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,


Station X: Stripped Naked


"Station 10", Peter Adams, 2012
“Station 10”, Peter Adams, 2012

Scripture Passage:  John 19: 23-25a

23When 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. 24So 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.’ 25And that is what the soldiers did.

This tenth station of the Via Dolorosa recalls that the Roman soldiers stripped Jesus of his clothing and gambled for his robe near where Jesus was to be crucified.  Visitors can peer into a Latin chapel through a special window.  This station is disconcerting, to say the least.  Keep in mind that Jesus was Jewish and, as a Jew, had been taught that it was a disgrace to be seen naked.  This would have been the ultimate disgrace.  Jesus, stripped of his humanness and his very dignity, is being prepared for crucifixion.

Dignity is a strange thing.  We think of it as something that we humans can bestow or take away from each other at will.  And, yet, dignity by its very definition is described as innate.  It is a gift from God, a gift of our humanity, so removing it from another is essentially depriving them of something that has not only been given to them but is part of them.  So stripping Jesus of his garments was the way that his tormenters removed his dignity, the way that they made him something less than human, the way that they, in their minds, put him in some way beneath humanity, in some way less than themselves.

Sadly, there are ways that we continue to strip others of their dignity, ways that we over and over again strip humanity of the gifts that God has bestowed.  And it’s not limited to physical stripping, although we as a people are guilty of that over and over again as we allow that to happen to others.  Putting someone in a place of humiliation, a place where they can no longer be who they are called to be does the same thing.  Anytime that we become so convinced of our “rightness”, of our position of being above others, anytime that we misuse and abuse conceived power over others, anytime that we refuse to accept others because they are different than what we think they should be, we have again stripped the garments of Christ from our world.

And yet, Jesus was seemingly passive as the soldiers stripped away at his garments and bared his nakedness for all to see.  Maybe it was because he knew, he knew that he was being stripped of his humanness.  This is the turning point.  This is the way that one prepares oneself, by stripping away at the things that get in the way.  This is the final hour.  The cross is being prepared and Jesus along with it.

So on this Lenten journey, let us allow ourselves to be stripped of those things that get in the way, let us allow ourselves to be humbled that we might be open to receive the Divine into our lives.

Grace and Peace,


Station IX: On the Other Side

"Under the Baobab Tree:  African Stations of the Cross"
“Under the Baobab Tree: African Stations of the Cross”

Scripture Passage: Luke 10: 30-33

30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.

For us, we have the sense that this procession to the Cross was some sort of grand parade but, truthfully, this was something that happened regularly.  It really was just another crucifixion in the big scheme of society.  And most would have assumed that this poor criminal, already tried, convicted, and sentenced, already rejected by society, was just being dragged to a death that he must deserve.  And, besides, this was the eve of the Passover.  There was so much to be done–errands, food to be prepared, houses to clean.  So think of all the passersby, scurrying through their lives, many complaining about the traffic and the clogged roads that the procession was causing.  So, many would have just passed by on the other side, not wanting to touch or be touched by hopelessness and despair and death or maybe just not wanting or having the time to get involved.  And, then, again, Jesus falls.

Tradition tells us that Jesus collapsed for a third time not far from where he would be crucified.  A Roman column indicates the location of his third and final fall.  It has become part of a wall of a Coptic church.  During the Crusader period, there was a large monastery here, the remains of which are still visible today.  Standing there, you can see the roof of St. Helena’s Chapel, a part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where a community of Abyssinian monks live today.  This is the place where Jesus would fall for the last time.  This is the end of the road, so to speak.  The next station will be on the other side, preparing him for crucifixion.  This is the last place where those along the way could show mercy, the last place where they could help, where they could stoop down and gently help him to his feet.  But most would pass by on the other side.

This is uncomfortable for us.  After all, where would we have been in the procession?  I hate to admit it, but I’m not the most patient person in the world. I’m afraid that I would have been avoiding the traffic,trying to get everything done, trying to get everything in place by sunset.  We are so accustomed to living a life of faith needing Jesus.  We know we need Jesus.  We know that we are not complete without God.  We do not always live that way, often trying to fix things and change things and make it look like we don’t need anyone.  But we know we do.  We need Jesus.  But, here, here is the place where Jesus needs us.  How can that be?  How can the Savior of the World need me?  These three falls that are depicted in the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, uncomfortably show Jesus as vulnerable, as betrayed, and as needing us.  So where are you standing?

Jesus still needs us.  We are called to be there to feed the starving, to house the homeless, to clothe the poor.  We are called to be there to comfort the afflicted, to hold the grieving, to love the unloved.  We are called to be there to welcome the sinner and forgive the unforgiven.  We are called to open our church doors to all the children of God.  We are called to be Christ, to be Compassion, to be Love each and every time one of us falls.  So in this Lenten season, let us not relegate our faith to the other side of the road.  Let us walk the way that Jesus walked.

