March 9, 2017 Comments Off on The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time
Recently a wise person gave me advice about writing an application essay: When describing significant issues or struggles, “move quickly to the resolution.” Don’t dwell too long on what has been painful or limiting for you, without putting it in the context of present health and strength.
While this is helpful advice for framing a journey to wholeness, it occurs to me that sometimes we tend to live by it in other moments. We sit with a friend sharing their pain and struggle, and it’s hard to know what to say. We are quick to offer advice. In our discomfort, we turn to reassurances that can grate in the thick of illness, loss, or transition: Be thankful for what you still have, or, God must have given you this struggle for a reason. It is uncomfortable to look directly at pain, our own and certainly others’. It can be uncomfortable to keep listening with full openness, not only for a whole conversation but sometimes over weeks, months, or years.
The passion narrative is practice for this kind of discomfort. It is the kind of story that Jesus’ friends and family must have found hard to talk about. It is hard to remember even now, looking directly at the pain of someone we love deeply. Exhausted and injured, Jesus fell under the weight of the cross. He would get up and continue under that weight. The road was still much longer.
This morning immigrant rights leader and New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC Executive Director Ravi Ragbir faced an ICE check-in and the possibility of immediate deportation or detention. He was accompanied by a crowd of supporters, people who love him and believe in his work. Ravi emerged from the check-in, and there was a collective sense of relief. Yet a month from now, he will be required to re-appear. This morning was part of a much longer road, marked by uncertainty, anxiety, and at times, pain. As Ravi makes us aware, many other undocumented people are on this same road.
In Jesus, we are not alone in struggle, even when it doesn’t move quickly to resolution. God does not turn away from our struggle or our pain, even when we are at our most broken, furthest from health and strength and even from God. God does not turn away from us when the news makes us afraid that we or people we love will be deported, or alternatively, when it forces us to look directly at injustice for which we share responsibility. Instead, God walks with us, bearing our burdens and strengthening us to bear each other’s burdens.
– Aaron Miner
March 1, 2012 § 1 Comment
I promise I’m not trying to derail the solemnity of Lent with this post, this is all my personal, humble reflection, nor am I trying to deliberately contradict any of the observances in the Preface of Lent enumerated in its invitation (“… self-examination and repentance … prayer, fasting, and self-denial … reading and meditating on God’s holy Word…”), but I’m finding, in my advanced years, that I’m getting crotchety. People (read: MainStreamMedia, Christianists, and politicians) keep using broad strokes when painting definitions of ordinary matters, assigning absolutes to words which exist in a flux, and I’m pretty tired of being manhandled. I ran to the open, loving arms of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America because I was promised the “three-legged stool”, the three-fold sources of authority in Anglicanism being scripture, tradition, and REASON as, it is said, these three sources uphold and critique each other in a dynamic way.
I think my cranky nature this Lent is due to the, er, vibrant, um, discourses during this election cycle with so many people pontificating with very little forethought or consequence to their words, and many of these absolutes are being attributed to this being I’m in contact with, God, these teachings I study by this Rabbi, Jesus, and this movement I espouse, Christianity.
The topic of my assignment is The Third Station in The Way of the Cross, Jesus Falls the First Time. The collect at this station reads:
O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BOS, ’94)
The tradition of The Way of the Cross fixes Jesus with three “falls”: he falls on stations three, seven, and nine. In earlier iterations, there were Seven Falls and they were considered less literal falls and more pauses, depictions of Jesus coincidentally being prostrate, or nearly so, during performance of some other activity like some of the current stations, Jesus meeting his Mother and Jesus consoling the women of Jerusalem.
I’ve watched a lot of folks for a lot of years practicing many different “brands” of Christianity, in praise and in worship, and sometimes there is some propensity for some, especially during Lent, to adopt a “pious” attitude which is almost dramatic, like, as if they have to “act” repentant like they’re being filmed. That’s dreadfully Judge-ie McJudge-ster of me, I know, and I promise I’ll repent … it is Lent, after all. But I think Lent makes people do silly things, like, the “I’m giving up chocolate” kids or the sackcloth-and-ashes kids who are determined to read the entire Bible during Lent or to me, the saddest of all, the kids who feel so overwhelmed by all the perceived impositions and restrictions of Lent that they give up and do nothing and then feel horrible about themselves the entire time.
Then as if all of Lent’s judgments and restrictions aren’t bad enough, we are being bombarded lately with declarations of what is “holy” and what is “right” and what is “Christian” and what is “American” and what is “patriotic” and what is “traditional” and it’s driven many to self-loathing and destructive behaviours, even to the point of suicide, and it’s kept many people from coming home to God because they HEAR they SHOULD be ashamed and that their love and homes and children are not valid and that their desires are sin when, in fact, they were knit perfectly this way in their mother’s wombs. I just want to scream at the top of my lungs, “ENOUGH!”
Before I came to scriptural terms with the gift of my same-sex orientation, I read unfortunate translations of the Bible and was in a continuous shame spiral. I thought for years that every time I found a man attractive I was “in sin”. I was decades in to my healing upon my first few visits to St. Luke’s and I distinctly remember the sun from the windows streaming through the smoke, and listening to Bobby’s beautiful bass reading a long passage, and seeing this guy a few pews up who I thought was mighty cute, and I started dreaming about the matching outfits we would wear at the Easter vigil, and wondering if we were too old to have kids, and devising the order I was going to introduce him to my friends, and what what WHAT ?! and a wave of the ‘ole SHAME came over me. I was thinking inappropriate thoughts and sinning in church! Same-sex attraction is intrinsically disordered and Church is an inappropriate place for such musings! Then I looked at the altar and saw women priests who mirror the Jewish women of the first century, Christianity’s first priests, and I remembered where I was and I shook myself silly and remembered that my dreaming was exactly what intrinsically ORDERED people have been doing for time immemorial. Church is the PERFECTLY appropriate place to weave the fantasies of my marriage because all my life God has had it in my heart that one day I would find a man who was as in love with God as I am, and one day I would be sitting with him tucked under my arm while we listened to a Sermon while we worshipped God in the house of God among our spiritual family in our home parish. It is meet and right so to do!
I think this year I feel it more instructive for me to take a lead from the thought of “Jesus pausing” and not of Him “falling” … which puts me in mind of the contemporary meaning for the Psalm’s selah, a pause, a breath to weigh the gravity of what was just heard, what is settling on our spirit. To reasonably self-examine – not to the world’s standards but the standards of what Jesus said were the greatest commandments: to love God and love our neighbor; repentance – for all the times I fall short under the weight of those enormous requirements; prayer –that I would hear only God’s voice and not the world’s when examining myself; fasting – from all the negative garbage coming at me from the world; and self-denial – from pity parties I throw for myself when God tasks me and I-don’t-wanna! And to always remember that strength and protection as may support us in all dangers comes from reading and meditating on God’s holy Word, truly an instant spa treatment which replenishes us and fills us and rejuvenates us with peace and joy and love, which will carry us through all our temptations and allow us to relax in self and reach out to serve.
Artist: Julie Lonneman (Please visit Trinity Stores for more of her work.)