It is Finished

???????????Scripture Text:  John 19: 14-30

Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew* is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.  Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth,* the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew,* in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.”’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,  ‘They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.’  And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.  After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

It is finished–all the announcing, all the birthing, that star over the manger, the shepherds, the wisemen, the ministry around the lake, the welcoming, the pushing, the encouraging, the healing, the teaching, the last meal–it is finished.  What would we do for just one more moment, one more moment to kneel at the feet of the Savior and worship and love and learn and bask in a Presence that we can’t even explain?  What would we change about how we had done it, how much we paid attention, how much we were aware?  What would we tell Jesus that we did not? What would we do rather than betray him, betray his trust, his love, his faith in who we are and what we can do?

This is the most difficult for us Protestant Christians, those of us who have chosen to spend the whole of our church year bowing before the “empty Cross”, the depiction of Christ’s Resurrection and the promise of our own salvation.  And while I’m not willing to trade the large gleaming empty cross at the front of the sanctuary and permanently replace it with a Crucifix, I think that we do miss part of what the Cross means if we choose to never enter the pain and the suffering that is Christ’s.  In fact, Howard asks, “Where, suddenly, is the theology that teaches that because the Savior did it all, we thereby are reduced to the status of inert bystanders?”  Because, truthfully, when the chips were done, the people stood by.  WE stood by.  We stand by and we let Christ suffer, wait for Christ to finish up this whole messy ordeal, hand us a lily and a pretty bonnet, and invite us to joyfully sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and go on about our business.

The season of Lent, though, is about entering the experience of the Cross—the whole experience.  Because how can one understand the joy of Resurrection without experiencing the pain and suffering and even the death of Crucifixion?  The two cannot be separated.  We are called to enter and bear all that is Christ—the pain, the suffering, the death, and, just when we think “it is finished”, the joy of rising to eternal life, to an eternity of oneness with God.  If we are to truly understand what that means, we must, then, embrace the entirety of the message of the Cross.  And so, perhaps, if only for awhile (maybe 40 days or so!), we should spend this Season of Lent truly looking at the “pre-Easter” experience of the Cross.  You will be amazed what that Easter morning Cross, gleaming in the sunlight of a newly created day, looks like if you understand how God created it, if you have experienced all that is God.

So, in this moment, in this moment when it is all finished, the moment that, for now, our journey ends, what do we do?  What is next?  You know, this thing would have been a whole lot easier to piece together and market if Jesus had died a hero.  But Jesus did not come as a hero; Jesus came as a servant, a humble human servant, to show us what life means.  So, were you there?  Sometime I wonder if I was.  Sometimes I’m too busy or too tired or too convinced that I already have it figured out.  Sometimes I forget to be there.  I have taken this whole journey wanting so badly to be near Jesus, wanting so badly to be connected, to be one.  But sometimes I forget to be there.  Sometimes I want to jump ahead and set up for the Easter celebration.  But today, in this moment, we are called to be there, to stand, perhaps alone, and be with Jesus on the Cross, to be there when it is finished.  Hard as it may be, we have to live the end, to live the “it is finished” before we can live the beginning.  So sit here at the Cross, in this moment, this finished moment.

After the Crucifixion, this defeated little band of disciples had no hope. As you can imagine, they had no expectation of anything else to come. Everything in which they believed, in which they had invested their lives, had died on the cross. It seemed to them that the world had been right and they had been wrong. Joan Chittister says that “the road behind us becomes what frees us for the road ahead.” In this moment, God was already freeing them from grief and recreating joy.  And us…there is something in all of us that struggles with the thought of God suffering. We instead imagine a God that stands apart from us, shielded from pain, and prepared to pick up the pieces of our lives when we need it. But God, in God’s infinite wisdom rather recreates our lives from the inside, from the point of our deepest pain and suffering, from the cross, and even we become new Creations whether or not we can see it now. The cross is the rebirth of humanity in all its fullness. In this moment, it is death that dies.  Truthfully, it is DEATH that is finished.  It is hard for us to see right now. It is hard to see clearly through the tears of grief. Christ died on a cross in immense suffering and pain. And those who love him grieve a grief such that they have never known.  And just when nothing else makes sense, it is in that moment that your eternity has begun.   There is Light ahead but for now, just for a moment, we sit here at the Cross.  It is finished.  It is in this moment that we finally just let it be.

