Lent and Easter resources from Aotearoa / New Zealand

Rosalie Sugrue, a frequent contributor here has sent resources that reflect the connection of Lent and Easter to Harvest time. 

Harvest Festival in Lent

Dear God we meet this morning in the context of Harvest Festival in a country of plenty.
We come with thanks giving rejoicing in the abundance of food with which we are blessed.
Yet we are mindful that our time of harvest is uncomfortably placed in our Liturgical year
with its upsidedown seasons decreed by Northern Hemisphere imperialism.
As we juggle the tensions of Lent and Harvest our hope is to:

Fast from unkind thoughts and feast on love;
Fast from sadness and feast on joy;
Fast from anger and feast on peace;
Fast from pessimism and feast on patience;
Fast from discouragement and feast on faithfulness;
Fast from bitterness and feast on kindness;
Fast from negativity and feast on gentleness;
Fast from worry and feast on goodness;
Fast from indulgence and feast on self-control
Ever grateful that we live in a land of plenty
And ever willing to share with those who have needs.

During this season of fasting and feasting,
where plenty and poverty co-exist,
gift us with your presence,
enabling us to be gift to others. Amen.


but look and see
and open hearts to reality
colour and vigour mark our Lent
recalling Christ His life well spent
with freezers full the harvest is ours
God flings fruit on top of flowers
feel the Spirit rushing free
see God in leaves blown
from painted tree
think on God
and be

the cathedral of the park
autumn trees stand tall and stark
leaves in crimson gold and browns
are transformed by Easter gowns
dancing flakes of fractured light
delight in brief unfettered flight
reflect deflect and genuflect
as they bound and mound 
making stained-glass 
patterns on the ground  

Yes, Yes

 summer dies
and winds roam leaden skies

the once green leaves are dead
earth-bound now in heaps of red
all are fading some quite brown
fibre crumbles and seeps down
composting to enrich the earth
from dark humus comes rebirth
new seeds germinate and grow
nurtured well from soil below
death and life together bind
forming strange connection
when touched by God we
also find surprising

This is a Lenten (or even just post Easter program) Rosalie has created.

Easter Women A short play reading suitable for devotions during Lent or presenting in church.)

Characters: Joanna wife of Chuza (Joanna)
Salome wife of Zebedee (Salome)
Mary of Nazareth (Mary N)
Mary Magdalene/Mary of Bethany (Mary M)
The Other Mary (Other M)

Narrator/Worship Leader

Who were the women of that first Easter?
The Bible is ambiguous as to exactly who witnessed the crucifixion and attended the tomb. Each Gospel gives a different list, but one thing we are sure of is, women followers were present. No lists of male disciples are recorded. The men, so prominent at the last supper, almost disappear when the chips are down.
The women who followed Jesus were independent women, independent of spirit and independent of means. We don’t know how many there were but records of the early church assure us women were among its leaders. Luke tells us early in his Gospel that ‘women provided for Jesus and the disciples out of their means.’
In the Easter narratives each Gospel names three or four women. Only Mary Magdalene is named in all four accounts. Three to five Marys are mentioned, but Mary of Bethany is not among them. Scholars differ as to who Mary Magdalene was. There are theories – she was a prostitute; she had a mental illness and was cured by Jesus; she was from a town called Magdala; she was Mary Magna – the Great Mary thus named to distinguish her from lesser Marys. Some say the ‘great’ Mary is another name for the Mary who was sister to Martha and Lazarus. And rumours persist that Jesus may have married a Mary. What could make any Mary greater than Mary the mother of Jesus? Married or not, the one the Easter narratives call ‘Mary Magdalene’ had a very special relationship with Jesus.
John tells us the mother of Jesus was present along with her sister. Matthew mentions ‘the mother of Zebedee’s children.’ Mark gives us the name Salome.
Mark and Matthew mention a Mary who is the mother of James and Joseph and John mentions a Mary who is the wife of Clopas. At the tomb Matthew refers to a woman he calls ‘the other Mary.’ Luke also names a Joanna, previously identified as the wife of Chuza from the court of Herod.
With these all these women held in tension I invite you to flex your imaginations and listen in on five women who may have shared a room on that Saturday night so long ago. Our group comprises of Mary of Nazareth – the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene alias Mary of Bethany, the ‘other’ Mary, Joanna and Salome.
The Sabbath ended at sundown. To be in Jerusalem for Passover should have been a pinnacle of religious celebration. To these women no Sabbath had ever been sadder. Joanna expresses what they’ve all been thinking…

Joanna: Why, why did he come to Jerusalem?

Mary N: I tried to stop him, I tried, but would he listen to his mother!

Salome: Always the stubborn one.

Mary M: He knew it would end this way – he was prepared, and so was I.
Didn’t you realize when I anointed his head? I was trying to tell those men Jesus is a king. He said his kingdom was not of this world. They didn’t get it!

Salome: Why did you anoint his feet?

