Part of my job at Thomas Road Baptist Church involves providing platform sets for holidays and special events. Three years ago I was asked to set up a series of thought-provoking interactive stations for Good Friday in our fellowship hall. I was given the instructions from our pastoral staff and set out to collect the needed items. Communion was to be served to individuals and families at the last station.
There was a station with a world map on one side of a large board with a map of the United States on the back side. Visitors wrote the first name of someone they were praying for on little cut out boy and girl shapes and pinned them to the map in the location their loved one lived. (This seemed a little first grade to me.)
Another station offered newspapers from around the world and visitors prayed about the situations written about in the papers. (Yawn, I thought.) And yet another had powerful photos of people suffering around the world. (Ew...too graphic for my taste.)
I must admit it all seemed a little silly to me. (I am no spiritual giant.) The last station I set up gave me the giggles. We were to set up a 35 gallon dark plastic trash can and place tables around the top leaving just the water showing. I draped it with tablecloths and placed piles of small rocks all around the perimeter of the water. The rocks were to represent our sins. Each person was to choose a rock and then, contemplating their short-coming or sin, prayerfully drop the rock into the "deepest sea" of the trash can. I was placing the framed Bible verse that went with this station on the table when our pastor, Jonathan Falwell came into the room. He came over to the trash can station. I looked at him with rolling eyes and said, "Seriously?". I said, "The bigger the rock, the bigger the sin? I'm gonna watch to see who throws in a really big rock!" He gave me a pastoral look that was both a gentle chastisement for my irreverence and a "just you wait and see" expression.
Duly corrected I finished my work and waited for our guests to arrive. I stood near the back door and watched as people began to arrive. Soon there were several hundred people standing in line. I watched their faces as they read the instructions for each station. People were reading the newspapers and spending time in prayer, putting names on the little paper people and actually wiping away a tear as they pinned them to the map.
I watched people pick up a rock at the "Deepest Sea" station, close their eyes and pray before dropping their stone into the water. Often they would linger to watch the stone hit the bottom, taking in the significance of the symbolism.
Then came the hammering. The final station was a beat up old cross laying across the front steps of the stage. We had provided hammers, nails and small note paper. People began to nail their sins, their burdens, their deepest prayers to the Cross.
Suddenly I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the scene. I found myself at the trash can, casting my sin of irreverence and disbelief into the deepest sea, thankful for God's forgiveness. I wrote names of those I had been praying for to the map, which was now covered with little paper people. I looked at the photographs of people suffering across the world and said a prayer on their behalf. And then, I knelt at the foot of the Cross of Christ and nailed my deepest cares to its blood-stained plank.
It was the best Easter ever. May you experience the forgiveness of the Cross this Easter.
Paula Oldham Johnson