The Salvation Army doesn’t generally observe Lent in any organised way, but at the very least I like to use the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday to look at the Cross. I try to have an overall theme to tie it all together. This year I took as my theme, ‘Fix your eyes on Jesus.’ All of the Scripture readings expanded on this in some way.
For each week I’ve provided the Scripture reading and a note about the specific verse I looked at. For most weeks I’ve suggested songs that might be particularly appropriate. Most songs suggested are from the Salvation Army Songbook. I also asked artists and photographers in our Corps to contribute artwork for use during our meetings according to a one-word summary I provided.
Please, feel free to use this outline however and whenever you wish!
(Not strictly in Lent, but the title fit the theme!)
Scripture: Matthew 17:1-9
Title: Take a look at that!
Scripture: Hebrews 12:1-12 (verse 2)
Title: Fix your eyes on Jesus
Songs: Never mind, go on! (805); The old rugged Cross (124); Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Thought: Discipleship is an endurance event. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus as our goal, but also as an example. Glory in this race comes not through winning, but through a Cross.
Scripture: Psalm 121:1-8 (verses 1-2)
Title: Look to the Lord for help
Art word: Help
Thought: This is a Psalm of Ascent, meaning it was traditionally sung by pilgrims on their way into Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. It may have been sung by Jesus and his disciples as they approached Jerusalem before Holy week. At the time the Psalm was written it was common for people to set up shrines to their gods on top of hills. It was also common for bandits to hide in the hills in order to prey on unsuspecting travellers. Where does help come from? The hills? The Temple? Or does it come from the God of all, who is the Creator of Heaven and Earth?
Scripture: Psalm 123:1-4 (verse 1)
Title: Look to the Lord for mercy
Art word: Mercy
Songs: A mighty fortress (1); Trust in God (711)
Thought: This is another Psalm of Ascent. Mercy here doesn’t refer to mercy from an angry, vengeful God. Rather, it is a cry for justice from our Master when others would do us harm.
Scripture: Psalm 141:1-10 (verse 8)
Title: Look to the Lord for shelter
Art word: Shelter
Songs: Guide me, O thou great Jehovah (578); Jesus lover of my soul (737)
Thought: On the Jesus road there is no guarantee of safety. Remember, this is an endurance event, not a Sunday afternoon stroll. The only shelter we find is in the one who’s path finished on a Cross. This Psalm finds someone bruised and battered and at the very depth of their experience. It’s not a song we’d usually sing on a Sunday. Even so, the author has just faith enough to see that after all he’s experienced, God will bring him through.
Scripture: John 12:20-36 (Verse 32; also John 3:14-15)
Title: Look to the Lord for life
Art word: Life
Songs: He came to give us life (274); O love that will not let me go (621)
Thought: Looking to Jesus is ultimately about saying that we too will die with him. Yet this is the way to life.
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11
Title: Look, the Lord comes!
Art word: Majesty
Songs: Crown him with many crowns (156); All glory, laud and honour (Not in the songbook, but easy to find online.)
Thought: Many people watched Jesus go into Jerusalem. What were they cheering? A king? A prophet? A warrior? A suffering servant? What sort of Messiah do we expect Jesus to be? What do we see when we look at him?
Scriptures: Isaiah 53:1-12, Psalm 22, Matthew 27:27-55
Title: Nothing much to look at
Art word: Desolation
Songs: There is a green hill (133); When I survey (136); The Old Rugged Cross (124)
In keeping with the theme of looking at the crucified Jesus I chose songs which gave rather descriptive (but family safe!) accounts of the crucifixion. I also found a reasonably family-safe video of the crucifixion, muted the sound and played it with the old song, ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ The video had different shots of onlookers—people in the crowd, soldiers, religious authorities, the two men crucified with Jesus and the women disciples watching from a distance. The disciples, as in the Bible, were notably absent.
In my sermon I looked at Isaiah 53:2-3, which might be taken as a description of Jesus on the Cross. I looked at Psalm 22 which suggests that God didn’t turn his face from Jesus, even if Jesus felt differently. I asked the congregation to consider where they might find themselves in the scene.
Scripture: Matthew 28:1-15
Title: Nothing to see here!
Art word: Hope
Songs: Up from the grave he arose (148); Christ the Lord is risen today (143); Thine is the glory (152)
Thought: I printed off many photos (as supplied by Corps members) and gave the congregation a chance to look at them, asking them to choose one that particularly resonated with them. In my sermon I reflected on the way that all the people involved with Jesus’ death must have been feeling. Some felt victorious, others had forgotten, and the disciples would have been at various stages of grief and disbelief. I asked the congregation to think about which photo the various actors would have chosen. Then I asked them to consider which photo they might have chosen after they heard of the resurrection. They were then invited to consider what effect the news of the Resurrection might have had on the photos that they had personally chosen.