Sand Art image by Joe Castillo
It is thus the soul, starting from the opposite end makes the same journey that God made toward it. And that is the cross. Simone Weil, Bread and Wine, page 216
On Good Friday in the Christian liturgical year, we symbolically follow Jesus from his arrest to his crucifixion and burial along what is traditionally called the Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrow or suffering through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem. We watch from the safe vantage point separated by time and geography from the cruel and generative events of those days. If we will slip off our rose-colored glasses we will find that it isn’t just Jesus who is nailed there for all the world to see and scorn. As living disciples of Jesus, we too find ourselves nailed to the cross. Our journey into the kingdom of God takes a similar path though in a different direction.
We find ourselves nailed to the cross of our human broken-ness, crosses we have built for ourselves. We hang there, dying, bleeding, breathless. All that could have been we have turned into a mockery by our pitiful, pity-less striving. “Save yourself!” the people around us mockingly shout. We are helpless, doomed. We cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, save ourselves.
Yet, in that moment of choice of what we can possible do, salvation waits. We can choose to be numb and shuffle along with some outer semblance of living. Or, we can choose to die, to turn all of our selves over to the Creator who will breathe into us new life — resurrection life.
When we die to our agendas and to our illusions of power and control, we find our Friend meets us in the dark grave of hopelessness. It is there our new life begins. We still bear the marks of the nails and spear we inflicted on ourselves, or that this broken world inflicted upon us. Those scars will never leave us just as the scars were part of the resurrected body of the Christ. In God’s full healing, those wounds become the places though which Holy Love shines.
Our human journey with the Christ, as followers of Jesus, is walking the opposite way of the Via Dolorosa. It is the way Jesus walked to the cross. And our human path from the cross to communion, walking back to Christ, takes us in the opposite direction. We face the jury of peers in the religious and governmental structures of our day that would label us. We face the scrutiny of our culture as a modern day Pilate scornfully asks “What is truth?” doubting that there is such a thing and doubting even more that a disciple of Jesus Christ might actually possess it. The church of our time sits in judgment as well, against those who would move from legalism and fundamentalism to embrace the freedom of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We sit in the dark prison cells of our own fear and self-judgment. Those inner hyper-critical voices keep us locked up in shame and guilt from which we mistakenly believe there is no deliverance. Our spiritual journeys travel through our personal gardens of Gethsemane where we seek God’s face and discover our friends and companions bored and asleep at our darkest hour. We finally come to the acceptance of the cup God firmly places in our hand.
The end and the beginning of our spiritual journey is the home we find in the community gathered around the Lord’s Table in Eucharist – thanksgiving and celebration. Our life long seeking finds rest in the company of Jesus Christ himself and in the companionship of other Jesus followers.
In the regular practice of the sacrament of Holy Communion we find nourishment, strength and community. Our hearts, minds and bodies are realigned for the work that lies before us. Meeting at the Lord’s Table is a hallmark of the gathered and scattered church populated by disciples living resurrection lives.
One of the first steps in recovery from any kind of addiction is admitting we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable. That is true when the addiction is to alcohol, drugs or some sort of substance. It is our addiction to being in control of our own lives and worshiping at the altar of money, power, comfort and prestige that nail us to the cross of our own sinfulness. In that regard we are all powerless and our lives have become unmanageable. When we admit our powerlessness and die to our shakily built structures of power and control, we can know and live the truth. And the truth, in all its resurrection power, will set us free.