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning. (Louis L’Amour)

This is the moment.  This is the moment that you begin.  Jesus did not die a hero to emulate; he died to give us Life.  No longer a bystander, we are called to enter that Life.  What does that mean?  Go forward…you can’t see it just yet but your eternity has begun!

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

With My Mind Stayin’ on Jesus

 

Kneeling at the CrossScripture Text: Mark 8: 31-38

31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”  34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

So many of us are like Peter. We want to “fix” things, to make sure that everything and everyone is safe and alright. We want things to be OK. We want to get this wilderness place cleaned up and ready for show. But that was never part of the promise. I think Peter actually DID understand that Jesus was the Messiah. He just didn’t fully grasp what that meant. For him, the Messiah was here to fix things, to make it all turn out like it was supposed to turn out. And now Jesus was telling them that the way they had thought it would all turn out was not to be, that instead this Messiah, this one who was supposed to make everything right, was to be rejected and would endure great suffering.  “No, this can’t be!” yelled Peter.  This cannot happen.  We have things to accomplish.  We are not done.  This ministry is important. It cannot go away.  You have to fix this. You have to fix this now! We are not ready to do it alone. We are not ready to be without you. 

Now, contrary to the way our version of the Scriptures interprets it, I don’t think Jesus was accusing Peter of being evil or Satan or anything like that.  More than likely, this was Jesus’ way of reprimanding Peter for getting hung up on the values of this world, getting hung up on our very human desire to save ourselves and the way we envision our lives to be, to fix things.  But what God had in store was something more than playing it safe.  I think that Peter, like us, intellectually knew that.  We know that God is bigger and more incredible than anything that we can imagine.  And yet, that’s hard to take.  We still sort of want God to fix things, to make things comfortable, or at least palatable.  We still sort of want God to lead us to victory, to lead us to being the winning team.  Face it, we sort of still want Super Jesus in the story.  And, of course, Peter loved Jesus.  He didn’t even want to think about the possibility of Jesus, his friend, his mentor, his confidante, suffering, of Jesus dying.

You know, there is a danger in our thinking that God is here to make life easier for us, to keep us safe and warm and free from harm. After all, there’s that whole Cross thing that gets in the way. If we think that God came into this world, Emmanuel, God-with-us to make life better or easier or grander for us, then what do we do with a crucified Savior? What do we do with the cross?  Well, let’s be honest, most of us clean it up, put it in the front of the sanctuary, and, sadly, go on with the security of our lives.  So, what does it mean to “take up your cross and follow”? What does it MEAN to follow God not just to the altar where that gleaming, cleaned-up cross sits, but to follow Christ to the hills of Golgotha, to walk with Jesus all the way to the Cross?  I think it means that sometimes faith is hard; sometimes faith is risky; in fact, sometimes faith is downright dangerous. And, to be honest, faith rarely makes sense in the context of the world in which we live. After all “denying ourselves”, “losing our life to save it”, and “letting go to gain” make absolutely no sense to us. They don’t make sense because we are setting our minds on the human rather than the Divine.

