Resurrection - sharing prayers of praise in celebration of life


5   Resurrection - sharing prayers of praise in celebration of life

Sharing Friendship                                                                                          30 minutes

As people arrive light refreshments are served.   This week’s ‘table ornament’ which will become the focus for prayer and reflection is a crown of thorns which on closer examination appears to be a nest of eggs.  This needs some thought in advance - encourage someone from the group to take responsibility for this.  Put together a crown of thorns - the opening in the middle of the crown of thorns is made to look like a bird’s nest.  Nestling in the nest are four  mini chocolate Easter eggs.  The idea for this piece again comes from Made Flesh - the Art Exhibition at the University of Gloucestershire.  Mike Lafferty’s piece was inspired by Bocaccino’s painting of the Virgin with a Goldfinch.  It will later become the focus for our prayers of praise.  Do not explain what the piece is until the appropriate moment until it is time for sharing reflections on the Bible.

Have a small bowl prepared with a miniature ‘crown of thorns’ fastened around the rim - this will be used to pass the eggs around.  In the middle of the bowl write the words Risen Lord Jesus, give us hope and joy and peace.  This can be done as artistically or as simply as you like - the simplest way of all would be to write the words on a slip of paper or post it note and attach it to the centre of the bowl.

Prepare clusters of mini-eggs for each person to take home for Easter.

Once the group is settled and everyone has arrived the leader can gather the group together and begin to focus the conversation a little more.

·       go round the circle and invite each person to recall some of the things that they have been doing over the last week, and share anything special that has happened.
·       go round the circle a second time and invite people to recall anything they have done over the course of Lent in response to the thoughts and prayers that we have shared together.



Sharing Reflections on the Bible                                                                     30 minutes

Over the last four weeks our prayers have been shaped by the concern we share for a world that is too often divided, for a church that is too often in conflict with itself; they have been shaped by the failings and sense of betrayal that we all share in some measure, and by the grief we share in the face of death.  This evening’s prayers are going to be shaped by the experience of Resurrection.  Together we shall be sharing prayers of praise in celebration of life.

Read John 20:1-31 - this lends itself to a dramatised reading.

What do you make of these stories of the first Easter?  What are they saying that can feed into our time of prayer as we share in prayers of praise in celebration of life?


Allow the group simply to share their responses to these questions - as leader you might look out for some of these points ...




Points to look out for in John 20

·       the first experience of resurrection is in the very place where grief and sadness had only recently been experienced - in fact, it is still dark, grief and sadness are still in the air [1]
·       the first reaction Mary has is one of bewilderment [2]
·       even though Peter sees and believes he does not understand [9]
·       it is as Mary is weeping that she turns round and sees Jesus, but she mistakes him for a gardener [11,13,14]
·       it is when Jesus addresses Mary by name that she turns and recognises him [16] - it is not the emptiness of the tomb, or the witness of others, but the encounter with the risen Christ that transforms Mary’s weeping into the confidence that made her the first one commissioned by Christ to go and tell others the Good News of resurrection [16-18]
·       the disciples meet the risen Jesus at the moment of fear (19)
·       the words the risen Jesus speaks into that time of fear are ‘Peace be with you’.  (19, 21, 26)
·       it is the crucified Christ who is risen (20, 27)
·       the presence of the risen Christ brings joy in the place of fear (20)
·       the resurrection experience of meeting the risen Christ is not simply an inner experience ... it results in having something to do (21)
·       the task that is given to those who meet with the risen Christ cannot be accomplished on their own ... but only in the power of the Holy Spirit (22)
·       meeting with the risen Christ leads on to a sharing of forgiveness (23)
·       the blessing of resurrection was a real experience for the first disciples ... the blessing is no less real for those who have not seen but have come to believe: indeed, Jesus goes so far as to suggest that it is more real  (26-29)
·       that believing opens up a whole new way of living, a new experience of life (30-31).

Allow a good period of time sharing reflections on this passage.

Place the crown of thorns/nest on the low table in the middle of the circle or in some other prominent place.  Up until this moment it has simply been a table ornament..  Allow the group to make their own responses to the piece before explaining what it is.  The following questions may be helpful in prompting a response?

What do you see in this piece?   What does it say to you?

Allow the group time to make their responses and then share the artist’s thoughts on his piece of work.

Our thanks to [name the person responsible for making the arrangement] for re-creating an original piece of art which was exhibited as part of an exhibition at the Art School of the University of Gloucestershire.  The exhibition, entitled Making Flesh was  supported by the University Chaplaincy and the Greenbelt Christian Arts festival whose home is now at Cheltenham every  August bank holiday week-end.

Mike Lafferty’s original crown of thorns / nest stood on a white plinth in the middle of the exhibition space.  Beside it was a caption which read:

The Dream of the Gold finch’s Nest.  Legend says a goldfinch pulled a thorn from Christ’s head and to this day the birds retain the mark of the blood.

Mike Lafferty shared four thoughts which had come to him as he reflected on the work he created:
·       The Dream of the Gold finch’s nest was inspired by Bocaccino’s The Virgin with a  Goldfinch
·       The world we are born into, despite initial warmth, is surrounded by pain and sorrow
·       Instruments of torture support our lives - the arms industry sustained by the pension funds, investments and savings accounts  we depend on makes us all culpable.
·       Our everyday lives are surrounded by Christian symbols which for most of the time we ignore

Making Flesh was an exhibition first shown in the Summer in the Chapel on the Francis Close Campus of the University of Gloucestershire.   A second exhibition with the same theme and many of the same pieces was put on at the Art School at the Pittville Campus of the University of Gloucestershire in the Autumn.

