March 13, 2017 Comments Off on The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother
The fourth station of the cross has often been called, “Jesus meets his afflicted mother.” I can’t imagine that “afflicted” does justice to what Mary’s feelings must have been. Afflicted sounds like a sore throat or a head cold. Mary was feeling something much worse. She was in the midst of a nightmare. Her son was taking his final steps. Mary knew it would only get worse as her son’s naked body would be lifted on the cross, left to burn in the sun as he slowly bled and suffocated. More than affliction, this was completely helpless gut wrenching torment and indescribable agony.
Mary had been there throughout Jesus’ life. She gave birth to him, swaddled him, cared for him, watched as he learned to smile, laugh, cry, and walk. She watched him go from being a child into a young man. She watched as he came into his own, a talented Rabbi and a worker of wonders. Mary watched as the crowds gathered around her son, just to hear him, see him, or even touch the corner of his garments. She no doubt hoped along with many of Jesus’ disciples that her son would be the one anointed to restore Israel: the Messiah, a wise and strong king.
Now it was all going wrong. While he once had a band of devoted followers, he now was almost completely abandoned. While people once gathered to hear him teach, they now gathered to mock him. She thought he was destined for glory, but instead he would die on top of a stinking rubbish heap for all to see.
I wondered what I might say to a person going through such a nightmare? What would I say to Mary? Would I tell her that “God works in mysterious ways” or that “God has a bigger plan.” Would I use dark humor to defuse the situation? Would I get nihilistic, saying something about the fact that we are all going to die? If I’m truly honest with myself, I don’t think I would have anything to say to Mary. Sometimes, there is nothing to say, because our words couldn’t possibly fix anything. Sometimes, we can only thing we can do is stand with a person while they are going through a terrible ordeal. We can pause at this station of the cross and stand with Mary. Not trying to make things better, but just to be with her. While we stand there, we ought to remember that we can’t rush the resurrection; we can only stand with the people who need it the most.
– S.J. Lloyd
February 22, 2016 Comments Off on Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother
Mary Magdalene smote her breast and wept, the disciple whom He loved turned to stone, but where the Mother stood in silence nobody even dared look.
– Anna Akhmatova
As we travel the stations, we imagine meeting Jesus from many perspectives: As a cynical Roman official. As a bystander, weeping, pressed into helping, or graciously wiping Jesus’ face. As a friend and disciple, too terrified to acknowledge knowing Jesus. Among all of these encounters, there is something unavoidably intimate about Jesus’ meeting with his mother. His broken body is the same body she worked over, nourished, watched grow, and loved day after day. I wonder if the pain of those closest to Jesus complicates his already complicated work. I wonder if he questions the rightness of the life he’s lived.
Recently, as we have heard name after name of black women and men who died by state violence, often the most tireless speakers have been the mothers of the victims. In Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, Kelly Douglas Brown writes, “As the weeping of Rachel signals, there is a persistent dark side to God’s world. It is a world filled with a mother’s grief, which nothing in the world can console. This is a grief that does not go away. It is not to be dismissed or taken lightly. And God does not. For it is in the midst of this great suffering and grief that God comes.” Jesus’ mother’s grief reflects the grief of so many parents, lovers, family members, and friends who watch those they love broken and lost to the violence of racism, poverty, transphobia, war.
God is not distant from Jesus’ and Mary’s intimacy or from their pain. There is no place of silence, darkness, or shame where God does not look and, finally, stand.
– Aaron Miner
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.”
March 27, 2014 Comments Off on The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28). James Middleton’s Fourth Station dramatizes this moment of encounter between Jesus and these women of Jerusalem. We see just the hands of women reaching toward Jesus in various poses, various ways of trying to encounter Jesus. We also see just the hand of Jesus in both a gesture of stop and simultaneously a gesture of reaching out. Between Jesus and the women is the cross. What might this visual interpretation be suggesting?
The scriptural basis for this station comes from Luke 23:28-31. Interpretations abound, but one is that the “daughters of Jerusalem” were professional mourners, women who went to mourn on behalf of those men who were on their way to death. These women were attempting to visibly grieve for those who may have had no one else who might mourn them, and in that way hospitality was extended to the least, to the other, as a way to please God.
In light of this interpretation, Jesus’s response is an interesting challenge. It problematizes the outward practice of professional mourning for these criminals, the outcasts of society as a religious practice . It may be tempting then to see Jesus’s response akin to what many a parent may have thought during the tantrum of their child: “I’ll give you something to cry about.” I think Jesus, however, might be calling out the problem of inauthenticity, of grieving for show, without compassion, in the name of God for those perceived as less than. Underlying this may go something like, “this could never happen to me or people like me,” or “maybe they brought on their own suffering”, and “I’m glad I’m not like those people.”
Suffering, shame, death is not just for those “other people”, those people we do not consider part of our safe circle. I once had a conversation over a very dry martini with a retired NYC school teacher who would tell her third grade students when they started to bully or gang up on the weaker kids, “We all bleed, we all cry, and we all die.” What Jesus’s response suggests to me in this interpretation is that whatever suffering or shame is going on with me is also going on with you. We all bleed, we all cry, and we all die. We are all the “other”.
I like the way James has painted the cross in between Jesus and the women, the way it almost seems like Jesus is pushing, offering the cross to the women, and how it connects him to the women. The cross reminds us that we all have the human experience of suffering, of shame, of death. No human is exempt. And part of the mystery of the cross is that in authentically responding to our suffering and identifying the same suffering in others, we have an opportunity far greater than cheap pity. This opportunity of compassion, literally suffering with, brings with it redemptive grace, resilience, and resurrection.
