Walking (and reading) the Stations

Last year this blog went through an extended new-post drought. While I wasn’t posting here, I was still writing and posting (at least occasionally) for my church site blog. Those posts felt specific to that audience, so I didn’t put them here even though I always use this site to write them (the WordPress process is so much more user-friendly than the church site one). Perhaps I thought those posts weren’t worthy of a wider audience?

I’m in awe of my friend Rocky Supinger’s ability to post five to seven times per week. His post this week, Something is Better Than Nothing, inspired me to decide I’m just going to share in this space at least a version of what I put on the church site. Perhaps I’ll even manage to empty out that Drafts folder in the coming days and weeks. Thanks, Rocky!

Anyway, here’s a response to our Good Friday worship experience at Woodridge UMC….

After our Good Friday experience of dining together and walking the Stations of the Cross, one participant asked if we could print the pictures used for each station instead of just having them on the screen. Another participant asked if we could offer the text from each station here on the website. So, here we go…

I was surprised by the number of people who weren’t familiar with walking the Stations of the Cross. I guess I thought the practice was more widespread, but that seems not to be the case, at least among our congregation. “I thought that was just a Catholic thing,” I heard a few times. Please note: not once was this said in the “that’s too Catholic for us” old critique kind of way. Each time it was said from a place of curiosity and wonder.

We started out by sharing that walking the Stations of the Cross is a form of prayer that’s been used since at least the Middle Ages, with some references of it going all the way back to St. Jerome, circa 325-420 CE. Christians have engaged in the practice for a long time.

Since we don’t have permanent Stations, we had to place our readings throughout the sanctuary and sort of hunt for them. At each station one person sounded a chime, another person read the station’s title and it’s description. Then the chime was sounded again to mark the end of that station. Plus, each station featured an aforementioned visual image projected on the screen.

You’ll have to imagine the chime and visual, but here then are the titles and readings we used for each station. They are adapted from a resource found at preachingpeace.org.

Station 1 — Jesus is condemned to die.

Pilate found no fault with Jesus, but when the crowd grew loud, he grew silent. “I wash my hands. You deal with it.” Pilate had the knowledge and the power to stand and say “No!” to the world as it sought to crush the Lord of Life, but he chose not to act on his knowledge nor use his power.

 

Station 2 — Jesus takes up his cross.

This cross has now been thousands of years in the making. Its weight still grows greater each time I look for someone to blame for the pain in my world. Each time I insist that sin must be punished, I add an ounce to the burden Jesus carries for me. This is the cross Jesus carries; it is the cross of blame, of vengeance.

 

Station 3 — Jesus falls the first time.

Jesus, they watched you fall, and nervously laughed together. The laughter transformed them from individuals to a collective, and gave them a sense of belonging. Their laughter reduced you to a joke, to something less than a man. They became a mob, and relinquished their individual sense of right and wrong.

 

Station 4 — Jesus meets his mother.

Jesus, they wanted to make you an object of laughter to isolate you completely, but your mother’s loving presence got in the way. She withstood the blows of taunt and sorrow to be present for you along the way. She alone remained to give you courage, to remind us that you are someone’s child, just like we are.

 

Station 5 — Simon helps Jesus carry the Cross.

They needed you to die, Jesus, but their rage had gone too far. You were beaten so severely, not able to go on, so they looked for a solution that wouldn’t involve them too closely or have them touch the cross themselves. The answer – find a stranger who had no idea who you were to carry the cross. Simon knew nothing of your innocence.

 

Station 6 — Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

Jesus, you had been beaten so badly that you were “marred beyond human semblance.” As you walked along, you were almost unrecognizable. It was so much easier to hate you, to jeer you, to wish you dead when they couldn’t see your face. Veronica did not permit that luxury. She stepped forward and wiped away the blood and sweat, revealing your human face to all the onlookers.

 

Station 7 — Jesus falls the second time.

The first time you fell, Jesus, the onlookers laughed. Your fall made their hatred well up even more powerfully. Even though Simon was forced to help you, you fell again and showed weakness, so the mob screamed all the louder, “Get up! Get up!” desperate to find an outlet for their rage. They recognized that life was not the way they wanted it to be and someone had to be blamed, and so they taunted you. “Get up, Jesus! Hurry up!”

 

Station 8 — Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

Jesus, you told them, “Weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children.” The women of Jerusalem, standing at a distance, wanted to weep for you as though your fate were unrelated to theirs, as though the violence you suffered did not affect them as well. You turned their sympathy back on to them; to remind them that your fate was their fate, too.

