Little Liturgy for Lent (7 of 7): Take Up Your Cross

Attention Seekers is a project that is about practicing presence in the world – of being alert and attentive to the mystery of existence all around us. 

The Season of Lent offers a unique opportunity in the church calendar to practice this sort of intentional attentiveness. And so, instead of posting a series of Lenten reflections as we did last year, we are offering these “Little Liturgies” to aid our fellow attention seekers out there!

The prayers and reflections that follow are pilfered from a variety of sources online and in print (sources acknowledged below).

We follow a version of this liturgy in community each week at Newtownbreda (St. John’s) Presbyterian Church. Join us any Wednesday from 1.00 – 1.20 pm, if you are free.


(Adapted from Spacious Faith)

In this holy week, on this holy Wednesday,
We come to be present with Jesus in his suffering.
With the glory of Palm Sunday behind us and the victory of Easter not yet come,
We gather with our breaking, our broken hearts.
In this world that is at once beautiful and holy and tragic,
We seek to be present with all who suffer.
When sorrow threatens to overwhelm,
We long for a brave and sacred space–
A space where we can listen and sing and pray,
A space to sit with our grief and our questions.
Let us be that space for each other today
As we remember the story together.


(Borrowed from Faith and Worship)

Loving God,
How often when weary 
do we sigh ‘The spirit is willing, 
but the body is weak.’
How often when in prayer 
are thoughts distracted by
sounds or circumstance, 
or prayers diverted 
by trivial concerns.
Baggage carried with us 
rather than left at your feet.
How often do we find ourselves 
apologising to you, 
for our abbreviated prayer life. 
And yet you draw us still 
to be in your presence, 
as you did the disciples at Gethsemene. 
You want us to share in your life, 
to play our part.
You told your disciples to watch and pray, 
so that they might not fall into temptation.
Do you ask the same of us 
and do we also fail you 
each time we whisper 
‘The spirit is willing, 
but the body is weak’?
Grant us the strength, Lord,
of body and of spirit, 
to offer you the sacrifice 
of our lives.

READING: Matthew 16:21-26

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

REFLECTION: Taking Up Your Cross

Extract from Walking Home by Margaret Guenther 

The walk [to the cross] ends at Golgotha, the place of the skull, on a hill in the blazing midday sun. But for Jesus’ followers, it is just a beginning. Even as they hide from the authorities, his disciples are probably remembering his words: ‘If you want to be my friends, take up your cross and walk with me.’ Luke’s Gospel adds another significant little word: ‘Take up your cross daily and follow me’ (Luke 9:23). Again and again. You might be able to put it down overnight, but pick it up again in the morning.

It took me quite a while – years actually – to realise that Jesus is not inviting me to be crucified. I am just volunteering to pick up my cross and carry it. Maybe not with grace or even steadiness, moving ahead under its weight. And it’s my cross, not the cross Jesus was compelled to bear, and it may not weigh three hundred pounds. I suspect that in your lifetime, we each have a whole assortment of crosses, all distinctly ours. Some are so heavy that we will stagger and fall beneath their weight. Some cut cruelly into our shoulders. Some might be real works of art, skillfully carved from beautiful grinded hard wood – the maple cross, the cherry cross, the oaken cross, the everyday cross. Some are so light that they are almost a joke, plywood or plastic, impressive to look at but not to be taken seriously.

To take up my cross, let alone daily, sounds generous and heroic, especially if it is one of those days when I would rather not. ‘No time today, but I’ll pick it up on Friday… It’s Sunday, so I can have a day off?… I’ve got the flu and I’ve got to write a sermon – can’t I put it off until I feel better?’

But Jesus’ command is inexorable: if you want to walk with me, there are no excuses. No days off. You’re obsessed with riding your stationary bike every day and taking all your vitamins and checking your email and flossing your teeth. Well, this is your real obligation. It won’t kill you. You might get tired or bored or scared or fed up, but this is the condition of your walk with me. It doesn’t happen any other way. Put on your sandals or your sneakers or your hefty boots. Pick up that cross and let’s get going.


Loving Lord,
Walking along the way of the Cross,
Help us to learn what it means for us
to take up our cross
Whatever its size, its shape or its weight.
Support our steps as they stumble and fall
and raise us up by the power of your Spirit.


Father God, as we bring before you our prayers for others, we are moved by the thought of those present with Jesus at the cross. 

We think of the shouting crowd, for those people who hailed Christ as king when he entered Jerusalem on that Sunday, but only a few days later were shouting “Crucify him!” Lord, in this moment of silence, we bring before you those who find themselves caught up in the crowd today. We pray for all those who have their consciences dulled and their perspectives limited by lies, peer pressure or fear.


Lord, over the clammer of the shouting crowd, may your still small voice be heard.

At the cross Roman soldiers were present. They stood as those enforcing the power of Empire. At their hands Jesus was beaten and abused. They gambled for his clothes and mocked him with cruel jokes. And yet, the light of your truth broke through, as one soldier confessed that Jesus is the Son of God. In the silence we pray for all those caught up in war and conflict today.


Lord, against the horror and atrocity of war, let your peace reign

We think too of those who showed compassion to the Jesus when he was alone and in pain. Simon of Cyrene came and helped Jesus carry his cross and walked with him to calvary. Father, in the silence, we remember all those who respond to the pain of others with compassion and grace. We lift them before you and ask that you would strengthen and encourage them for this work today.


Lord, amidst suffering and despair, may your grace abound.

Lord God, it must have grieved Jesus deeply to see his mother weeping at the side of the cross. Today we remember the love of family – the joys that come from belonging to one another and the bitter pain when those bonds are broken. In the silence, we pray for our own families, and for any family dealing with difficulty at this time.


Lord, when families grieve, bond us together in your love.

Father, as we think of those who were there at the cross all those centuries ago, we give you thanks that you are with us now, and with all those suffering in our world. Help us to know the presence of your Spirit with us today. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


(A prayer-poem from Theology of Work Project)

Servant King,

You asked for my hands
That you might use them for your purpose.
I gave them for a moment then withdrew them
For the work was hard.

You asked for my mouth
To speak out against injustice.
I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.

You asked for my eyes
To see the pain of poverty
I closed them for I did not want to see.

You asked for my life
That you might work through me.
I gave a small part that I might not get too involved.

Lord, forgive my calculated efforts to serve you,
Only when it is convenient to do so,
Only in those placed where it is safe to do so,
And only with those who make it easy to do so.

Father, forgive me,
Renew me
Send me out
As a usable instrument
That I might take seriously
The meaning of your cross.


(Catholic Sensibility website)

Inspire our hearts, O God,
  to follow where Christ walked,
  for Christ has marked us as his own.
Let us all take new willingness
  to carry our cross
  and be led through sacrifice and suffering,
  but also to the glory and triumph
  of the Risen Life of the Savior.
Grant us all your good graces,
  through Christ our Lord