For most of us, the journey down memory lane is more than a journey of the mind. Our memories, particularly the most profound ones, are a kaleidoscope of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.
There are happy childhood memories of waking up to the muffled, low conversation of the grown-ups around the table, and the reassuring comfort of those voices. The fragrance of bacon and coffee. Padding in on cold feet to sit at the table and break open a steaming hot biscuit to enjoy.
Then there are sad memories. Loved ones in their final moments: the beeping of monitoring equipment in the hospital, the smell of antiseptic, the sound of ragged breathing. Holding a cold hand as life slipped from it.
We don’t have actual memories of Christ’s journey through Holy Week. We have the narrative, and we try to imagine what it must have been like to be there, to witness it – to remember it. In worship, we can engage the senses to bring the narrative alive and to remind us that, while we were not physically present, he carried our sins to the cross. Here are a few suggestions to get you started, some of which I’ve participated in during my own worship experience:
On Ash Wednesday, whether you impose ashes or not, make a bowl of ashes available. Cover a cross in burlap or muslin and invite worshippers to dip their thumbs in the ashes and to put their thumbprints on the fabric. In this way, we place our unique identity on the cross as individuals, but we also see the community of faith in the collective fingerprints.
On Maundy Thursday, invite a small group of people of varying ages to participate in foot-washing before communion, in view of the congregation. This can be especially effective when someone young kneels to wash the feet of an elderly adult, reminding us that we are all servants of one another. You might follow this with a congregational Last Supper by setting up tables in the fellowship hall. Designate one person at each table to serve the cup and the bread. Hear the cup being poured. See the bread being broken.
At the beginning of Holy Week, hand out nails to the congregation. Encourage members to hold the nail as often as possible, to bring it with them to worship, to remember that it was for their sins Jesus was nailed to the cross. These can later be used on Good Friday, hammered into a piece of wood, or dropped into metal buckets as worshippers exit the sanctuary. The sound of the hammer or the nail against metal is jarring to the senses and reminds us of our culpability in his death. You could also use coins, symbolizing the betrayal.
Any of these, along with many others, can bring an added dimension to our remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice.