Easter Celebrations

Gethsemane Gardening

He could have gone to the garden

Just for soul searching agony,

He could have left,

Closing the gate firmly behind him.

Instead, His knees imprinted rock

Olive trees rustled their future plans

Blood sweat watered white lilies

And in the depths of His soul

He heard them, He smelled them

Smiling, He planted the assurance

Of future gardens,

And sits by an open gate.

Asking us to enter.

Crucified Hands

The pain of the nails,

For one brief, breathless moment

Feeling the loneliness of not feeling

His father’s loving fingers

Healing the nail holes.

The hot sun shafts spearing his flesh

Piercing his side where hands couldn’t reach

For one brief, breathless moment

Piercing his soul

With human doubt.

The gasping of his spirit

Thrown into oceans of human darkness

For one, brief, breathless moment

With no lighthouse hand.

The pain of the cross without the life,

Held out in his nail scarred hands,

One brief, breathess moment is enough

To take the nail scarred hands in mine

And follow Him to eternity.

Donkey Pride and Palms

Donkey Pride and Palms

The wind sighs in my ears,

 My eyes trace his shadow stretching across the grass

My back stiffens with donkey pride

No man has ridden me, no man will.

I toss my head challenging the wind,

Challenging Him.

My soul follows the wind

Unbound by heart.

Clouds of dust follow

The sandals of the two men,

Who came for me.

My master slipped a halter around my neck,

A rope around my pride

The wind returned my soul

Cracked and broken  

They led me to the shadow man,

Who searched my heart through his eyes,

And my soul welcomed back freedom.

I smoothed several palms with my feet,

He rode me to Jerusalem

I returned alone with a broken heart.

But now I know him

And He challenges me.

Divine Wood, An Easter Reading

Divine Wood: An Easter Reading

1st Reader:

Lord,

Help us focus on ordinary things to understand the extraordinary life of Jesus and how He teaches us to be human. Help us understand Easter with our hearts as well as our minds.  Amen.

2nd Reader

Maples trees in winter

Windows look out at oak and maple trees and oak and maple trees sit outside looking in, backdropping our lives. Wood. Furniture, houses, trees. Part of everyday modern life.

3rd Reader

Cypress Trees

Wood. furniture, houses, trees, part of the life of Jesus.

Jesus knew trees. Willow, tamarisk, cypress, mulberry, olive trees grow in the Holy land.

4th Reader

Olive Trees

Olive trees and whispering winds were there at his birth. A hymn by Katherine Parker expresses it:  “Winds through the olive trees, Softly did blow, Round little Bethlehem, Long, long, ago”…

5th Reader

Jesus grew up with trees. Besides enjoying their beauty, he appreciated how useful they were. Jesus and Joseph, his father, worked with wood in their carpenter shop. Jesus felt the smooth patina of wood under his fingers and brought it to life as he shaped chairs and bowls. His fingers curled around a broom as he swept up sawdust. J.Edgar Park wrote in his hymn We Would See Jesus, “Light of the village life from day to day, shining revealed through every task most lowly..”

6th Reader

Mount Tabor

Christian tradition says that the Transfiguration of Jesus took place on Mount Tabor, located in Lower Galilee, eleven miles west of the Sea of Galilee. Oak trees grew on Mount Tabor and acorns must have littered the ground during some parts of the year. When Jesus and Peter, James, and John were on Mount Tabor, they heard a voice saying: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Irish Christian Dallan Forgaill expressed the importance of the Transfiguration in his hymn, Be Thou My Vision, “Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.” A much less serious vision is Peter slipping on an acorn on the way back down the mountain!

7th Reader

Jesus used the common touch of wood, a touch he knew well, to reach and relate to people. Wood cemented the relationship between Zacchaeus and Jesus. As Jesus passed through Jericho, Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector, wanted to see him. A short man, Zacchaeus, couldn’t see over the crowd so he came up with a plan.  He ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him. Jesus looked up in the tree and saw Zacchaeus. Jesus told Zacchaeus to climb down. The children’s Bible chorus reveals what happens next when it says, “For I’m going to your house today.”

