The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
March 11, 2015 § 1 Comment
“Christ-follower.” “Student.” “Husband.” “Listener.” “Auntie-Mother-Father-Sister-Brother-Spiritual Advisor-Friend.” “Congregant.” “Worshiper.” “Pray-er.” “Caretaker.” “Encourager.” “Baker and Short-Order Cook.” “Housewife.” “Gleaner.” “Secretary.” “Commuter.” “Reader.” “Social Media Whore.” “Information seeker.”
We play so many roles in one lifetime; these are just a few of mine. So many different hats, so many different scripts, so many different expectations placed on us, so many different guises, rules, games, presumptions, postures, behaviours…so many roles.
Sometimes we try on new habits, new uniforms: “Gym rat.” “Vegan.” “Knitter.” to see if we’re comfortable playing those parts. Sometimes we can incorporate those new clothes into our old wardrobe, but sometimes the fit is too tight, or the colors don’t quite go together, and we have to put the newness aside.
Sometimes we’re cast in roles, with or without our permission, and forced to inform the casting director that we’re either uncomfortable with the part as written, or we’re withdrawing from the production altogether because the script is not playing out as well as we had hoped. Sometimes we don’t re-evaluate our participation, either, and we end up feeling used and carelessly treated. I know that throughout my life, I’ve often been cast in the role of “Confidante” by murmurers who believe I will participate in dialogue as they rail and bitch and moan and gossip, and I’ve lost more than a few acquaintances by informing them that I just don’t play those kinds of scenes.
There are also roles we’re born in to, like “Son.” “Daughter.” “Sibling.” … some of the scripts for these scenes are quite painful, as anyone who has stayed away from home purposefully and then returns for a rare festival knows. One of my besties says, “I’m going back home so all those people can push all those buttons they programmed so well and so long ago.”
The problem with being cast in a role with a long run, however, is that we can begin to perform perfunctorily, going through the motions, on automatic pilot. Not being truly awake while we’re alive. Reciting our lines without Being There. I mean, how many times have I TRULY not wanted to be in Church on a Sunday, white-knuckled the Prayer Book and rattled off Old 64 (“…Deliver us, when we draw near to thee, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind…”), and sat there bemoaning the fact that the first half of the service is basically a sing-along with some aerobics and a whole lot of listening until I start to perk up at the Prayers and The Magic Show. Ugh. (#LentUnEdited) I think this is one of the reasons I love Lent so much (yes, I said it, I love Lent) because it’s a spiritual re-boot, it’s a time to slow down in order to notice the blessings around us, a time to breathe deeply in appreciation of the miracles at every turn. You know, I realised Saturdayat Posey and Kristin’s Deaconate ordination when we chanted the Taizé Veni Sancte Spiritus in choir that I hadn’t truly stopped to breathe in the silence of God with a quiet mind for WEEKS ! (snow grumble shoveling grumble cross country skiing on snow then ice then snow covered ice then lake jumping, lather-rinse-repeat grumble.)
At the station where Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem, he encounters on his journey professional wailing women. If you’ve never seen Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders in skits where they play professional acting extras you’ve missed some good comedy. They never have lines in the movie they’re filming or the LIVE opera in which they’re performing, but you hear their running inner dialogue as they discuss all their subtext and motivation for moving from here to there, “I think I’d be sweeping, should I start sweeping?” “Oh yes, I’m going to go over to the fountain!” I’m afraid I’ve got some French and Saunders damage here.
I imagine the women Jesus comes across find out there is to be a crucifixion that day. Maybe they don’t want to come to work. Maybe they’re tired, or maybe they’re bored because it’s just one more crucifixion of one more poor slob who thinks he’s Messiah. Or maybe they still need to do their Sabbath shopping and they’re ticking off their grocery list while they’re going through the motions of wailing and woe-ing and crying and lamenting. Then guess what. Just like always, Jesus turns the tables on them.
I mean, think about all he’s been through by this point and he’s just gonna stop? and start giving performance notes and line readings to these women? What the What? And think what the women must be thinking ! It’s like, “Ermahgerd, why is he TALKING to us, he’s just supposed to be whipped along his way ! We don’t have lines with him in this script ! Keep walking!” And what does he say? He says, “Weep not for me, weep for yourselves !” and I think, doesn’t this happen to us on Ash Wednesday?
One of the very few times the Book of Common Prayer addresses us directly, in the name of the Church, is right there after the sermon in the Proper Liturgy for Ash Wednesday: “Dear People of God…” Ermahgerd, is she talking to us? And then the priest invites us “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”
This is basically the same moment as our station, right? Whether we’re attending the Ash Wednesday service and truly participating, or whether we’ve rushed to it from work to try to squeeze the service in (#MyAshIsInChurch), we’ve come in, done some aerobics, we’ve heard some readings, and then the priest stands there and directly confronts us with, “Weep for yourselves!” Examine yourselves! Check yourselves! Turn from ways which are harmful to you, harmful to others. Pray on these things. Read about these things. Meditate on these things. (#LetsMeetInThePrayerBook) Fast from things so that you may know the painful lack others experience daily. Remove from your life excess, maybe not for always, maybe just for this season. But all these practices, always anattempt to simplify, to make us more aerodynamic … Lent … #LessIsMore …
In this season, Jesus stops what he’s doing, turns to us, faces us full on and says just for right now…just for this appointed time…please. stop. rejuvenate, gather strength. because the time will come, and soon, when we will need all our strength to pray for others boldly and effectively, to serve one another with power, and to bring witness to the ends of the earth of the Risen Christ … until then, “we must put our whole trust and confidence in God’s mercy, and evermore serve God in holiness and pureness of living, to God’s honor and glory.”