"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Monday, April 10, 2006 Via Crucis: Grid Blogging through Holy Week
This week, I'll be participating in what is known as a "grid blog" -- a group of people blogging on the same topic ... in this case the Way of the Cross. You can check out other folks who are doing this here. Thanks to Bob Carlton for putting this all together.
For me, it's a chance to take the work I've been doing for the past 3 months ... and really the past three years ... and try to express it in the framework of the via dolorosa. It's a challenge ... two reflections a day for a week ... but one I think I need to do whether anyone reads it or not.
Knowing me, the reflections probably won't be brief -- then again, who knows. Maybe I'll surprise myself. I welcome your comments and whatever you think, I hope this in some way contributes to a more blessed and reflective Holy Week for you.
Since it's after midnight, I'm technically starting a day late (according to the calendar Bob has devised). I'll be posting at night at the end of each day, so most of you will be reading things a day after.
Station I – Jesus is condemned to death
“While (Pontius Pilate) was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’” – Matthew 27:19
The beginning of the end is knowing the truth … and doing nothing.
Pilate’s sin was not malice but cowardly inaction. He didn’t want to condemn Jesus. He hoped the crowd would give him an out – but instead they chose Barabbas. He pleaded with them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But in the end, the voices of the crowd, those closest to him and his own fear won out.
And so the beginning of the end happened not with a grand pronouncement and not with fiery wrath, but with resignation, with washing of hands, and with the lie that kills:
“I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
Of course, history found Pilate guilty, not innocent. No one knows what Pilate’s wife really dreamed, but Dorothy Sayers, in her play, The Man Born To Be King, mused that she heard the words “suffered under Pontius Pilate” said by millions of people over thousands of years in overlapping refrain.
Two chapters earlier, Matthew places some amazing words on Jesus’ lips.
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Every three seconds Christ is condemned to death. Every three seconds, Christ is crucified again. It is an ending that happens not with explosions, grand pronouncements in the halls of leadership and the fiery rhetoric of war but with indifference and resignation … with cameras trained in any direction but there … with the turning of heads, the washing of hands and rationalizations and lies that kill.
Time gives us moments that are great hinges, upon which the entire course of history rests. Pilate stood at such a moment and so do we. But this isn’t just about avoiding Pilate’s fate. It’s about grasping our highest destiny.
This moment is about 2,000 years later finally getting it right. About hearing the conscienceless voices of the market and self-interest that call for the crucifixions to continue and shouting above them – that no child of God is expendable, that the bloodletting must stop … at last … and that it will stop with us.
It is the difference between Pilate’s wife’s dream and God’s dream … the missio dei. The difference between the castigation of future generations and the transforming glory of God lived through our lives.
We know the truth. Children are dying every minute of every day. And we know how to stop it.
But now the question rests on you:
What will you do?
Station II – The Cross is Laid Upon Him
I’ve never had to carry wood.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve lugged wood around a Habitat for Humanity site and I’ve carried a cross around in Good Friday services that Cori Hatcher and Stephanie Rhodes designed and I’ve brought an armful of firewood in from the back porch. But I’ve never really had to carry wood.
This hit home traveling through the Western Region of Ghana and through Southern Sudan. People – mostly women – walking for miles carrying huge amounts of wood on their head so they could have fires to cook, fires to boil water so it won’t kill them.
They walk tall, proudly even though they certainly have every reason to slump over, beaten down by life. They bear burdens my small shoulders will never know – not just the weight of the wood but the weight of unimaginable decisions that are part of their everyday life.
The group that just came back from Lui noticed that Mama Jennifer, one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever met, was looking quite thin. When they asked, they discovered that her daughter had had a baby and, food being scarce, the food went to the mother and child. Mama Jennifer went hungry.
She didn’t tell anyone this of course. It was up to others to share this news – and not with wonder or amazement or even a sense of scandal, but with plain matter-of-factness. Of course this is what happened. Of course that is what she did.
Bearing a cross has always been a metaphor for me. “We all have our crosses to bear,” we say … usually talking about enduring an insipid coworker or some minor physical setback. I doubt it’s a metaphor I’ll ever use for myself again.
The art you see for the second station of the cross usually shows Jesus, bloody and beaten, tired and stumbling as the heavy beam is lashed to his back. But that’s not the image in my mind.
The picture in my mind is Mama Jennifer and the countless other amazing women of Ghana and Southern Sudan whom I passed on the road. Bearing their wooden burden silently and proudly. Singing of God’s grace and power and of how gifted their lives are.
And as I try to walk Christ’s way with him this Holy Week I wonder how I might ease that burden just a little. How I might shoulder some of that myself. A truck. A bicycle. A bore-well so water doesn’t have to be boiled.
I’ve never had to carry wood. I’ve never known that burden.
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"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."