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Jesus' path from pain to triumph: a guided meditation

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You are invited to ponder the events of Jesus' final hours on earth through the contemplative spiritual discipline of guided meditation. The Rev. Cindy Serio, a retired United Methodist pastor and current spiritual director, leads us through the narrative as we stay attentive to God's invitation to us. 

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Get Your Spirit in Shape features conversations to help us keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. Logo by Sara Schork, United Methodist Communications.

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This episode posted on April 14, 2022.

Transcript

Prologue

Crystal Caviness, host: Welcome to this special Good Friday edition of “Get Your Spirit in Shape.” As we contemplate the events of the hours preceding Christ’s crucifixion, we invite you join us for a guided meditation led by the Rev. Cindy Serio, and enter into a quiet contemplative time as we ponder the sacred events unfolding around Jesus before his death.

Crystal: Cindy, thank you for being with us today for this special Good Friday episode of Get Your Spirit in Shape.

Cindy: It’s great to be here, Crystal. Thanks for asking me.

Crystal:   Well, we’re going to do something that’s a different format from our usual Get Your Spirit in Shape. I’m really excited that you’re going to be a part of this episode. Before we go into that, though, can you tell us a little bit about you?

Cindy: I am an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, newly retired at the first of the year. I was appointed beyond the local church for 12 years to develop a ministry of spiritual formation, which I call “Mosaic.” And I continue to minister through that ministry. And also, a couple of years ago I started a nonprofit for spiritual directors because that’s one of the things I do. I’m a spiritual director and a retreat leader. So I have a lovely little community...contemplative community that I’m a part of.

Crystal: And that’s why you’re just the perfect person to have with us today. And we will have links to those organizations and that website on our page so that our listeners can go and learn more about this really exciting ministry. And congratulations, by the way, on your recent retirement.

Cindy: Thank you.

Crystal:  So, let’s talk about Good Friday. This is one of the days in the whole church calendar. And really in Holy Week when United Methodists may attend a church service, may observe this day in some way. Can we talk about that, how observing Good Friday, the tone of the day, what worship on that day might look like?

Cindy: Well, I’ll have to tell you that Good Friday is one of my favorite services because it is so deeply reflective. Jesus has come to this point where he has told his disciples what’s gonna happen, but they don’t understand. And to enter into that, I don’t understand what’s happening, especially on Good Friday. Jesus has been betrayed by one of his closest friends. What happens on that day? And entering into that I think is a more emotional experience than most other days. We can’t help but feel what is happening, especially when we realize that the sacrificial love that Jesus showed on the cross really draws us into how deeply God loves us.

Crystal:   Absolutely. And we are going to enter this space, this time of reflection. You’re going to help us do that with our listeners in just a few minutes. Cindy, I read that you said about yourself that it’s through contemplative spiritual practices that you seek God to a depth that you cannot in any other way. Can you explain that a little more?

Cindy: Well, for me, and I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me it’s that deep silence, that place where I come to understand and know that God is bigger than any of the constructs that we have for God. I will never understand all of who God is. But in those spaces, for me, there’s a closeness in the silence, in those contemplative spiritual practices bring you into the silence and the presence and the depth of God. So for me that’s where I experience God most profoundly.

Crystal:  That silence, that can be a difficult place to be, to stay where you can hear God. Do you have any tips or any things that work for you to help yourself kind of get in that place so that you feel like you’re more receptive, perhaps?

Cindy: One of the first, I think, obstacles that we have when it comes to silence is that silence has been used to punish us in so many ways. And people have had their voices silenced. And so oftentimes when people first come to that it’s very uncomfortable. And so just to acknowledge those places where we have been silenced. And I would also say that sometimes we need to think of it as being quiet and still. Be still and know that I am God. So if I think of it as being still sometimes that can open that up for me. And the main thing is that when we feel like we’re being silenced from the outer, that’s very difficult. When we embrace silence as a part of God, then sometimes that’s helpful.

Crystal:  See? I never even considered that, and it is true. And I appreciate you bringing that up because we do all bring our experiences to our faith, to how we experience faith. And what might work for one person may not work for someone else. So thank you for talking about that. And I love how you reframed it. You know, being still is definitely different than being quieted, I guess is another way to say that.

Cindy: One of the other things that is very helpful is to know that I consent to being silent. That does not mean that my mind is going to be silent. Just because I say I’m going to sit here in silence, that doesn’t mean that the grocery list is not going to come to me, or the thing that I forgot. The important thing is that we just let those things drift by, and we don’t hang onto them. So, oh, yeah. I do have a shopping list, but let me come back to the silence. In other words, we don’t fight it. Some days there’s just going to be thoughts that will be there and will fill that space. And we just welcome them and notice them and let them be there. And it’s okay.

Crystal: Maybe it’s like letting them pass by on a stream instead of trying to fish them out and throw them out, because I hear you say that and I think about my own experiences in sitting still and how these thoughts are always there. And I’m kinda just get them away. And I can see how just letting them pass on is a better plan for me to empty in that space in a better way. So let’s talk about guided meditation, which is what we’re gonna do today. Why is guided meditation a good way to observe Good Friday?

Cindy: Especially, I think, on Good Friday the imagery is so powerful, the best way for me to experience Good Friday is the narrative, the story. It’s all there. The imagery just brings you in. It’s really hard to step outside and just watch without feeling something about what’s happening. And so with guided meditation we’re entering into the narrative. I’m a part of it. I’m experiencing what is there. And for me that connection to what’s going on inside of me in response to what I’m hearing and seeing unfold on that Good Friday narrative, I think for me is what makes it a good practice. I also would say that people experience guided meditations differently. And you can enter the narrative with any part of your body. Whether it’s just your mind or whether your entire body comes into it. It’s very, I think, accessible when we consider it as entering the narrative.