 

Station 9 — Jesus falls the third time.

Jesus, you did all you could do. You were utterly beaten, defeated, with not an ounce of strength left, so the remainder of what was to happen was left to the mob. They were not finished watching, taunting, hating. Like the potter’s clay, they fashioned you into what they needed you to be.

 

Station 10 — Jesus is stripped before the crowd.

Physical humiliation wasn’t enough. Spitting wasn’t enough. Whipping wasn’t enough. Crucifixion wasn’t enough. The mob needed to shame Jesus, to strip away from him any shred of human dignity. They were blind to the dignity in which his heavenly Father, our heavenly Father clothed Jesus. Unable to see his deeper dignity, they took sadistic pleasure in the shame they poured out on him.

 

Station 11 — Jesus is nailed to the Cross.

Hanging on the cross was not cruel enough, Jesus. Watching you suffocate would not satisfy the rage of the mob. So instead of using the traditional ropes, they needed to use nails to cut through your human flesh, to help the rage bleed away.

 

Station 12 — Jesus dies on the Cross.

The mob stood in stunned silence as they surveyed the result of their sin. The Lord of Life, Jesus, hung dead on the cross. The peace they pursued as they chased him up the hill refused to come. As they gazed upon Jesus, their victim, the realization dawned – violence would never bring peace. They were terrified and alone even as they stood with one another.

 

Station 13 — Jesus is taken down from the Cross.

Once the spectacle ended, the mob felt compelled to leave. There had been something both horrible and fascinating about Jesus as he hung there, and it was frightening to them. The task of dealing with his lifeless body, of touching Jesus, was left to those who were already unclean, so the mob had all departed by the time the guards permitted those who loved Jesus to bring him down from the cross.

 

Station 14 — Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Those who did not abandon Jesus, those who refused to join the mob, laid his body to rest with great tenderness into the empty tomb donated by a rich man. At that moment, they saw nothing divine in the torn flesh, nothing holy in the bloodied brow. They knew only sorrow, deeper than the greatest trenches of the oceans. Deep sorrow.

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Experiencing “Good” Friday and Holy Saturday

It seems to me that our words sometimes (often?) get in the way.

Here then is a fantastic video about Good Friday that uses no words. Created by SparkHouse for their line of Sunday School curriculum called Holy Moly. It is meant to be shown to and with children. But I think you’ll find it speaks powerfully to all ages. I know it moves me. (Disclosure: I’ve done some paid consulting work for other SparkHouse projects, but not Holy Moly.)

Once you’ve watched that, you may need some time in silence. That is what Holy Saturday is for: experiencing the silence of the tomb. It was real for Jesus; it is real for us. The United Methodist Worship blog offers this incredible resource for silence on Holy Saturday. Here’s a taste:

This is the silence of the tomb, or perhaps more accurately, the silence from the tomb. This is the silence that grabs us, if we are paying attention at all, when we contemplate the aftermath of the crucifixion.

This is what Holy Saturday has been about for centuries in the liturgical life of the Church. It is this silence, embodied in an assembly. It is the ultimate silence. The horror of the execution and our role in it was the day before. Facing the violence head on as we do and must on Good Friday also tends to move us into a kind of alternate reality removed from the usual patterns of our lives and thoughts. We can be tricked into thinking it was all just a horrible dream.

But on this day, on Holy Saturday, there is no question left. [read the rest]

Perhaps, like me, after you watch the video below and pray through the silence of the Holy Saturday litany, you’ll find yourself longing for more. Longing for conversation about these days leading up to Easter, ideas about Jesus’ death that do not turn God into a monster who somehow requires the death of “his” own child.

If so, I highly recommend spending some time with the conversation Tony Jones is curating at Why A Crucifixion? There you will “read what progressive Christian bloggers from around the blogosphere have to say about the meaning and significance of Jesus dying on a cross.”

It is in allowing ourselves to experience the events of Friday and Saturday that we become truly ready to know the exuberant joy of resurrection on Easter morning.

Peace be with you all.

Celebrating Sabbath

But as Jesus was coming out of the waters, He looked up and saw the sky split open. The Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove, and a voice echoed in the heavens.

Voice: You are My Son, My beloved One, and I am very pleased with You.

…After John was arrested by Herod, who ruled the Jewish lands on behalf of Roman interests, Jesus went back into the region of Galilee and began to proclaim the good news of God.

