Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Ninth Station--Jesus Falls a Third Time

A missionary working with the natives taught them a chorus which became their favorite. These were the words:
"Go on, Go on, Go on, Go on;
Go on, Go on, Go on, Go on;
Go on, Go on, Go on, Go on;
Go on, Go on, Go on, Go on."

As we move slowly from Station to Station we stop at the Ninth Station, look carefully. Jesus falls—for the third time! The artist Cecile Martin has captured this Station powerfully with her rendering of falling and falling and falling.

The Church—this treasure always in an earthen vessel—intentionally, I think has placed three different fallings in our meditations. They knew—as we all know—that falling always comes with the territory. Fred Craddock has reminded us that no church’s written history tells the whole story. We leave out so much that tells of the two-steps-forward-one-step-backward of our tortured story. The scandals, the deceit, the jockeying for power the hypocrisy, the abuse—not only sexual—the wrong-headedness not to speak of all those who have been turned away from the church house door because they were black or poor or gay or different or just difficult. We leave all these chapters and more out of the church histories we write.

And yet—we have only stopped at the Ninth Station. We have miles still go before we sleep. Our journey is far from over. There are five more stations to go. This thought has hit me powerfully as I have been reading the first volume of Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill. Little fat boy, ignored by his parents, raised by his Nanny. He had a difficult time at school thanks to the cruelty of the other kids. He was plagued all his life with deep, dark depressions. He called them “his black dog.” They always came back with a vengeance.

Yet he would be the one to lead England during that tortured time when bombs fell on his beloved London for 76 consecutive days. One million homes were destroyed. 40,000 people were killed. Churchill by his incredible words would keep his people going. Toward the end someone asked him the secret of his power and England’s. He said: “Never give up...never...never give up.”

Maybe Karl Jung was right when he said where we stumble and fall there we find pure gold. Not always. Some fallings are fatal. Bu let us remember we are only at the Ninth Station. Our journey—like our Lord’s—is not over. And so like the disciples like Peter and all the others that finally came back--and Churchill and Helen Keller and Mandela and Martin King and Barack Obama and all the nameless heroes—falling is not the end of the story. Like that great cloud of witnesses that stand in all our balconies—we remember their names and cal still see their faces— we also remember the face of Him who first stumbled—and we know we can take heart. We must never give up. 

(The rendering of the Ninth Station was done like all the others in this series by African artist Bruce Onobrakpeya whose work can be found at museums the world over. The second picture is done by South Carolina artist, Cecile Martin whose work I used last year as I meditated on the Stations Her original stations can be found in her Church, St. Paul the Apostle in Seneca, South Carolina.)

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