Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Eleventh Station of the Cross--Jesus is crucified.

As we move to this eleventh station of the cross—the little group that has followed the Priest around the church grows quiet. The Priest himself says nothing. They all just look up and stare. This is the eleventh stop on the journey. They have come all the way to Calvary. Those who stood there on that dark Friday afternoon must have winced at the hammering of the nails into his hands and feet. Some I am sure could stand it no longer and ran away in grief or sorrow. Who could imagine such pain?

No Gospel mentions the hammering of the nails yet they are a real part of the story. Around the world in most churches you will find some symbol of the cross. And of all the things we can say about these nails and suffering probably at the heart we see that kind of God we have. The Church in every age has battled the Gnostic heresy. They taught Jesus appeared to be like us. He merely played a part—but he was different from you and me. But every gospel has a crucifixion story and despite the different variations—we see God incarnated. In the play Green Pastures speaks of the humanity of Jesus in black dialect. In that drama when they come to nail Jesus to the cross, off to the side we God standing there with his face in his hands wracked with sobs. And one character was heard to say: “Even bein’ God ain’t no bed o’ roses.”

This eleventh station reminds us that God was no more fully human than his son was stretched out on Calvary’s hill. Jesus is the God of the wounds and the wounded. Ireneus said, “He became like us that we might become like him.” All we wounded ones, which really takes us all in, stand and look and ponder. He is one with us.

But we now know that the Cross was not the last word of the story. The nails hurt and the scars which would always be there. But these nails did not have the last word. We live in a Good Friday world. There is divorce and pain and suffering and war and fear and terror. There are sleepless nights and frazzled relationships everywhere. And the pain goes deep as it did in those pierced hands long ago.

So we believe that the nails that wound and cripple us will not last forever. This story is yet-to-be-continued. We cannot stop here—we must move on. Archbishop Tutu of South Africa came to Birmingham some time ago. In the question and answer time someone asked him, “Do you see any real hope for the Middle East?” And the Archbishop whose life bears his own scars replied, “Do I see any hope for the Middle East? Of course I do—I am a Christian.”

One of my favorite poets is William Stafford. He wrote in one of his poems: “I have woven a parachute out of everything I have known.” Pain and suffering and injustice do not have the last word. The nails cannot hold. We cannot stop at the eleventh station. Thanks be to God.

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