Jesus: It’s time! The kingdom of God is near! Seek forgiveness, change your actions, and believe this good news!

 

Mark 1:9-15 from The Voice New Testament

 

Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic
Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic (Photo credit: jakebouma)

 

 

 

Celebrating Sabbath

More wise words from Father Richard Rohr. Reading his daily meditations helps me root each day in scripture, in truth, in God’s love.

All of Jesus’ guidance for ministry, his seeming “tips for the road,” are very concrete and interpersonal. They are all about putting people in touch with specific people, and especially with people’s pain. Person-to-person is the way the Gospel was originally communicated. Person-in-love-with-person, person-respecting-person, person-forgiving-person, person-touching-person, person-crying-with-person, person-hugging-person, person-hurting-person: that’s where the Divine Presence is so beautifully revealed. []

 

“Eat the Bread…For a Stronger, Kinder Faith: Redefining Liturgy, part 2” Oct.7 sermon

Here’s my sermon from Sunday (October 7). As I’m sure you’ve figured out, I called it “Eat This Bread…For a Stronger, Kinder Faith: Redefining Liturgy, part 2.” Part 1 was last week. Part 3 drops next week (October 21) at our Evening Worship. Again, this sermon was inspired and informed by my reading of Brian McLaren’s new book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, The Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

Our text was John 3:16-17. Big thanks to my friend and tech guru, Chris McConnell for providing the video.

Eat This Bread…For a Stronger, Kinder Faith: Redefining Liturgy, part 2 from Dave Buerstetta on Vimeo.

“Words Mean What They Mean…Until They Don’t: Redefining Liturgy, part 1” Sept. 30 sermon

Here’s my sermon from Sunday (September 30), which I called “Words Mean What They Mean…Until They Don’t: Redefining Liturgy, part 1.” It is inspired by Brian McLaren‘s Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammad Cross the Road? I think it is a terrific book. For years now I’ve found McLaren to be an author who writes things I’ve been thinking, who seems to be in my head. Of course McLaren writes those thoughts much better than I can. Count me as one who very much wants to live a life of faith that is “strong-benevolent and not hostile.”

Galatians 5:13-16, 22-26 is my text, focusing especially on what Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit.

Redefining Liturgy, part 2 (working title: Altering Altar to Table) drops on Sunday at Woodridge UMC.

I must admit it is difficult for me to watch myself like this. So why share it? I hope it is at least slightly less difficult for you to watch. 🙂

“Heroes for Peace”

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Image via Wikipedia

Over at the Raven Foundation blog, my friend, Adam Ericksen, has a terrific post about the inherently political nature of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. Adam reminds us of the historical-political-social context of the time, specifically how words and titles we Christians use for Jesus were first used for Caesar. Words and titles like:

‘Divine,’ ‘Son of God,’ ‘God,’ and ‘God from God,’ ‘Lord,’ ‘Redeemer,’ ‘Liberator,’ and ‘Savior of the World’

Money quote:

I fully admit that those names and titles [for Jesus] weren’t original, but they were high political treason.  Which makes the early Christians officially B.A.  In claiming “Jesus is Lord, God, Son of God, and Savior of the world,” they were saying “Caesar is not.”  In claiming that Jesus is the “way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) they were subverting Caesar’s way of violence. [READ MORE]

My questions are: Why is the historical context of those important words and titles for Jesus not widely taught?

In other words, how might more 21st century followers of God in the Way of Jesus become B.A. like our ancestors in the faith?

It’s been a Good Friday

The Crucifixion
Image via Wikipedia

Since the blogosphere is overrun with people reflecting on their journey of faith in Christ (most of whom are way better at it than I), it should come as no surprise that posts on the meaning of Good Friday abound.

Here are some that I found meaningful and thought-provoking:

1. My friend Adam Ericksen  offers this video post wondering why today isn’t Tragic Friday:

2. Via Tony Jones, a terrific post by Craig Goodwin on today’s confluence of Good Friday and Earth Day.

3. Finally, Eugene Cho, the Seattle-based pastor and founder of the excellent extreme poverty-fighting non-profit, One Day’s Wages, encourages us not to skip ahead to Easter Sunday too quickly. We need to stay in the uncomfortable dark a while longer.

That’s what I wanted tonight: to stay in the uncomfortable dark a while longer.

