Two Criminals and a Christ — A Responsive Meditation from New Zealand

Erice Fairbrother of Aotearoa, New Zealand offers this powerful meditation which can be used to begin a longer service  of worship or as the opening before a time of silence.I do not often reflect on these victims of Roman capital punishment. It is so easy to just dismiss them as good crook / bad crook.

Two Criminals and a Christ
A Responsive Meditation for Passion Sunday or Holy Week

Setting: A bare space with an empty cross or a crucifix which is visible to all during the meditation. Three candles are placed further beyond the cross and around them a good number that are unlit.

Opening prayer – complete silence during which the candles are lit

Reading: Luke 23: 39-43

Reader
Who is this who hangs here?
Keeping once again the company of outcasts
And who in their pain call to him

Did we ever recognize him?
When did we ever let his innocence,
Draw from us a cry of forgiveness?

Perhaps it was the familiarity
Of close community
Or even our sense of being chosen

That kept us from knowing
Such holy intimacy
As this

All: Today you shall be with me in Paradise

Reader
Oh we sought to be like him
To live and emulate
And be real disciples

We thought we were on the winning side
But not one of us cried
Like this criminal – remember me

Or if we did
Was it because we wanted
A place in the kingdom

Our dreams of power
Corrupting our vision?
And when others came and scorned his claim

How we would leap over our doubts
To provide a defence
With no sense of our own denials

All: Today you shall be with me in Paradise

Reader:
Did we ever see this man who hangs here
This man we have followed and proclaimed
And yet here is named

Not by us but by criminals
With whom his blood mingles
As it drops

Do we wish he’d stop it now and save himself?
We need you God, strong and whole
To feel better about ourselves

Or do we see at last
The largeness
The terribleness

Of our sin
And in recognition
Know him

The only innocent one
Embracing with aching arms
All who come?

All: Today you shall be with me in Paradise

Or do we just see again
An old familiar scene
An icon of our dreams

Instead of the truth
Of what it takes to receive
This promise

A ghastly execution
Two criminals
And a Christ

• Following the reading a time of silence during which people move forward, passing around the cross meditatively to light candles.

A closing hymn/song such as “O Sacred Head Surrounded”

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