Grace and Peace,


Station VIII: Lament

"The Women:  Veronical Wipes Jesus' Face and Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem, St. Mary's Church, Barton-on-Humber, April 4, 2007
“The Women: Veronical Wipes Jesus’ Face and Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem, St. Mary’s Church, Barton-on-Humber, April 4, 2007

Scripture Passage: Luke 23: 27-31

27A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him.28But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.29For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’31For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

The eighth station on this holy walk is marked by a stone with a Latin cross on the wall of a Greek Orthodox church.  Near the cross, an inscription reads, “Christ the Victor.”  Tradition has designated this as the place where Jesus encounters the women of Jerusalem.  The women were convinced of his holiness.  I don’t think they understood it completely.  After all, who did?  (After all, who does?)  But they knew that he was something special.  After all, he had paid attention to them, these women, these ones who were given no place in society other than to birth babies.  He saw them as something more.  And they were grateful.  And today they grieved.

As Jesus and the crowd moved closer to the end, the wailing got louder and louder.  Jesus, covered in dirt and sweat and near death, lifted his head and looked into their eyes.  “Do not weep for me,” he said, “but weep for the world.”  Weep for the world; cry for the world; grieve for the world. In other words, those that suffer in the world, those parts of the world that are not life-giving, those part of people’s lives that are not the vision that God holds–those things should bother you.  Those are the things for which you should weep.

Weeping is hard for us.  Our culture is pretty well emotionally controlled, for the most part.  In fact, there are those that grow up thinking that tears and grief and crying are a sign of weakness.  We do not know how to lament.  And, yet, think of all those psalms of lament.  They are prayers.  Laments are prayers.  Weeping is prayer.  These are prayers for what could be and is not, prayers for what should have been that fell short, and prayers for the hurting in our world.  Jesus is telling these women to pray, to wake up, and to work to change the world.  He is acknowledging that they understand this vision and that, now, they have work to do.  It is a way of putting others before self.  It is a way of engaging yourself and your faith in bringing the Kingdom of God in its fullest into being.  It is a way of continuing the life of Jesus Christ.

I saw a feature news story by NBC’s Brian Williams last night on Camden, New Jersey.  A bustling boomtown in the first half of the 20th century, Camden is now America’s poorest city and the one with the highest crime rate.  Surrounded by relatively affluent suburbs, it is the place that we drive by, wondering why no one does anything.  Its residents that fill the inner city row houses seldom venture outside for fear of the safety of themselves and their children.  It is the way we hide poverty and despair in plain sight.

So on this Lenten journey, learn what it means to weep for the world.  Pray for the world and for others who hurt and grieve and bleed, those who fear and cry and need.  Learn to lament, an active lament that will make you part of bringing the world into that vision that God holds.  Open your eyes to see the pain that exists in plain sight.  Our Lenten journey calls us to do something to change the world.

Grace and Peace,


Station VII: Betrayed

Station 07-EScripture Passage:  Matthew 26: 20-23

20When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.

The seventh station on the Via Dolorosa is Jesus’ second fall.  Marked by a Roman column housed in a Catholic Chapel, it is the traditional place where the Gate of Judgment stood.  This is the place where judgments were passed on those that had committed crimes.  And here, passing out of the city, Jesus falls again.  Though surrounded by a host of onlookers and curious tourists, he is alone, deserted and betrayed by those whom he had loved.  You can surmise that they were fearful for themselves, perhaps even fearful that there would be no one to carry the message into the future.  But let’s be honest.  They just weren’t there.  The night before, Jesus had dipped his hand into a bowl that others at the table would also touch and dip.  Jesus knew that the one who had dipped his hand into the bowl with him would betray him.

I know.  The story picks up with Judas right after the verses of Scripture that I used.  We like thinking of Judas as the poster boy of betrayal.  That’s an easy way out, to blame it on the most obvious perpetrator, the one who makes us all look like saints.  And yet, Jesus’ words as the writer of this Gospel portrayed them, says “the one who has dipped his hand…”  Think about it.  It was a community bowl.  ALL of those at the table dipped their hands in the bowl.  The truth is, Jesus probably knew that he would be alone on this day, that all would in their own way betray him–one by a kiss, one by a denial, and others by stepping back into their fears that they, too, might be found out.

Polish-born writer Isaac Singe said that “when you betray someone else you also betray yourself.”  The reason, I think, is because betrayal cuts so deep that you lose a part of yourself.  If someone asked you what the opposite of faith is, you’d probably immediately say doubt.  But, think about it, doubt compels one to search, compels one to question, compels one to grow.  Doubt and faith are inextricably intertwined.  The opposite of faith, the antithesis of faith, of journeying toward who you are called to be is more than likely betrayal.  It is completely contrary to “love your neighbor” as well as to “love God with [all you are]”.  Betrayal is a loss of who one is called to be.