Mary M: That was personal. My place was at his feet listening, imploring, loving. I can’t bear to think of those feet…

Other M: You cry Mary. If you need to cry, it is the best thing to do. But take comfort in knowing his feet will never know pain again. Joanna provided the very best oils and spices and we wrapped him with great care. It was the finest tomb I’ve ever seen.

Mary M: Yes, yes, I’m so grateful to you both, and to Joseph of Arimathea. I was just so distraught when I saw his battered body up close. I couldn’t do what had to be done. I know you spared no expense Joanna. His burial was fit for a king.

Joanna: It was my privilege, Mary. It was the least I could do. I am deeply honoured that I have had the means to help support the community these past two years.

Salome: How have you been able to provide for us? You never speak of your former life other than to say you have your husband’s blessing. Who is your husband? Will you tell us now?

Joanna: My husband is Chuza an official in the court of Herod. One day a prisoner came under his care. They said the prisoner was a mad man but my husband saw it wasn’t so. The man was a preacher, a prophet and skilled in the ways of understanding. Chuza enjoys a good debate and he became impressed by the man’s perceptions.

Other M: Who was the prisoner?

Joanna: They called him John, John the Baptist. We both witnessed the terrible manipulations of Herodias. I vowed to do something to get back at her. When I heard that the one of whom the Baptist had spoken was preaching nearby I went to hear what he had to say. As I listened I realized revenge is less worthy than trying to make amends. I told Chuza I wanted to become a follower. Chuza thought it over carefully and said, you go if this is your wish. This court is not a safe place for anyone especially a young woman. Go and I will help you support the cousin of my ill-treated prisoner.

Other M: It is truly amazing the effect Jesus has on people. Here you are a woman from the royal court and me a fisherman’s wife, and both of us moved to follow Jesus. Class meant nothing to him, and now nothing to us. I never dreamed my Clopas would encourage me to leave home but he saw something special in Jesus. Clopas was proud that Jesus invited our James to be one of the chosen twelve. I was flabbergasted. The boy was expected to go into the family business. But Clopas said he and Jose could manage on their own, and as James was so young I’d better go to keep an eye on him. I want to know more of this Jesus he said. Once a young man leaves home there is no holding him but you will return with amazing stories…how can I return with this story?

Salome: By remembering how life-changing Jesus was. Amazing is the word for Jesus. Never forget the wonders we have seen and how Jesus affects people. You know what a stormy fellow my Zebedee is, always ranting and raving, yet he treated Jesus quite differently. Even as a child there was something about Jesus that calmed my Zeb. Remember, dear sister that time Jesus got lost. It was the time we took the boys to Jerusalem for the Passover. Zebedee fair blew his top at James and John for not telling us where their cousin was. The boys should have said he wasn’t with them, but boys will be boys. I feared Zebedee would really get stuck into Jesus, but no, he was too interested in what the child had been up to. My Zeb recognized Jesus was a child of superior ability. He always was an ambitious man. Had such ambitions for his own sons. I guess it rubbed off on me. They were cousins but how I regret asking Jesus to give ours sons a place of privilege. I just didn’t understand. I was so wrong!

Mary N: Hush, Salome, you have always been the outspoken one but you are a dear sister, a good wife and a fine mother. Jesus loves his Aunty Salome, even though he has refused to call you aunt for years. It’s just his way. He is sharp at times but his love runs deep. You know how he cares for me and my girls, yet he refused to acknowledge us when we asked to see him. Who are my mother, sisters and brothers he asked? I was so hurt, but later I understood. It was his way of saying we are not to be identified by whom we are related to. Everyone is a person in their own right. Each of us has value in the sight of God. We here are all strong individuals. The men were unable to face the full horror of the past two days but we have been given the strength to cope. We are a community, a sisterhood of strong women. We will remember his words. We will cherish them in our hearts. He will live on in our actions. I won’t have the life of my precious child wasted.
And now we must sleep for who knows what awaits us in the morning.

Mary M: I would so like to hold him again.


A Tomb and Womb Meditation

once there was
an embryonic time when the
Christian faith was an unborn reality
and ordinary people lived hard lives
in trimesters of quiet desperation
but the seed of hope matured &
some men followed hope’s call
& some women nurtured hope
The birth pains of Christianity
were worse than anything
imagined by any hopeful
Yet the women did
what women do
Supported the
one in labour
of outcome

Bible References for Women at the cross and tomb

Mt 27:55-56 There were also many women there, looking on from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him; among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zeb’edee. (Salome)

Mt 28:1 Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre.

Mk 15:40 There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.

Mk 15:47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

Mk 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.

Lk 8:3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

Lk 24:10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles;

Jn 19:25 So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister (Salome), Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Jn 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb

‘Easter Women’ characters

Joanna wife of Chuza Joanna
Salome wife of Zebedee Salome
Mary of Nazareth Mary N.
Mary Magdalene/Mary of Bethany Mary M.
The Other Mary Other M.

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