"...for though they fall seven times, they shall rise again."
--Proverbs 24. 26b
“We are mid-point in the journey,” the Priest tells us. “What do we find here?” Shuffling along with this little group that follow the stations—we look up. Jesus falls—again. Again? The priest continues, “This is the lesson of this Seventh Station.”
When the Jerusalem Church put together the Stations there were a multitude of points along the way where Jesus would fall. “So, the Priest intones, “There are three fallings in the fourteen Stations to the Cross.”
Organized religion has never been comfortable with failure or apostasy or brokenness. Years ago Karl Menninger wrote a book called, Whatever Became of Sin?
Yet, looking up it all begins to come back—the time we failed. Or lost the job we had lusted for all our lives. Or stood by the grave after 54 mostly good years. Or leaving the divorce court—tears streaming down your face. Or to be told: “It’s ALS.” We thought we were big too fail or too smart or strong or supposedly too good.
In an old novel, The Picture of Success, Phillip has lost his job and cannot seem to find another. And he says: “’There’s something wrong with all of us—you know that? I was thinking that the night of our party. We only tell each other the good things, the things that set us up a little in our own minds.’ He swallowed. ‘All the lousy stuff, the hard-luck items, we keep to our selves; we’re ashamed or something them.’ He glanced away, moodiness in his eyes. ‘You not only don’t talk about failure but you hope nobody will find out. Now why the hell is that? It’s when you lose that you need your friends, not when you’re on top. But nobody mentions losing, only winning. We all have to go round looking as if everything is great.’”
Which brings me to these cross-less churches filled with smiling, well-dressed folk. “Come casual,” their ads say. And so they shuffle in wearing Birkenstocks or $185.00 Nikes or Ralph Lauren shirts—even their five year olds whose hands they hold. They are mostly young and healthy and not usually reminded that there is this Seventh station smack-dab in the middle of the journey. But lest we mainliners get to pious we don’t often hear a sermon or even a hymn about the dark side, the shadow side. Yet—when we peer into the mirror and see our defeat, our failures, the lines in our faces or our sin—we wonder: could this be me?
This Station says that in this second falling of the Lord Jesus we are only halfway there. Strange gospel. We are not alone when we bite the dust. Here Jesus meets us all. Richard Rohr reminds us, “If God has not learned to draw straight lines with crooked sticks, God is not going to be drawing very many lines at all.”
And looking up we know that if we follow this Jesus we follow him through all the ruts as well as the sunny places. And whatever happens, nothing will separate us from the love of God—no thing. And the old promise that runs from Genesis to Revelation: “I will be with you” may be the truest word of them all.
--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com