There’s a old Gospel song with these lyrics:  (Hear it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xit39G0lIk4)

Well, woke up this mo’nin with my mind, stayin’ on Jesus

Woke up this mo’nin with my mind, stayin’ on Jesus

Well, woke up this mo’nin with my mind, stayin’ on Jesus

Halleluh, halleleluh, halleleluh

 

In all probability, none of us will be physically crucified for our faith.  But it doesn’t mean that we should clean it up and put it out for display either.  Sometimes our journey will take us through waters that are a little too deep and torrential; sometimes we will find ourselves bogged down by mud; and sometimes faith takes us to the edge of a cliff where we are forced to precariously balance ourselves until we find the way down.  The promise was not that it would be safe; the promise was that there was something more than we could ever imagine and that we would never journey through the wilderness alone. The promise was that a Savior would come, not to save us from the world or to save us from evil, but to save us from ourselves.

On this Lenten journey, this journey that takes us through the wilderness all the way to that place beyond the wilderness, to the Cross, we are called to follow Christ. We are called to begin to wake up in the morning with our minds “stayin’ on Jesus”. It will not lead you to safety; it will lead you to Life.

He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside…He speaks to us the same word:  ‘Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time…And to those who obey, whether they be wise or simple, [God] will reveal {Godself] in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in this fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who [God] is.  (Albert Schweitzer)

FOR TODAY:  Put your plans aside.  Let go of the images of God that you have conjured up.  Let go of the notion of a Savior who will fix things.  Close your eyes.  Then wake up…wake up with minds stayin’ on Jesus…all the way through the wilderness of Golgotha to Life.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

It is Finished

???????????Scripture Text:  John 19: 14-30

Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew* is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them.  Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth,* the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew,* in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.”’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,  ‘They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.’  And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.  After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

It is finished–all the announcing, all the birthing, that star over the manger, the shepherds, the wisemen, the ministry around the lake, the welcoming, the pushing, the encouraging, the healing, the teaching, the last meal–it is finished.  What would we do for just one more moment, one more moment to kneel at the feet of the Savior and worship and love and learn and bask in a Presence that we can’t even explain?  What would we change about how we had done it, how much we paid attention, how much we were aware?  What would we tell Jesus that we did not? What would we do rather than betray him, betray his trust, his love, his faith in who we are and what we can do?

This is the most difficult for us Protestant Christians, those of us who have chosen to spend the whole of our church year bowing before the “empty Cross”, the depiction of Christ’s Resurrection and the promise of our own salvation.  And while I’m not willing to trade the large gleaming empty cross at the front of my own sanctuary and permanently replace it with a Crucifix, I think that we do miss part of what the Cross means if we choose to never enter the pain and the suffering that is Christ’s.  In fact, Howard asks, “Where, suddenly, is the theology that teaches that because the Savior did it all, we thereby are reduced to the status of inert bystanders?”  Because, truthfully, when the chips were done, the people stood by.  WE stood by.  We stand by and we let Christ suffer, wait for Christ to finish up this whole messy ordeal, hand us a lily and a pretty bonnet, and invite us to joyfully sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and go on about our business.

The season of Lent, though, is about entering the experience of the Cross—the whole experience.  Because how can one understand the joy of Resurrection without experiencing the pain and suffering and even the death of Crucifixion?  The two cannot be separated.  We are called to enter and bear all that is Christ—the pain, the suffering, the death, and, just when we think “it is finished”, the joy of rising to eternal life, to an eternity of oneness with God.  If we are to truly understand what that means, we must, then, embrace the entirety of the message of the Cross.  And so, perhaps, if only for awhile (maybe 40 days or so!), we should spend this Season of Lent truly looking at the “pre-Easter” experience of the Cross.  You will be amazed what that Easter morning Cross, gleaming in the sunlight of a newly created day, looks like if you understand how God created it, if you have experienced all that is God.

