Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jesus is Stripped - Station 10

"When they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among them by casting lots."
           --Matthew 27.35

The tiny crowd that has followed the Priest from Station to Station stops and points up."Jesus has now reached the top of the hill where men were crucified. It was called The Place of the Skull," he said. Those forced up this hill never come back. Jesus knew this and all those onlookers knew that the end was near.

But not yet. The soldiers strip him bare. And now he stands naked before all that come to gawk and to weep. All the supports have fallen away. There is no place to hide. This was an act of utter violence. To be stripped is to be turned into an object. To have one's clothes ripped from your body may just be the ultimate outrage. Nothing takes one's basic dignity away than thrust naked into a crowd.

Looking up I don't know what the others in our little cluster of pilgrims feel as they ponder the naked Jesus. We have said he is one with us. Hebrews reflects some of the violence and the utter shredding of humanity which Jesus endured. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

In time of need. Would that include all the rapes and incest and the violence of abuse and torture and grotesque indignity that we human beings inflict on one another? I think at this tenth station I cannot ignore all the myriad indignities that we have poured out on so many. Jews, blacks, Indians, gays, foreigners, the transgendered, anyone not like us. I am appalled at the insults hurled at our President day after day. It reminds me of that time when Jackie Robinson broke the color line in baseball. But I am also shocked at he attitude of well-heeled folk toward those on food stamps or just poor. I would hope that all who feel the stripping away of their pride and whatever coverings they need to survive--would remember this tenth station.

photo by timabbott / flickr
Is there hope for any of these recipients of the violence that systems and people bring? I think this is the truth embedded in this Station of the Cross.  Jesus told the story about the man who had two sons. One stayed home and tended the family business. The other boy took the money and ran. He squandered it all. He was stripped and left with nothing. In despair and desperation he slowly made his way back home. The result? The old father met him at the gate. He opened his arms to his near naked son. He loved him. He took him back. David Read, a fine preacher of another day said that the Father asked for a robe to be brought and sandals and a ring and a dinner unlike all the other dinners. Read calls this the dignity of faith. The old father gave his unworthy son a dignity that he desperately needed to live again.

May all those broken and wounded and suffering find their way to this Station. Jesus is one with us here. We can find our way back. We can begin again after the terrible strippings that so many face. Dostoevsky understood this in The Brothers Karamazov when he wrote, wistfully: "What keeps me going is that I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for. that in the world's finale something so great will come to pass that it's going to suffice for all our hearts, for the comforting of all our sorrows, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity. And I  want to be there when suddenly everyone understands what it has all been for."This what I see as I look into the face of the naked Jesus. And my prayer is that all the sufferers can find comfort here too.

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