8th Reader

Date palms

Palms on Palm Sunday

Date palms, majestic tall trees, grow abundantly in the Holy land. Their long and large leaves spread out from the top of a single trunk that can grow to more than 50 feet tall. In Bible times, the tallest trees grew at Jericho, which was known as the city of palm trees. and along the banks of the Jordan River. King Solomon directed his artisans to carve palm branches into the walls and doors of his temple.

Palm branches symbolized goodness, steadfastness, victory.  People viewed them as symbols of joy and triumph and used them to commemorate festive occasions, like the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Biblical scholars say that people scattering palms in front of Jesus riding the donkey welcomed him as a Jewish Messiah rather than the Son of God coming to save the world. John Baptiste Faure in his hymn The Palms celebrated Jesus as the savior of the world when he wrote, “join all and sing His name declare, Let ev’ry voice resound with acclamation, Hosanna! Praised be the Lord, Bless Him, who cometh to bring us salvation.”

9th Reader

Olive Trees in Gethsemane

The garden at Gethsemane, a place whose name literally means “oil press,” is located on a slope of the Mount of Olives just across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. A garden of ancient olive trees stands there to this day. Jesus frequently went to Gethsemane with His disciples to pray. 

Go to Dark Gethsemane by James Montgomery. “Go to dark Gethsemane, you who feel the tempter’s pow’r, Your Reeemer’s conflict see, Watch with Him one bitter hour, Turn not from His griefs away. Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

10th Reader

Dogwood Trees

A chant called Behold The Wood of the Cross published in the New English Hymnal contains these words: “Because I brought thee out of the land of Egypt thou hast prepared a Cross for the Saviour.” There are many legends and possibilities surrounding the kind of wood used to make the cross to crucify Christ.  

The four most common wood types in Jerusalem are Jerusalem Pine, Mediterranean Cyprus; Olive; and Red River Gum, which is a eucalyptus tree. Some people speculate that pine wood, which is plentiful, cheap, strong, and flexible, could have been used to make the cross. King Solomon’s temple featured some pine wood in less ornate spots because although pine wood is strong, it isn’t always pretty.

One of the legends say that in ancient times the dogwood tree used to grow tall and strong until its wood was used to crucify Christ. Stricken and ashamed, the dogwood tree apologized to God and since the time of the crucifixion God did not allow the dogwood tree to grow large enough to be used to make a cross. The dogwood blooms in April when Easter Sunday marks the resurrection of Christ. 

11th Reader

Judas Tree

Jesus was laid to rest in Joseph of Arimathea’s rock tomb, but it was located in a garden with trees. The most common trees growing in Jerusalem included Jerusalem Pine, Mediterranean Cypress, Olive trees, and Red River Gum. Judas Trees or Redbuds also grew in Jerusalem. A Christian legend gave the Judas Tree its name. The legend says that all

Redbuds or Judas Trees were tall, strong, and stately trees that produced beautiful white flowers until Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus. Judas chose to hang himself from a Redbud tree and from that time on, the Redbud tree became known as the Judas Tree. The Judas Tree was so ashamed that Judas had chosen it for his death that it would not grow big or strong enough for anyone to use it for hanging. From the hanging of Judas Iscariot the Redbud wood would be brittle and the flowers no longer white, but a blush red.

Robert Lowry in his hymn “Up From the Grave He Arose,” described the miracle of the resurrection of Christ. “Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior, He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord! Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’re his foes, He arose a victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with his Saints to reign.  He arose! He arose! Halleluiah! Christ arose!”

12th Reader

Lord,

Help us see that things we think are ordinary, things like trees, are part of the extraordinary world you created for us and your extraordinary son that you sent to redeem us and give us eternal life.

Help us remember that faith even as tiny as an acorn can grow bigger than our earthly lives. Help us remember that the roots of trees growing by graves gradually cause them to crumble like Christ’s resurrection and his love cause our sins and our guilt to crumble. Amen.

Throw the Stones Away, An Easter Play

Easter Play!