So, in this moment, in this moment when it is all finished, the moment that, for now, our journey ends, what do we do?  What is next?  You know, this thing would have been a whole lot easier to piece together and market if Jesus had died a hero.  But Jesus did not come as a hero; Jesus came as a servant, a humble human servant, to show us what life means.  So, were you there?  Sometime I wonder if I was.  Sometimes I’m too busy or too tired or too convinced that I already have it figured out.  Sometimes I forget to be there.  I have taken this whole journey wanting so badly to be near Jesus, wanting so badly to be connected, to be one.  But sometimes I forget to be there.  Sometimes I want to jump ahead and set up for the Easter celebration.  But today, in this moment, we are called to be there, to stand, perhaps alone, and be with Jesus on the Cross, to be there when it is finished.  Hard as it may be, we have to live the end, to live the “it is finished” before we can live the beginning.  So sit here at the Cross, in this moment, this finished moment.

After the Crucifixion, this defeated little band of disciples had no hope. As you can imagine, they had no expectation of anything else to come. Everything in which they believed, in which they had invested their lives, had died on the cross. It seemed to them that the world had been right and they had been wrong. Joan Chittister says that “the road behind us becomes what frees us for the road ahead.” In this moment, God was already freeing them from grief and recreating joy.  And us…there is something in all of us that struggles with the thought of God suffering. We instead imagine a God that stands apart from us, shielded from pain, and prepared to pick up the pieces of our lives when we need it. But God, in God’s infinite wisdom rather recreates our lives from the inside, from the point of our deepest pain and suffering, from the cross, and even we become new Creations whether or not we can see it now. The cross is the rebirth of humanity in all its fullness. In this moment, it is death that dies.  Truthfully, it is DEATH that is finished.  It is hard for us to see right now. It is hard to see clearly through the tears of grief. Christ died on a cross in immense suffering and pain. And those who love him grieve a grief such that they have never known.  And just when nothing else makes sense, it is in that moment that your eternity has begun.   There is Light ahead but for now, just for a moment, we sit here at the Cross.  It is finished.

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning. (Louis L’Amour)

This is the moment.  This is the moment that you begin.  Jesus did not die a hero to emulate; he died to give us Life.  No longer a bystander, we are called to enter that Life.  What does that mean?  Go forward…you can’t see it just yet but your eternity has begun!

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

On the Steps of Death

???????????Lectionary Passage for Today:

To read the Passion account assigned for today’s Lectionary Reading, go to John 18:1-19:42

How did we get here?  How did we so quickly move from the teachings on the hillside in Galilee to this?  I guess we kept thinking that he could make it better.  After all, he always made so much sense, always drawing us out of ourselves, out of the life that we thought we were supposed to have.  What could we have done differently?  It was right there, right in our hands.  Life was right there.  Why didn’t we pay more attention?  Why didn’t we dispense with silly arguing over who was greatest?  And what do we do now?  We can’t go back.  Everything has changed.  We have changed.  We are different.

The last three stations are the hardest.  The twelfth station depicts Jesus’ death on the cross.  “It is finished.” As Jesus breathed his last, the temple curtain tore in two, revealing a new world in which holiness was no longer separate and hidden from view.  Trembling and shaking in the darkness, the earth opened to reveal a glimpse of a future yet to be.  And through our grief and tears, God entered the heartbreak and brokenness of the world and in that moment began recreating it.  In this moment, God’s future enters our present.  And in the most unfathomable act of love, the cross becomes God’s highest act of Creation.  Because with it, we and all of Creation are made new.  That which is finished is the beginning of life.  In this moment, our own eternity is conceived.    

Station 13 of this Via Dolorosa has Jesus being taken down from the cross and his body given to his mother.  There is no documentation of this in canonical Scripture.  Perhaps it was skipped.  It is a hard thing, after all because, after all, it is indeed over.  There is a sickening finality to it all.  Why did it have to end like this?  Why did it have to end at all?  We were just beginning to understand.  We were just beginning to get what we were supposed to be doing.  And now it is over.  And then there’s this darkness.  It’s never been this dark at this time of day.  It adds to the pall of our souls.  We have to go back now.  But to what?  After all, deep down we know that he changed us.  How can we live now in the world?  How can we go back?  And yet, in this moment of our deepest despair, we remember that we have found love.  Life will be different because we have found love.

