Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Ninth Station--Nailed

"With him they crucified two insurgents, one on the right and one at his left."
--Mark 15.27

 I like this particular interpretation of Jesus' crucifixion because it brings this Station home to us in a striking way. This is not only an 33 AD crucifixion--this is a 2012 crucifixion. As long as the Gospel account stays back there it is safe and manageable. But when it comes down our street and knocks on our door we cannot escape the power or demand of Calvary's hill.

We've done much in our time to trivialize the nails and the cross. W.E. Sangster understood this when he told of a celebration he once attended in Gloucester where many dignitaries had gathered. On the platform there was a clergyman, most impressive not only because of his size but of his red and black velvet robe and a striking golden cross which was around his neck. As the designated speaker droned on and on this portly clergyman laboriously bored,  took the cross from his chain and was cleaning his fingernails with a corner of it.*

We've all make the terrible mistake of  mis-using the Cross of Jesus for decoration, not to speak of  the sign of the cross we make from anything to touchdowns to gratitude that car didn't hit us. We've mis-used our faith as one preacher has said, "by sending faith on petty errands trying to harness its eternal claims to cure our headache or give us more poise or a two-for-a-nickle sedative packaged for peace of mind." We know about irreverence--don't we?

And so when we ignore the modern crucifixions...the death penalty which goes on in state after state around the clock...sexual slavery and the terrible abuse women must bear in so many places. We find it even in church when Pastors and their families are hounded out of their jobs. The ugly, ugly asides our President must endure every day that he serves. The callous disregard of all those who have not enough to eat, no job to keep things going, and no place to hide.

No wonder "The Death of a Salesman" is making yet another comeback on Broadway. Linda the wife, broken-hearted and devastated by the suicide of her salesman-husband stands over his grave and says: "Attention must be paid."  Because attention was not paid Willy Lowman did not have a chance. He was crushed, like so many others in  a world where they could see no hope for themselves. Willy's story can be found on Calvary's hill by the one who spoke lovingly to insurgents and to us all.

As we stand by this Station and hear the hammering of the nails--let us not only think of that "green hill far away." Let us remember those down our street who can barely get out of bed. Little children who will never have the chance of their rich neighbors two streets over. Let us ponder the pain that stretches around the world. "Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." How much we need this Ninth Station--it speaks to our hearts and to the heart of this troubled age.

* I am indebted to Frederick Speakman's book, Love Is Something You Do (Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming Revell Co., 1959)  p. 46) for this story.

The contemporary rendering of the Ninth Station of the Cross is by artist Cecile L.K. Martin of Seneca, South Carolina The original art work for this series can be found in her parish, St. Paul the Apostle Church, Seneca, SC.

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