Each Good Friday we have a children’s service at 12 Noon. It is a simple affair lasting around thirty minutes and contrasts greatly with the Last Hour that we observe from 2 o’clock to 3 o’clock.
The first year that we tried it, I said I would be content if we had twenty people present, however, it seemed to strike a chord with some people and we usually get around sixty, which last year included some forty children.
We sing songs and retell the story in simple words. At the appropriate points children come and place symbols from the story around a big wooden cross, thirty pieces of silver for Judas; a bowl of water and a towel for Pilate; a purple robe, a stick, nails, dice, a jar for spices; the act of placing each item bringing the story home to those participating.
This is the only service some of the children will attend over Easter, so we always carry the story right through to Sunday morning and close with ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ with ‘Were you there when God raised him from the dead?’ as the closing verse, and a triumphant ‘Sometimes it causes me to shout, HALLELUJAH’.
One of the symbols that we use is the crown of thorns. There is a thorn bush in our garden that has thorns about two inches long and which leaves me with scratched hands each time I weave the crown. This year, with Easter being later, the bush is covered in green leaves and yellow blossom and as I wove the crown this evening I thought about cutting off the leaves and the blossom to leave just bare thorns. As I was about to do so, I decided to leave the crown as it was; there seemed a greater sadness in something covered in the new life and colour of spring being used as a mark of the mockery Jesus went through.
In an Ireland that is enjoying the greatest prosperity in its entire history, when the land is filled with vibrancy and new life and when business and new developments are blossoming at every corner, it is a great sadness that Jesus has been forgotten and that the only time you will hear his name in most places is as a curse.
We mock him today as much as those who forced a cruel crown of thorns onto his head.