As Lent draws towards its close and Holy Week is nearly upon us it speaks of the pain and agony Christ endured on the way to the cross.  It speaks also of the hope of new birth and of new life which comes only through that pain.  It prompts us to think that the world we are born into is surrounded by pain.  And yet at the very moment when we are surrounded by the sharpest pain there is the promise of new life.



Sharing Prayer                                                                                                            30 Minutes

Play some quiet, reflective music.  Make sure that the Crown of Thorns / nest is on the table in the centre of the circle, or in some appropriate place.  Place the small bowl with its mini crown of thorns around the rim next to the larger piece.  In the middle of the bowl write the words  Risen Lord Jesus, give us hope and joy and peace.   These may be written on a piece of paper stuck on the bowl.

Jesus said, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
How difficult it can be to believe when there is no opportunity to see.
How many there are who doubt.
To them Jesus says, Peace be with you.  Do not doubt but believe.

Read John 20:24-27.

It is the crucified Christ who bears the marks of the nails and says, Peace be with you.
It is the crucified Christ who is risen and says, Do not doubt but believe.

Read John 20:28-29

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

Take one egg from the large nest on the central table and place it in the  small bowl.   Hold the bowl for a moment.

In the first week of Lent we came together in Friendship - sharing prayers of concern for a world of need.   Think again of that world of broken relationships, violence and abuse, that world of barriers and divisions of faith and religion, of culture and gender, of politics and race.  Think again of that world of hunger, that world of need, crying out for a healing touch, the look of friendship, forgiveness and love.

As you receive this bowl hold it for a moment and mention a concern you have for prayer in the world - and then say: Risen Lord Jesus, give us hope and joy and peace.  Then pass the bowl round the circle of prayer.

The Crucified Christ is risen and says ...

In the world you face tribulation.  But take courage; I have overcome the world.  [John 16:33]

Take a second egg from the nest and place it on the small bowl.

During the second week of Lent our thoughts turned to Conflict and we spent time sharing prayers of longing for a church too often divided. Think again of conflict that has arisen within a local church, between local churches, within a denomination, between denominations.  Think of that inner conflict which tears us apart when our words go up, but our thoughts remain below and we realise that words without thoughts never to heaven go.

As you receive this bowl hold it for a moment and mention a concern you have for prayer in the church - and then say: Risen Lord Jesus, give us hope and joy and peace.  Then pass the bowl round the circle of prayer.

When you receive the bowl once more hold it in your hands and say  ...

The Crucified Christ is risen and says ...

I give you a new commandment that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.  [John 13:34-35]

Now take a third egg and place it in the bowl.

During the third week of Lent our thoughts turned to Betrayal and we spent time sharing prayers of confession for our own betrayal of Jesus.  Take this cup away from me, was our prayer.  Yet not what I want but what you want.

As you receive this bowl hold it for a moment and in the silence of your own heart speak your own prayer of confession, and then say aloud the words Risen Lord Jesus, give us hope and joy and peace.  Then pass the bowl round the circle of prayer.

When you receive the bowl once more hold it in your hands and say,

The Crucified Christ is risen and says ...

Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive someone’s sins they are gone for good.
If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?
Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
[John 20:22-23 and John 14:27]

Take the fourth egg from the nest and place it in the bowl.

Last week we thought of Death and spent time sharing prayers of love with those who are bereaved.  Think again of that journey which takes us through so many mixed up emotions - of shock and denial, of guilt and bargaining, of anger and bitterness, of sadness and grief.

As you receive this bowl hold it for a moment and mention the name of someone who has been bereaved  - and then say: Risen Lord Jesus, give us hope and joy and peace.  Then pass the bowl round the circle of prayer.

The Crucified Christ is risen and says ...

Peace be with you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You believe in God:  believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many dwelling places.
If it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
so that where I am there you may be also.
Peace be with you.
[John 20:19, John 14:1-3, John 20:26]

Now we know that death is not the end.
Now we can be sure that nothing is hopeless.
In a troubled world of broken friendships,
of conflict, betrayal and death,
the crucified Christ is risen.
He is here.
He makes the difference to our lives.
He gives us
hope and joy and peace.

Even now we can look beyond Lent and celebrate Resurrection - sharing prayers of praise in celebration of life ...

Play the fifth prayer meditation, Resurrection, from Jesus forever the same, the third part of the Video, Jesus: today, tomorrow, forever?

Pause for a few moments of silent reflection

Take the trade badge in your hands.

Are they the scales of justice badly out of balance?
Or is it a cross?
Is it a cross weighed down by the burdens of injustice?
The Cross is empty.
Christ is risen.
And still he says, Peace be with you.

Jesus provided many more God-revealing signs
than we have had time to explore.
We’ve shared our friendship,
our reflections on the Bible, and
our prayers.
As Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter draw nearer
we still have a story to tell.
Let’s tell that story  so that people may believe
that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,
and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life.
            [adapted from John 20:30-31 in The Message]

Let’s join in saying The Lord’s Prayer together.

After a short pause, play some quiet music once more.  Have copies of the prayer meditation Resurrection ready for people to take home. Invite people to a showing of Jesus for Today some time in Holy Week, or over Easter week-end.  Present everyone with a cluster of mini-eggs to take home for Easter.