don’t know how long I can keep it up.
Remember me and other business owners who have lost income and are at risk of losing their businesses altogether.
God, we pray business owners, the self-employed, and others who have been laid off from their work. Inspire them with creative ways of adjusting to the circumstances. Encourage them with hope and new possibilities. Sustain them until this crisis comes to an end. And let them know that they are never alone. Amen.
- A person in long-term care
I am a senior, and I live alone in a long-term care facility in a big city. My husband died years ago, and my children live far away. This home where I live is a pretty good place with kind and compassionate staff, but they hardly have time to visit now that we’re under lock-down. Our meals are delivered to us in our rooms so that we can each stay isolated from all the other residents.
Some of my more mobile neighbours are getting out occasionally to walk around the building and get some fresh air, but since I’m in a wheelchair and they don’t have volunteers to help me, I’m alone in my room all the time.
I don’t know how much time I have left, but I wish I could spend some of it with other people. I know that I could phone my relatives and friends a little more, but I always feel like I’m bothering them or interrupting their busy lives.
Remember me and others who are isolated and feeling very lonely at this time.
God, we pray for those who are alone, and for those who are lonely. We pray especially for those who live in long-term care and for those who are similarly isolated in their homes. Shower your love upon these people, we pray, and open our hearts to reach out to them in love. Amen.
- An elementary student
I’m a grade four student, and I’m wondering when things are going to get back to normal. I miss my friends, and I miss my regular activities. I’ve heard that this summer is going to be really boring. We won’t be going on any holidays with our family because we probably won’t be allowed to travel. And people are saying that summer camps are all going to be cancelled too.
But the worst part is that I can tell my parents are really worried. They’re on edge, you know? Little things seem to upset them these days, and there doesn’t seem to be much I can do to help. I don’t know if they think we’re going to get sick too. Or maybe we’re running out of money since neither of them is working full time anymore.
I really want to go outside a little more often, but am I supposed to wear a mask now?
Remember me and all the children who are afraid and confused right now.
God, we pray for Canadian children and children throughout the world. We pray for those who have stable homes and families and those who live in more precarious situations. Provide them with teachers, parents, and other adults who can answer their questions and help them to adjust to different circumstances for this time. Assure them that you are with them too and that you love them deeply. Amen.
- A grocery story worker
I work in a major grocery store. I’m one of the cashiers wearing the gloves and the mask behind the flexi-glass barrier. I keep thinking that I’m going to touch my face, and I’m going to get this horrible virus.
One of my co-workers got it, and they shut down our whole store for a while for deep cleaning. I get this sick feeling in my stomach just before I start another shift. I’m sure I’m going to be fine. That’s what my boss keeps saying, but I’m nervous nonetheless.
I can’t just choose to stay home. I live pay cheque to pay cheque. I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent or buy groceries for myself. I suppose I’m lucky to have a job that is deemed an essential service, but I’m not so sure.
Remember me and others who need to work and interact with the public during this pandemic.
God, we pray for essential workers whose work allows the rest of us to live a relatively normal life. We pray for their safety. Thank you for companies that set and enforce good policies for sanitizing and physical distancing in the workplace. Give the workers a sense of peace and courage as they serve others, and let them know that they are not alone. Amen.
- A person who is sick
I tested positive for the Coronavirus more than two weeks ago and I’m still pretty sick. It feels like the worst flu I’ve ever had. I ache all over, and I’m so, so tired. Although I’ve been through bouts of coughing, at least I haven’t had any real trouble breathing.
I’ve been isolated all this time – not just in my house, but in my room. I’m trying to keep away from my family members altogether. They’re looking after me diligently, and we talk through the door or on the phone.
I’m not really old or frail, so I should get through this, right? I think I believe that, but I’m still really scared. It’s hard to avoid obsessing over the news reports and the numbers of people who have died.
Remember me and all those who are sick at home or in hospital.
God, we do remember those who are sick, and especially those who are isolated from their loved ones to keep others safe. We pray for healing – for immune systems to do their work, and for the medical equipment needed to sustain those who are seriously ill. We pray for the development of effective treatments and for a vaccine that can be made available to all people. Assure those who are sick of the love and prayers of the whole world, and keep them in your care. Amen.
- A family that is grieving
My mother was one of the seniors who died in a long-term care facility last week. I don’t know what to think, but I feel angry and frustrated and so terribly sad. No, she wasn’t young, and she had lived a very good life. But she was my mother, and I couldn’t be with her when she was dying.
I don’t know if there was something more that could have been done. Why didn’t we start the isolation and physical distancing sooner? Why didn’t the care home do more after the first case appeared to protect the other residents? I know that they didn’t know how bad this would be, even a few weeks ago, but it’s all so frustrating!
Now we just have to wait to have a funeral. Maybe this summer, maybe much later. I can’t stop thinking about what I might say in her eulogy.
Remember me and all those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones.
God, we pray for all the people who are grieving. Comfort them in their sorrow, and give them hope for new life and joy that are to come. Provide counsellors and pastoral caregivers to assist those who are struggling, and open up appropriate ways to remember and give thanks for the lives and relationships that are now ended. Make your presence and your care known to those who are in grief, compassionate God. Amen.
- Our story
We’re included in this, too. We, too, carry crosses of sacrifice and suffering. We carry the cross of our own loss and pain. And we carry the cross of others whose burdens we share.
Jesus told us to take up his cross and follow him. Sometimes, the yoke feels easy, and the burden is light. At other times, the cross of Christ feels too heavy for us to carry. We want to throw it down and seek other, less painful goals.
But how can we when we see Jesus go on before us, carrying his cross? And how can we when we look around and see others carrying their crosses. We must continue on our journey towards our own Calvary.
God, we pray for ourselves. You know the crosses we carry and the burdens we face. Help us to find strength to continue our journey as followers of Jesus. When we become discouraged, give us hope. When we become exhausted, give us your power to carry on. We pray in the name of Jesus, who goes before us and shows us the way. Lord, remember us. Amen.
- Jesus’ story
Last of all, we remember Jesus, whose death brings us together today. In some ways, Jesus’ death was unremarkable. He was one of many tens of thousands crucified by the Romans long ago. His death was sheer agony, but no more so than many who have died in pain. For those who did not know Jesus, his death was like any other.
But in other ways, Jesus’ death was unique. Jesus chose to go to the cross to show humankind God’s love. He was put to death for the sake of the lowly and the humble who are crucified every day in our world. He died that we might be free.
A reading from Luke 23:44-47:
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.”
The Apostle Paul wrote, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.” God knows our sufferings and trials because God was in Christ as he suffered on the cross. God stands beside us in our pain and humiliation. And God brings victory out of our failures because God brought Jesus victory over death. Because Jesus suffered and died, we are not alone when we suffer and die. God is with us.
God is with us as we remember today each person who carries a cross in their lives. God is with them just as God was with Jesus when he was betrayed, arrested, tried, and beaten. God was with Jesus when a cross was placed on his shoulders and he was led to Golgotha. God was with Jesus when he was nailed to the cross and crucified.
God, we pray for all those who carry a cross like Jesus. We know the journey is difficult and filled with pain, but through Jesus you have shown us that those who suffer are not alone. You are with them.
We are grateful, God, for the sacrifice Jesus made. He chose the path of crucifixion in order to show us your love. May that love shine out through all of us. May we know that love in our hours of darkness and despair. And may the love of Jesus grow and flourish until it embraces the entire world.
We pray in Jesus’ name, as we pray the prayer that he taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.