Monday, March 18, 2013

The Tenth Station--Jesus is Stripped Bare

"Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet--I can count all my bones--they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots."
                     --Psalm 22. 16-18

 People do not linger long at this tenth station—now closer to the end than the beginning. No wonder we turn away. God—or God’s son is as weak and vulnerable as he will ever be. Years before Isaiah captured this truth: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." We hide our faces too at this stopping off place. This is no PG or even R-rated Station—this is an X-rated scene. The soldiers stripped every last garment from his wounded bloody body. And he stands, reeling before God and everybody naked as the day he was born.

No wonder we turn away. We want our God to be clothed perhaps like Pope Benedict with his Prada shoes, golden cloaks and bejeweled scepter. Pope Francis puzzles us.We want God’s cross to be decoration—perhaps set with a single diamond. We want our God to be the powerful one who fills TV churches and football stadiums to hear some football player or beauty queen talk about Jesus in glowing terms. We want our God to be covered in lilies and alleluias and Easter splendor.

But not here. Not yet. It may seem like Sunday—but Friday is surely coming. We cannot turn our faces away from this ugly tenth station. The soldiers stripped him bare. And in this stopping-off place he is one with the weakest and the ugliest and the most shameful. And so we don’t linger long in that room where he/she writhes in agony until her/his gown shows everything. We don’t like to look at the sordid ugly face of pain and woe. There is no dignity here—naked and vulnerable as he is. And so whoever it is that has ever been stripped bare of all their trappings—naked and ashamed—he is one with the victims of every indignity:

welfare queen.
We cannot turn away from this naked vulnerable Jesus. For here we ponder one of the greatest of the God-mysteries. He stands with every shame and every humiliation and every injustice.  Which means, I think he is with us all—this broken naked Jesus really does have the whole world in his hands.

Not only the loss of love of self—which we all know—not only the stigmas we carry in our bodies—which we all despise...not only the snubs and slights that hurt so terribly—that have crippled us all. Whatever indignity the world pours out on any of its children—God is there. No wonder the Carmelite nun found its powerful truth even behind locked walls of a convent: “I came upon earth’s most amazing knowledge someone is hidden in this dark with me.”  We cannot ignore this tenth station—it takes us all in and that may be the wonder if it all.  

(I am indebted to the First Baptist Church, Aiken, South Carolina for sharing these beautiful renderings of the Stations. They are the work of the African artist, Bruce Onobrakpeya whose  renderings can be found in museums,galleries and private homes throughout the world. The artist was a pioneer in printmaking, elevating the technique to a level recognized as a major art form. These 14 Stations were first linoleum-cut prints. His original stations can be found in St. Paul's Church in Nigeria.

The powerful sculptured piece, entitled "The Prodigal Son" is by Sculptor, George Grey Barrard and can be found in the Speed Museum, University of Louisville, KY.)


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