Crystal: Before we go to the guided meditation, is there anything that we need to know before we get started there?

Cindy: Sure. I think just experience what you experience, number one. Don’t try to do anything in particular other than just allow yourself to enter into the meditation however is comfortable for you. If you’re driving in the car you can listen to the narrative and allow it to unfold and just ask yourself, what’s the invitation of God in this narrative for me? Is there maybe a part of the narrative that is calling my attention? Now if you’re in a space where you can close your eyes, some people will actually see that narrative unfold just like they were watching a TV show. That’s a gift. Some people will just sense what’s happening. For me the most important thing is to allow yourself to be guided by the Spirit. I’m gonna lead you into this narrative. If the Spirit takes you in a different direction, you can hear what’s going on in the background, but you can allow the Spirit to take you where you need to be.

Crystal:  Cindy, that you for sharing your gifts with us. I know it’s going to be a really special time. Thank you so much.

Cindy: Thank you, Crystal. Lovely to be here with you.

[Music]

On Good Friday, a day of betrayal and suffering and pain and grief and confusion, this day of sacrificial love, we journey with Jesus, the one who chose to walk down the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering, out of love for you and me. How do we capture that journey, those moments? And why should we? Easter will come on Sunday. It’s true. Easter will come on Sunday. But how much more colorful the sunrise, how much livelier the music and how much more deeply we understand God’s love for us when we’ve journeyed with Jesus into this darkness on Good Friday. Let us gather today in spirit on the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering, to journey to the foot of the cross. On this day we will enter the narrative through a prayer of the imagination and guided meditation based upon material in the Gospel of John, woven together with a few bits and pieces from other readings.

Let go of any expectations about what you’ll experience. You can close your eyes as the story unfolds. Leave at any time you feel too distressed at what you’re seeing in your mind’s eye. Open your eyes and you will be in the present moment.

If you’re driving and you’re just not comfortable moving into a meditative space, that’s okay. There really isn’t anything you have to do except to stay awake and listen, just as Jesus asked the disciples to do while he was praying in the garden.

Let’s begin our journey with a deep breath, as we allow our imagination to paint a picture of the garden. Close your eyes now if that’s helpful. What plants do you see? Are there trees? Flowers? Shrubs? Are they green and lush or are they more barren? What smells inhabit that garden? What sounds do you hear? Are those the murmured prayers of Jesus? Can you see him and the disciples?

Suddenly you sense some movement. Jesus and the disciples are interrupted by Judas and the soldiers. Judas walks up to Jesus, and with a kiss brazenly betrays him. You might reach up and gently touch your cheek. Can you feel that kiss of betrayal?

What are you feeling as you watch the soldiers take Jesus away. You know not where. What do you think Judas was feeling and thinking having been the catalyst for this disturbing turn of events—events that take Jesus down the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering.

Peter follows at some distance behind Jesus as he’s led away by the soldiers, and so do you, trying to find out what is happening. Peter goes to stand by a fire to warm his hands and suddenly he is confronted. “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” asked a woman. “I am not.” “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” asked a man. “I am not.” “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” asked a servant. “No. No. No!” And a rooster crows in the distance. Once, twice, three times the rooster crows. With his denials Peter has also betrayed Jesus. Tears stream down Peter’s face. And you watch as he leaves.

Where are you? Are you still here waiting for Jesus? As you wait, see if you can settle more deeply into your body with your breathing. Not truly knowing what Jesus has been through, allow yourself to feel what you feel, to think what you think.

Look now with the eyes of your heart as Jesus emerges with a crown of thorns on his head, wearing a purple robe—a robe of loyalty for the King of the Jews. Look at the bruises on his face and his body. See the blood dripping from the thorns.

Pilate shouts, “Here is the man.” Suddenly you hear people shouting, “Crucify him. Crucify him.” And you look around at all the people shouting with unbridled anger. Pilate takes Jesus away again.

Breathe deeply as time passes. The story continues beyond your sight, behind closed doors as you linger in the crowd. What is happening to your beloved friend? When Pilate brings Jesus back he says, “Here is your king.” And the people cry out even louder, “Away with him. Crucify him.” Pilate seems conflicted. “Shall I crucify your king?” From the shadows one of the chief priests steps out and speaks with authority. “We have no king but the emperor.” Pilate seems to have no choice as Jesus is handed over to be crucified.

Jesus is given a dark, heavy, wooden cross to carry to his own execution. He falls in agony. Watch as he struggles to get up, walks a few steps and falls again in the dirt. He cries out when his knee hits a stone. It seems like forever. Again and again Jesus falls until finally he reaches Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. Four soldiers step forward to nail Jesus to the cross. First his wrists. [Hammering.]He cries out in agony. Then his feet. [Hammering.] One soldier rips off his clothes to leave him naked on the cross. You turn away as they argue and cast lots for his colorful striped tunic.

Darkness begins to fall upon the land. Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You hear weeping and turn to see his mother Mary leaning heavily upon John the beloved disciple.

What’s that? Jesus speaks again. It’s almost a whisper. “I am thirsty.” Again he whispers his last words. You can barely hear them. “It is finished.” Jesus bows his head. He goes completely limp as he gives up his spirit.

Notice how you feel in your own body. Take time to breathe into any distress you may feel. And continue breathing as you follow my voice back to the safety of your own space and time. When you’re ready, open your eyes and ground yourself in what you see and feel and think right here, right now.

Remember that down the Via Dolorosa Jesus chose to walk the way of suffering out of love for you and me.

[Music]