Cast

Any number of children

Jesus

Angel

Audience

Props: A large stone with a picture of Jesus or a boy sitting in a chair behind it.. An angel guards the front of the tomb.  A small pile of stones (sponges) sits beside and in front of the large stone. A large banner that says, “BUT WAIT” is propped up against the stones.  The children, who are dressed in robes Biblical style, pick up a small sponge stone and throw them at the large stone in front of the tomb.

Angel:  (Picking up sponge stone and throwing it back. Asking the boy who threw it) What does it say on your stone?

Boy:   ( Looking at stone) It says hatred.  Why can’t I hate?  It fills up my empty insides

Angel:  Jesus could have hated the people who killed Him, but he forgave them instead.

Boy:  How did He do that?

Angel:  God gave him love instead of hate.

Girl:  Why would God give him love?

Angel:  Jesus is God’s son and God loves Him.  God and Jesus sent their love to the world and all of the people in it.

Girl:  (Throwing another sponge rock) Here’s another stone for you!

Angel:  What does your stone say?

Girl:  (Looking at stone) My stone says believe. What does that mean?

Angel:  It means that if you believe in Jesus you will have love in your heart instead of hatred.

Boy:  (Throwing sponge stone and hitting angel)

Angel:  Ow! (rubbing arm)

Boy:  Now tell me how much you love me. Now tell me how much Jesus loves me!

Angel:  Here’s how much Jesus loves you.

Song: (To the tune of Michael Row the Boat Ashore)

Jesus loves you deep and wide, hallelujah!

He loves you outside and inside, hallelujah!

Audience:    BUT WAIT-

If  Jesus loves us in spite of our sin,

Why are you throwing stones at him?

Girl: I want to meet Him.  Is He sitting behind that big stone?

Boy:  Let’s throw all of our stones at him.  Then he’ll come out!

2md Girl:  Let’s play something else.  I don’t want to throw anymore stones. Jesus doesn’t want to talk to us.  He can’t help us.

All of the children throw their stones until the stones are gone.

Audience:    BUT WAIT-

You have to hear about Easter.

Children:  (Holding out their empty hands)

                   All of our stones are aloft,

                   All of our stones both hard and soft,

                   Our hands are empty it’s sad but true

                   Angel, please tell us what to do.

ANGEL:     Look for Jesus.

CHILDREN:        We can’t look for Jesus.

ANGEL:     Why not?

CHILDREN:        We have no way to get to the city or General Motors.  That’s where you find Jesus.

ANGEL:     Why do you think Jesus is in a city or General Motors?

CHILDREN:        He’s a boss, isn’t He?

AUDIENCE:        But wait.

ANGEL:     Look inside this tomb.

CHILDREN:        Tomb! Is he really  dead?

ANGEL:     The Romans crucified him and he is dead and buried in that tomb you have been throwing rocks at.

CHILDREN:        All cry.

CHILD:       He can’t be dead! What will happen to the world?

ANGEL:     Help me roll the stone away and you will find out.

CHILDREN:        (Roll up their sleeves and push against the stone.  It doesn’t move.)

CHILDREN:        Angel, you said you would help us.

ANGEL:     Try again.  (The children push against the stone and the angel and Jesus push harder. The children all sprawl on the ground.  The angel and Jesus move the stone away from the entrance to the tomb.)

CHILDREN:        We did it! We moved the stone all by ourselves!

Angel holds audience sign:

AUDIENCE:        But wait.

ANGEL:     All by yourselves? Think about that.

CHILDREN:        Jesus, please come out if you’re in there.

JESUS:       (Walks out of the tomb and sits down on the stone that covered it.)

CHILDREN:        He’s alive!  He’s here!                       

                   (To the tune of Michael Row the Boat Ashore)

                   God rolled the stone away, Hallelujah!

                   For his son on Easter day, Hallelujah!

                    We pushed and tugged on that big stone

                   But we couldn’t move it alone.

                   God’s stronger than any stone, Hallelujah!

                     He’s bigger than any tomb, Hallelujah!

                   His great love covers the earth

                   Spreads across the universe.

                   God rolled the stone away,

                   For his son on Easter day,

                   He helps us with all of our stones,

                   We never have to move stones alone!

                   He helps us with all of our stones

                   We never have to move stones alone!

But wait! Stop and thank Jesus for Easter!