Friday, March 13, 2015

Jesus Falls--Station 3 of the Cross

photo by jimforest / flickr
"Therefore he had to  become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested."
        --Hebrews 2. 17

We leave the second Station and follow the crowd to this Third stopping off place. The Priest points up and we all look in silence.

And then the Priest reads from his black book. "How long O Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I harbor sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look answer me, O Lord , my God!" (Psalm 12.1-4)

After being beaten most of the night. After standing yet again before Pilate. After being stripped and scourged and spat and pissed on--the soldiers shove a heavy cross on his shoulders. And so his journey begins slowly up the hill.

As so we stand looking up at the fallen Jesus. Early on this terrible journey he falls. No Super man. No Terminator. No tough guy. He stumbles and then falls under the weight of the heavy cross. Some of the crowd must have snickered and said, "The Messiah? This is the Messiah?" Others, hands over mouth, just looked.

Gazing upward I remember the words the Priest said as he marked my forehead weeks ago. "You are dust..." Jesus is one with us all here.The old woman moaned: "I've fallen down and can't get up." Those of us who have been forced to "accept those things that will not change." Divorce. Cancer. Addiction. The burden of the past. Sin after sin that shame us. Lying in a nursing home waiting and waiting for someone to come and change this terrible stinking mess.

We all fall, don't we. You want hear this from the smiling preachers with the slick hair and two thousand dollar suits. But they fall too. I wish all those that have lost their jobs and all those parents who can't help their drug addicted kids could look up at the fallen Jesus. I would open the church doors and invite all those who have seen their children kneeling before some despot with a knife. And I would beckon even those with the dark hoods over their angry faces to know this Station is for them, too.

Coming out of my hotel in Charleston this last week, there sat on old dried-up black man with a hat, smoking a pencil-thin cigar. "Mister, You got a dollar."  Streets later I saw an old woman with a shopping cart piled high with the only treasures she has in the world. Across the street were five kids with wild hair, tattoos everywhere--smoking weed and patting their sleeping dog. "Come on in," I would say. Stand here beside me and ponder the mystery. Even the Lord Jesus fell. This is part of every journey. Like Christian found in Pilgrim's Progress there is a Slough of Despond down every road and sooner or later we will all fall into that morass.

Is there is any hope, really? We must remember that this is only the third of fourteen stations. There will  be other falls along the way. But this is not the end--that's what we need to tell the man with the pencil-thin cigar, the dirty-footed kids smoking weed and all those frightened ones that sit outside the ICU unit and this crowd that stand with us looking up.

This Jesus will rise, not alone, but with the help of somebody along the way. He will continue his journey despite its hardness. And this is why we all need this third station.

Jung spoke for us all when he said: "Where you stumble and fall, there you will find pure gold." And so we turn away and move toward the Fourth Station with the Priest and all the others. But somehow on our dark nights and our tough days we will remember this Third station. Jesus falls and so do we.

"O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen. 
                                                               --The Common Book of Prayer

                                            --Roger Lovette  /


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