Station 14 is the burial of Jesus in the Garden Tomb.  Joseph of Arimathea, a “secret disciple”, we are told, provided a tomb that no one had ever used.  It was appropriate, this virgin tomb, a fitting ending as someone finally made room.  How can we leave?  We have walked away from graves before and left the remains of a life behind us.  But this…this is different.  And so we strip our altars and we strip our lives and we try to make room for you.  And then we wait.  We wait for you to come.  We wait for you to rise.  We keep vigil and we enter into deep prayer,
knowing the day will come.  And we wait.  We wait for our eternity to be born.  We waited for your coming once before, for your birth.  But this is
different.  Now we wait for our own.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In what seemed no time at all, Bethlehem has become Golgotha, swaddling clothes have become burial cloths, and the manger?  The manger has become a cross.  God did not send Jesus to die but to love.  And he did that to the end.  And somewhere along the way, we have changed.  We haven’t become who we are called to be yet but the road has turned and we know that Life is up ahead.

Where Are You Christmas? (Faith Hill, How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

The pilgrims sit on the steps of death.  Undanced, the music ends.  Only the children remember that tomorrow’s stars are not yet out.  (Ann Weems, “It is Finished”, from Kneeling in Jerusalem, 77)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Station XI: Regrets

crucifixion-22Scripture Passage: Mark 15: 22-32

22Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).23And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it.24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.  25It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.26The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”27And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left.29Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days,30save yourself, and come down from the cross!”31In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.32Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

The eleventh station of the Via Dolorosa is marked by a beautiful Latin shrine.  This is the place where tradition tells us that soldiers nailed Jesus’ hands and feet to the cross.  It is only 9:00 in the morning.  For us, the thought of arriving at this eleventh station seems much longer, days really.  But it is still only mid-morning.  The sounds are deafening.  The clanging rings out over the land and settles into our hearts–a nail of greed, a nail of selfishness, nails of betrayal and hatred and war, nails of hunger and poverty, nails of not accepting and loving each other, nails of being so sure of one’s beliefs, so sure of one’s understanding of who God is and what God desires, that we miss seeing what God is trying to show us.  It is finished.  In the Name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

It is here that our regrets sink in. It is here that we want to go back, we want a redo.  We would do it differently next time. We would not ask so many questions as to why he was doing what he was doing and to whom.  We would just watch and listen and learn from him how to love.  We would not fight and grapple with each other over who was in charge, over who was the most important, over who was his favorite.  Instead, we would bask in his spirit and his radiance and his love of equality for all.  And when asked if we knew who he was, we would not betray him.  Rather, we would step forward no matter the cost.  Because grace is not cheap.  But now we know how incredibly rich it really is.  Yes, we would stand up and be counted as one who follows him, who brings healing and love to the world, who doesn’t need credit or acclaim, and who is willing to lose one’s life to find it.  But there are no redos just now.

Regrets can be debilitating.  They can pull us into the past and keep us there.  It is not healthy.  Regrets can also be life-giving if we allow them to compel us to change, to perhaps turn a corner that we did not see before, to become something new, a New Creation, to become the one that God calls us to be.  And, yet, we still want the easy way out.  After all, we are empty cross people, Resurrection people!  And so maybe we walk away from this moment entirely too quickly.  After all, it makes us uncomfortable and God offers us life.  So too quickly we let it go, too quickly we move past our regrets without letting them change us.

The most difficult thing for us to face is that so little has changed.  We still try to be the one on top.  We still shut the door to those who are not like us.  We still close our doors so we don’t have to think about poverty or homelessness.  We still justify war.  We still will do anything it takes to defend the life that we have created.  We still betray.  We forget to love; we forget to bring healing; we forget to lose our life.  So, would we crucify Jesus today?  Would things go differently?  Only we can tell…

So on this Lenten journey, stop for a moment.  Look at the cross.  And let your regrets of what should have been done differently change your pathway.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?

