Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Station Eleven--Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

"And when they came to the place  called The Skull, there they crucified him and the criminals, one on the right and other on the left. But Jesus was saying, 'Father forgive them; for they know not what they are doing.'"                
                       --luke 22. 33-34    

We have almost come to the end of the line, we pilgrims. We’ve followed Jesus from a rigged trial and awful scourging until they pushed the cross beam on his shoulders. We watched him fall and fall and fall and remembered those other falling so close to us. Too close. There was a lump in our throats as he saw see him peer from blood-streaked sad eyes at his mother who stood close by. Could one smile carrying a cross—I think he almost did when he saw the dear, dear daughters of Jerusalem standing near and open-mouthed and stricken with grief--but with eyes of love. He smiled because not many who said they loved them came—but they were there. We tried to avert our eyes as they stripped every garment from his bruised, wounded body. But our eyes kept coming back hoping this Lamb of God who we understand can take away the sins of the world will have mercy on us too. We need it, don’t we?

 So stopping at this eleventh Station we see he has climbed his last hill—broken his last bread—put his arms around the last of the children he laughed with. This is almost the end—but not quite. And so here they hammer and hammer and hammer the nails into his hands and feet. God, how it must have hurt. The crowd was used to crucifixions it was the Roman way of keeping them in line. And it worked.  But somehow this cross, this nailing was different. For from that hill has come a great river of hope for every sin and every sorrow. Those out-stretched, nailed-down hands have touched us all.

This Station reminds me of my own nail story. I was asked to speak at a Good Friday service at the Hospital. I took along some carpenter nails and passed them out and talked about nails. Christ’s and our own. All those nailed-down things in our lives. The dead end streets. The unfulfilled dreams. The constrictions that life places upon all of us. Months later our church took a wrong turn. I was having a hard time as Pastor there. My wife kept saying, “Get out! Get out—this thing is going to kill you. I can’t stand to watch what is happening to you anymore. Do anything but don’t do this.” And I wondered how long I could stay.

With so much going on I was visiting the hospital one day and a nurse aide, a black woman got on the elevator. As the door closed she asked, “Aren’t you Dr. Lovette?” I nodded. She said, “Didn’t you preach down here on a Good Friday last year?" I said, “Yes.” She said, “I remember. I still got my nail. I think about it all the time.” The door opened and she was gone. She didn’t know what she had done for me. I had given her a nail. And she gave it back to me. Looking back now I know that moment in that elevator was one of the graces that kept me going.

Look up at this Station. Ponder the nails. God knows, we’ve all got more than our share. Who knows—those special nails may keep you going, too.

(I am indebted to African artist, Bruce Onobrakpeya for his 14 linoleum-cut prints I have followed on our Lenten journey this year.)   

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