And so Jesus falls, alone, defeated, betrayed.  He was feeling the ultimate of rejection.  All he had left was hope.  And so he breathed deeply and continued on.  And his betrayers cowered behind closed doors feeling a loss that they could not describe.  Surely not I…surely not I…surely not I.

In this Season of Lent, think of ways that you betray who you are called to be, ways that you cut yourself off from life, from others, from God.  Then, rise up, for you faith has made you whole.

Grace and Peace,


Station VI: No Longer Hidden

Station 06-HScripture Passage: Luke 8: 43-48:

43Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. 44She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” 46But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” 47When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

The sixth station of the Stations of the Cross, named Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus, does not come directly from Scripture but rather from the hearts and the traditions of the early European Christians. Tradition holds that Jesus healed a young woman named Veronica in his early ministry and as a sign of her deep and abiding gratitude for him, she accompanied him to the place of his execution. When she wiped his sweating face along this walk, the imprint of his face supposedly remained on the cloth. Eusebius, in his Historia Ecclesiastica, tells how at Caesarea Philippi lived the woman who Jesus healed of the blood disorder. In the West, she was identified as Martha of Bethany; in the East, she was called Berenike, or Beronike, the name appearing in the Acts of Pilate. The derivation of the name Veronica comes from the words “Vera Icon”, or “true image”.

This man had shown her great compassion when she thought there was none. The bleeding had started and had never stopped. And so, always, she was deemed unclean and, therefore, unacceptable, untouchable, shunned. This was a last effort to claim her life, to become a person of value and worth again in a society that so carefully laid out who was acceptable and who was not. She had, carefully, made her way through the crowds that day avoiding the stares and recoils that others held for her. And then she touched him. It was only a touch but she could feel something. She cowered back into the crowd trying to hide. But he saw her, compelling her forward and her life was never the same again.

And so on this day, she could not just hide out in the crowd. He needed someone–companionship, mercy, compassion. She didn’t care what she was risking. After all, this is the one who had given her her life. She could do this one thing. And when she wiped his face, she felt that same burst of power that she had felt before, a life-giving, life-awakening power. And she was left with the image of Christ.

Whether we take this literally or not, whether we believe that she was healed or that Christ’s imprint adhered to a cloth, is not the point. You see, each of us was made in the image of God. We are not destined to BE God but to be an image, a reflection of the Godself into the world and into the lives of each and every one that we meet. And when we show compassion, when we show mercy, when we step forward and show love to those who need it the most, the imprint of that image DOES stay with us. We become a reflection of the Christ, an image of the God who gave us life and calls us to show it to the world. And as Jesus walked toward death, the image of the Christ remained, no longer hidden, on the one who reached out to one in need. Reaching out to others does not mean that we are Christ; it means that we are human, fully human, the way Christ showed us to be.

So in this season of darkness and shadows, remain no longer hidden but step forward into this Walk of Christ and help someone in need. And the imprint of Christ, the image of the very Godself, will stay with you always.

Grace and Peace,


The Season of Unpreparation

Scripture Passage: Mark 6: 7-12
7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts;9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.10He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.

What do you mean we’re not supposed to take anything with us?  This journey is hard.  There might be danger along the way.  We have to be prepared.  Admit it.  That’s what we all think.  After all, this journey to the cross is hard.  We’re not even halfway there–just sixteen days or so–and we’ve already encountered more than we really thought we could handle.  And now we’re told to go out there virtually unprepared for what will come next.

Maybe that’s our problem.  Maybe we mistake this Lenten journey as a time of preparing us for the Cross when, actually, we’re being called to unprepare ourselves, to put it all aside and encounter the raw roughness of the road itself.  This season is not a season of preparation but, rather, a season to shake the dust off, to clear our minds of any baggage that we have brought to this place, and to leave empty-handed, open, ready to receive.

It’s not something that we do well, this letting go, this allowing ourself to appear vulnerable, out of control, and unprepared.  I mean, we know that we have to walk this walk.  We know what’s coming.  We know what we have to go through.  And so we don some sort of cross-cut suit of armor to protect us, to make it just a little bit easier.  But think what Jesus did at the beginning of this journey.  He went into the desert, unprepared, taking nothing.  He did encounter danger–the danger of his own needs, his own desires, his own vision of what his life could hold.  What he encountered was himself.  And then he shook off the dust and left, returning to the road itself.  St. Catherine of Sienna once said that “all the way to God is God.”

This road to the Cross IS the road to which we are called.  It is the Way of God.  The challenge for us in this season is not to prepare ourselves for what is to come, but to clear the way. 

Grace and Peace,