– Nicole Hanley
March 8, 2012 § 3 Comments
The hands painted in James Middleton’s 4th Station of the Cross are telling us two interconnected stories: one is the story about how Jesus related to women and the other one is about the intensity of the destitution within which women lived in Jesus’ time.
Jesus talked to women, prayed for them and was moved to tears when He saw their great suffering. He accepted the signs of hospitality that women offered him, healed those who had sinned and brought back to life the men who could protect them. Jesus even engaged in theological discussions with women. In fact, the Samaritan woman was Jesus’ first disciple in her land. He did not really care whether women were Jews or Samaritans and women were among the seventy He sent out to preach the Good News. The word “apostoloi” means “those who are sent” or “messengers.” There were many female apostles in the 70; moreover, Mary Magdalene and the two Mary’s are the first people encountering the Resurrected Jesus.
These stories of inclusion and gender equality are in dramatic contrast with the realities of the cultural climate preceding and during Jesus’ times. The expression “Daughters of Jerusalem,” in Luke 23: 27-31, refers to the poor who lived in the outskirts of the walled city. The poor were the widows and the children who had no right to inheritance and were abandoned by those who held the patriarchal right of inheritance. The poor were the sick, the women and the outcasts, who were forced to live in isolation and abandonment by the complacency of the high priests, the aristocrats and the wealthy.
“Do not weep for me but weep for yourselves and your children.” Jesus was concerned for what would happen to them, since in those days there were three hate-mongers— zealots—whom Josephus called “firebrands.” Jesus contrasts his preaching to theirs as “green wood.” Jesus knew that so much hate would end in a terrible war.
For whom would Jesus be weeping today? Who are those among us weeping and wailing? Who are the hate-mongers in today’s struggles for dignity, justice and peace? How can you and I stop the efforts of the firebrands of our time?
– Anahi Galante
April 8, 2011 § 3 Comments
There he is – a lonely, sweaty, dirty, bloody man condemned for his actions and words of challenge to the authorities, struggling along the road to his death. And now, here is a crowd of women, crying out on his behalf. Their actions cannot and will not prevent Jesus from making the ultimate sacrifice – but they call attention to his suffering, and perhaps, to the injustice of his situation. Jesus turns to them and reminds them that he is, in a sense, already lost – but that the ramifications of such injustice will affect the generations to come.
This situation is not dissimilar to that which exists in the world today. Injustice exists in many forms, sometimes on personal levels, and sometimes in large scale issues. Social injustice, the kind which maintains millions of people around the world in poverty, keeps women in subjugation, denies life-saving medications to whole populations solely because of where they live in the world, or denies marriage rights to many, is alive and well in our world.
While we are not asked to solve all of these problems, sometimes it may be within our power to cry out like the women of Jerusalem, and draw attention to the injustice present for so many. In our lamentations, we draw others into consideration of the events of our world, and of the ramifications these events have on the generations that will inherit what we have wrought together – hopefully leading us to avoid continuing the same injustice now perpetuated. How can we, as Christians, cry out against injustice? Find out more about one way the Church is crying out at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/ONE, and find out about how we as a parish can commit ourselves to being a voice against injustice.
– Lauren Marcewicz
Image note: This image, representing Jesus Meets the Women, is from The Fourteen Stations Of The Cross Project by Thomas Faulkner that was commissioned by the national Episcopal Church, USA, for its 2003 General Convention.
March 12, 2010 Comments Off on The Fourth Station: Change or Be Destroyed
On the road to Golgotha, Jesus meets a group of women, who are wailing and crying. They are witnesses to his failing strength and torture-torn body. They can feel his suffering and are already mourning him as if he were dead.
In spite of his suffering, Jesus’ focus is outward toward the people of God. Even though staggering toward his execution, he can not turn his back on his people. Still trying to fulfill his mission, he makes one more attempt to let the Israelites know what is to happen to their Temple and city if the authorities do not change their self-interested leadership of Israel and if the people do not turn away from the law and back to God.
Since his words have had little impact on the men and since he knows that his own disciples are in hiding, Jesus proclaims his message to the grieving women. He tells them about the coming destruction of the Temple and the decimation of Israel. I have often wondered why he made the women the vehicle for his last message since women, in general, had no voice in politics or in the synagogues.
I would like to think it is because something special was happening and in some way he was affirming women’s role in his ministry, and it certainly is possible that is the case. But the more I think about the passage, I realize that it doesn’t matter who was the vehicle for Jesus’ last message. It was the message itself that was important: Change or be destroyed.
In this century, our nation faces social, economic, and religious challenges. The economy is stagnant. Many people are unemployed and many children are hungry. Domestic abuse against women and children is rampant. Foreclosures have increased and banks are failing. Society is not inclusive, and culture in many places still teaches that people are not equal. Church membership and attendance is declining. We are in a war that is futile, and our leadership appears to be plagued with moral and ethical issues.
Change or be destroyed that was Jesus’ message. Even in the last hour of his life, he could not give up on the people. In today’s world, we are the body of Christ. As a result, no matter how frustrated we are, we can’t give up. As a matter of fact, I shudder to think where we would be if God gave up on us as he did on Noah’s generation, or where we would be if Jesus had given up on his people. For the sake of the world and all that it encompasses, as Christ’s body, we must continue to proclaim the gospel and remind people that we have to change or be destroyed.
– Rev. Karen Gail King