Today’s Scripture Passage: Mark 15: 20-33
.
To read today’s portion of the account of the Passion, click on the below link:
http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=200598988

So they led him away and they hung him on the cross.  They chided him to save himself.  But Jesus was even too weak to carry his own cross.  They randomly pluck a man out of the crowd to help him carry it.  Now if we were doing the staging of this, we probably would have written in one of the disciples to do this, one of those who had traveled with Jesus these past years and received so much love and so much of life from Jesus.  It would have made more sense for one of those whom Jesus had stooped down below last night to wash his feet in a poetic depiction of incredible mutuality.  But that’s not what happened.  As it becomes more and more difficult for Jesus to carry his cross, it is a stranger who stoops to serve Jesus.  We really know very little about Simon—is he black, brown, white, olive-skinned?  Does it matter?  He was from Libya—a foreigner to the city of Jerusalem.  Anonymously plucked out of the crowd to help a bleeding dying man, he stooped and hoisted the cross that Jesus was carrying to his own shoulder.  Even at this late hour, God has orchestrated a Divine reversal in what the world expected.  Isn’t that just like God?  But, you have to wonder, where were the disciples?  Where were you?

The account says that they brought Jesus to Golgotha.  The name derives from the Aramaic golgolta, meaning “skull” or “place of the skull”.  Early tradition assumed that this was a site west of the city.  And when the Lukan Scripture was translated into Latin, it became known as “Calvary.”  But somewhere in history, the site was lost.  Perhaps it wasn’t even a specific site at all but a sort of general area away from the bustle of the city where these crucifixions would occur.  In 330, the Emperor Constantine tore down a Roman temple to Aphrodite and built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which tradition now recognizes as the last stations of Jesus’ journey to the cross, the site of the Crucifixion, and the site of the burial.  The present structure, built by the Crusaders, still houses the Constantine structure and the tradition.  Maybe it’s best that it’s like that.  Maybe it’s best that the actual site of Jesus’ final moments is not really known and even that Jesus’ final resting place is more of a tradition than a known place.  After all, would you have been there anyway? Maybe the anonymity is the whole point, sort of a depiction of our faith journey as we wander with no real knowledge of where it is we’re going–only that God is calling us there.

So, accompanied by an anonymous person to an anonymous place, Jesus is crucified.  The one who not so long ago had been surrounded by friends and followers, who a short time ago had preached to thousands on a hillside near the Galilean lake, and who only days ago had been showered with palm-branches in acclaim for who he was, was totally alone.  The one who had come into the world to save the world was now going to die in a shroud of anonymity.  It’s pointless to ask the question as to whether or not you were there.  You weren’t.  I wasn’t.  No one was. 

The life that began in the humble anonymity of a rough-hewn manger was ending the same way on a rough-hewn cross.  Maybe that was the whole point.  We bring nothing into this world and we take nothing out.  We are here for but a short time that, by the very Grace of God, is hopefully so filled with life and love that when our life here has ended, love still remains.  We do not know exactly where Jesus was born and we can’t pinpoint the location where he died.  What we do know is that while Jesus hung on the cross waiting those agonizing hours to die, God had plunged down to the very depths of humanity, to the places of loneliness and despair, to the places of abandonment and darkness, to the places where we are sometimes afraid to go.  And there, God began to say Creation into being once again.  The cross is God’s highest act of Creation yet. And when it was all said and done, it was Love that remained.

H.J. Iwand said that “our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose it must be at an end.  Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation, and doubt about everything that exists!  Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality; it must be born of nothingness, it must taste this nothingness, it must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way that no philosophy of nihilism can imagine.”  So, in all probability, the explanation of the Cross is that there is no explanation.  At humanity’s lowest point, whether or not we bother to show up at all, it is only God who can save us.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Where you there whey they crucified my Lord?

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon…

Grace and Peace,

Shelli