Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To help students understand Easter as a transformation from despair to glory.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and three readers, plus a narrator, someone to be Jesus and two other students to be, in turn, criminals and men. Note that the audience will need to say the words said by ‘People’ in the script below, so you could either print off copies of the script for all to follow or write the words on a large piece of paper or card, hold it up at the relevant moment and indicate that all are to say them together.
- You will also need images of Jesus on the cross and of the resurrection, which could be abstract, and the means to display them during the assembly (check copyright). Some examples include John Reilly's 'Crucifixion' from the ‘Images of Jesus – Modern’ poster pack (National Society/Church House Publishing). These can be displayed throughout the session or could be revealed when the crucifixion story is read. They can also be used as support materials for the follow-up activities.
- A candle and a lighter or matches will also be required.
- Have available 'Pié Jesu' – any version from a setting of the Requiem Mass, such as those by Gabriel Fauré or Andrew Lloyd Webber – and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep,
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow,
I am the gentle rains that fall,
I am the fields of refining grain,
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing
I am in each lovely thing
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I did not die.
Leader This poem, written anonymously, was found on a dead soldier. Death is not the end for those of us who are left to carry on the memory of the dead person.
For Christians, too, there is the certain knowledge of life after death. Easter captures the time of extreme despair and distress in the life of Jesus that was overcome by his glorious resurrection. Out of pain and death came joy and new life.
Reader 2 'Love is about faithfulness, a commitment, an overcoming of hardships, of a unity so strong it can never be broken. For love to grow and expand it must endure both the good and the bad times. Therefore God must be in the bitter sting of rejection, in the pain of ill health, in wrongs that need to be righted and in the people I find it hard to warm to. God proved he was also in suffering by his passion and crucifixion' (Lucy in 'The Spirituality of Young People', The Way, 1997–1990, p. 46).
Leader Christians believe that, because Jesus did suffer, did know pain, did know loneliness, he understands how we can feel. Even on the cross he spoke of forgiveness.
Narrator When they came to the place called 'The Skull', they crucified Jesus there, and the two criminals, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said:
Jesus Forgive them, Father! They don't know what they are doing.
Narrator They divided his clothes among themselves by throwing dice. The people stood there watching while the people jeered at him.
People You saved others, now save yourself if you are the Messiah.
Narrator One of the criminals hanging there said:
Criminal 1 If you were the Messiah you could save yourself and us.
Narrator The other said:
Criminal 2 Aren't you afraid of God? We received a just sentence for what we have done, but he has done no wrong.
Narrator He turned to Jesus:
Criminal 2 Remember me, Jesus, when you come again as King.
Jesus I promise that today you will be in Paradise with me.
Leader Showing such love when in such pain is difficult to understand, but we can still find examples today. Listen to the following short extract written by Brian Keenan. He was imprisoned for over five years as a hostage in the Lebanon. Threatened with death many times by his captors, he was still touched with compassion and pity for them.
Reader 3 'The guard walked around the room crying, the whole room seemed to fill with his anguish. I felt, as I had never felt before, great pity for this man and felt if I could I would reach out and touch him . . . his tears wrenched a great well-spring of compassion from me. I wanted to nurse and console him. I felt my own tears. I was transformed with a deep and helpless love for him' (Brian Keenan, An Evil Cradling, Vintage, 1993, p. 223).
Leader Transformation is what is happening for Christians in the Easter event. Jesus dies in pain, surrounded by hatred and yet he rises, illustrating the power of love.
Narrator Very early on Sunday morning, the women went to the tomb, carrying spices to anoint the body of Jesus. They found that the stone that had covered the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away, and, when they went in, they saw no body. Suddenly two men in shining clothes appeared, the women bowed down.
Man 1 Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive?
Man 2 He is not here, he has been raised.
Man 1 Remember what he said to you.
Man 2 ‘The Son of Man must be handed over to sinful men, and be crucified.’
Man 1 'And three days later rise to life.'
Narrator Then the women remembered his words, returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest.
They didn’t believe the women at first, but later the disciples realized that Jesus had risen, they had seen him and broken bread with him. They were full of joy and wonder and gave thanks to God.
Time for reflection
Light the candle and play 'Pié Jesu'. Ask the students to listen to the music and reflect on what they have heard.
- Read the story of the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24.13–35. Consider how it was that the two men didn't recognize Jesus at first, then did when he broke the bread during the meal.
- Consider the question ‘What things around Eastertime remind us of new life and new birth?’
- Ask the students to write a poem about the events of Easter from the point of view of one of the characters featured in the assembly.
'Pié Jesu' – any version from a setting of the Requiem Mass, such as those by Gabriel Fauré or Andrew Lloyd Webber