During the session of Lent 2017, a series of pictures are being displayed in Church (with copies in the church centre). Theses were painted by a member of our congregation as a mediation on what is known as "Stations of the Cross". This practise emerged in the early centuries of the Christian church, to enable those who could not make the pilgrimage to the holy sites of Jerusalen to imitate this journey in their own parish churches. The stations of the Cross are desigend to be an aid to prayer and reflection during Holy Week in particular, when Christians jorney again to the foot of the cross and beyond to the promise of a new life at Easter.
We have selected six images, accompanied by some biblical material, a thought and a question to ponder. The quotations come from a book entitled "Stations of the Cross" by Timothy Radcliffe, Bloombury, London, 2015.
Our prayer is that these pictures will be a blessing and a visual reminder that here at St. Michael's there is a worshipping community that invites you to share in our jouney to Easter this year.
JESUS IS CONDEMED TO DEATH
Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas [….] ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ asked the governor. ‘Barabbas,’ they answered. ‘What shall I do then with Jesus who is called Christ?’ Pilate asked. They all answered, ‘Crucify him!’. ‘Why, what crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’ When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd.
Pilate knew Jesus had done nothing wrong, but he feared the pressure of the crowd.
‘Jesus is accused by his enemies.
Timothy Radcliffe, ‘Stations of the Cross’, p.14
Are there times when we do nothing to challenge injustice and defend the innocent?
JESUS RECEIVES THE CROSS
Luke 22: 33 - 42
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but your will be done. An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish he prayed more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
The night before he died, Jesus went to pray at the Mount of Olives.
How do you respond to suffering?
Can you believe that in Jesus, God stands alongside you even in the darkest times?
As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.
‘Jesus told his disciples that each must carry his cross.
Now he finds that he can no longer carry his own,. He needs help….
Simon of Cyrene seems to have been just passing by
Having been forced to carry this stranger’s cross, he became his disciple’
Timothy Radcliffe, p.30
Can we embrace unexpected, difficult, challenging situations that have been thrust upon us, and find the grace to know that even in the most extreme moments, we find that Jesus is walking alongside us and that we too, like Simon, may receive the gift of faith?
THE WOMEN OF JERUSALEM
LUKE 23: 28-31
Jesus said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold the days are coming when they will say, ‘blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck. Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’, and to the hills, ‘cover us’. For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?
‘Even in his agony Jesus feels deeply the pain that will be theirs when Jerusalem is destroyed.
He is touched by people’s pain in the pit of his stomach…
God’s promise is that he will take out our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh.
A heart of flesh is one that shares another’s joy without a hint of jealousy,
and anothers sorrow without a tiny bit of schadenfreude.
Timothy Radcliffe, p42
How often do we allow ourselves to be touched by the pain of others?
The women of Aleppo, the women of South Sudan, the women of the Yemen?
Or the pains and burdens carried by those closer to home.
Do we exercise compassion and understanding?
JESUS IS NAILED TO THE CROSS
And when they came to the place which is called, The Skull, there they crucified him,
and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left
What a time of desolation this must have been for those who had pinned their hopes on Jesus –
‘He seems to be a helpless victim, pushed around,
He was nailed to the cross, nailed firmly to all our failures,
Our destiny is after all in our hands since he holds them.
Pope Benedict said:
Can you give your disappointments, hurts, failures and disappointments
to the one whose arms are opened wide for you on the cross?
IT IS FINISHED
MARK 15: 33-39
At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.
With a loud cry Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
There is nothing that leaves us feeling more empty than the death of someone we love.
Is Jesus to be nothing more than the memory of a good man who suffered gross injustice?
The tearing apart of the curtain in the temple might mean nothing more to us
than the awfulness of grief; and yet for the gospel writer that tearing of the temple curtain
meant the dawn of a new hope, of a new way for humankind to be drawn into the life of God,
to be set free from sin, from fear, from all that binds us, including our fear of death.
‘There is no barrier between God and humanity: God has come near to us in our desoation,
and so we can come into his presence’
Where do your hopes rest?
He is hastily laid to rest
The world sighs and waits
And we wait in night’s darkness
Longing for the morning
Longing for the light…
Our God leaves footprints
When he whispers ‘Peace be with you’
His breath steams up the wineglass
And the blood beats in his veins
His feet might be scarred
With a jagged body-piercing
But the bruises are fast fading
That the soldiers left behind
This man is not a parable
A story for the spring time
Or a tacked-on happy ending
Making tragedy less bad
No, this corpse lay rigid
Frozen stiff with rigor mortis
Bandaged and unfeeling
And then simply came to life