Bowl of Water
Scarlet Robe and crown
Each of the items that has been brought to the altar today has something to say to us about the story of the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
And each one of these items has something to say about our human nature, some of the biggest temptations we face, and God’s saving grace for each one of us.
1. Each Sunday, our altar guild covers the altar in fair linen, a reminder to us of the linen that Joseph of Arimathea wrapped the body of Jesus in before he laid the body in the tomb. The fair linen protects the altar and serves as a table cloth for the bread and the wine that we bring to the altar every week.
This linen cloth reminds us how precious this story of the death and resurrection of Jesus is—a story to treasure in our hearts. When we treat this story with the same reverence and care that Joseph had for the body of our Lord, we can see light and goodness and life growing out of death—the light and goodness and life that God desires for each one of us to have.
2. The thirty pieces of silver remind us of the danger of greed. Greed separates us from one another, because greed inevitably causes us to take advantage of or to betray other people in order to get something we want. Ultimately, greed leads us to betray God.
3. The sword reminds us of our proclivity toward violence as the only ultimate solution for some problems in our lives. Violence and its horrific effects separate us from God and from one another. Jesus chose to be vulnerable rather than violent. He told his disciple to put away the sword, “for those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”
4. The bowl of water and the towel remind us of our tendency to look the other way at the injustices that are all around us and to deny responsibility for our part in those injustices.
5. The stone reminds us that we tend to seal away the things in our lives that we believe are dead. If only we could roll the stone away and to seek the new life that God is trying to give us in these dead places in our lives! God is trying each and every moment of our lives to free us from the graves that we are constantly digging for ourselves—and to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, beating with love.
6. The scarlet robe and crown remind us of how easy it is to mock others, even if only in our hearts. Mocking others and heaping scorn on them is easy to do when those others are different or see the world differently than we do. Differences create fear—and so mocking another person or group of people serves as a barrier between us and them, and ultimately, as a barrier between us and God.
7. Only the power of the cross can give us the courage to overcome our greed with generosity.
Only the power of the cross can help us be vulnerable rather than turning to violence out of fear.
Only the power of the cross can help us to see the injustices in this world and give us the energy to do what we can to end those injustices.
Only through the power of the cross can we fulfill the vow we make at baptism to respect the dignity of every human being.
When we open our hands to receive this bread, God’s love broken open for us, and when we drink this wine, then Jesus, who died for us, comes and lives in the midst of us.
And his loving presence with us gives us the courage to go out with open hands and broken open hearts to be his healing presence in the world.