Don’t get me wrong, worship at my church tonight was meaningful. In lieu of a musical prelude, a couple of our young people pounded on pieces of wood with hammers. It was a Tenebrae service, meaning we read the last words of Jesus and extinguished candles, causing the sanctuary to get darker and darker. Pastor Jim offered a powerful meditation on the very real suffering in the world and in our lives. We sang the hauntingly beautiful hymn “Were You There?”… and yet, I wanted more. I wanted more darkness and to sit in it longer. I wanted to consider what this day in which we remember Jesus’ death would be like if we approached it as if we didn’t yet know about the Easter Resurrection.

What would today be like for you if Resurrection weren’t just two days away, but was still an inconceivable impossibility?

Bizarro Shaggy and Scooby?

I hope you’ll forgive the continuing shameless self-promotion…

I’m pleased to be a part of the fun, interesting, good work going on at The Hardest Question, the blog that seeks to:

move Bible preachers and teachers creatively away from hermeneutical cliché, so as to ignite both weekly preparations and insightful conversations for the sake of the communities they serve.

In other words, it’s modeled after the Jewish midrash. I’m guest blogger this week, meaning you can read my posts on the Revised Common Lectionary texts for Easter Day. Here’s a taste of my thoughts on the gospel text, John 20:1-18:

John and Peter are like bizarro versions of Shaggy & Scooby: they take off toward the spot of the mysterious sighting and, zoinks! they, like, can’t get there fast enough. They must see it with their own eyes!

Read more…and tell us how do you read?

“That’s some salty language!” – final version of Feb.6 sermon

Not exactly sure why, but unlike many of my more disciplined colleagues, I’ve never been one to post a written version of a sermon. Probably has mostly to do with not preaching from a manuscript. Posting a few notes with a few more-fully written paragraphs and a few other thoughts that end up not being said…well, just doesn’t sound very appealing.

But it also has to do with seeing the sermon as more of a singular, oral event that occurs in a particular context for a particular audience and not as a paper to be submitted. It just seems like something is missing when reading a sermon – it’s meant to be heard!

(Please don’t misunderstand this as criticism of any of who do write out and post a sermon. I’ve read some that were really good.)

Now, as you’ve likely guessed, I’m about to do the very thing I just said I don’t like to do. Sort of. Think of this as the SportsCenter highlights version of my “That’s Some Salty Language!” sermon. I shared some thoughts on this recently. What follows now are my reflections after the fact.

Following the lectionary, the texts were Isaiah 58:1-12 and Matthew 5:13-20.

My synopsis: Jesus calls his followers to be salt and light in the world – to live righteous lives. Isaiah helps us define that righteousness as rescuing the oppressed.

While I didn’t say this exactly, these commentaries on those texts guided my message:

Isaiah 58 mocks worship preoccupied with ritual and blind to human oppression and need. It subverts a religion, no matter how passionate and busy, that ignores social arrangements that leave people dehumanized and enslaved. Authentic worship occurs when liturgy is joined to a hands-on involvement with the hungry and homeless.

Salt and light are functional metaphors. By their very nature they do something, and do it openly. They have an impact on the surrounding environment. Disciples of Jesus cannot retreat into private spirituality. Our call is to the marketplace, the public arena, where discipleship becomes witness and the same commitments Isaiah made are to be practiced.

What are those functions? Salt preserves and protects. Salt brings out the best in food. And, as all of us here in the Chicago area rediscovered this week, salt melts away that which paralysis us, that which causes us to stumble, that which oppresses us. Light eradicates darkness and helps us to see things as they really are, helps us see the truth.

What if we saw church as training ground for teaching people to be salt shakers and flashlights – what if the purpose of church is to transform the world?

That’s what the UMC says it’s for! “Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”

Isaiah and Jesus tell us today what we are to be transformed into.

What if what we do here at WUMC is train people how to be salt and light, encourage each other in those efforts, recruit new agents of change, celebrate successes, commiserate failures, seeing worship as filling us up with the Holy Spirit in order to leave our building ready, bursting even!, to change the world…to be salt and light.

That’s what Isaiah & Jesus are talking about.

So who among us beams with light? Who is providing salty flavor? Who is fasting rightly, bringing deliverance, hope and life to those around them? Who is preserving/protecting? Who is melting away that which oppresses? Who is eradicating darkness?

-Final Bloody Sunday march in Northern Ireland? British government finally admitted its troops were to blame for the massacre, not the demonstrators. Further, British government admitted the troops had no reason to believe they were under threat from the victims, gave no warnings before firing and lied to the official inquiry. This reversed decades of official government explanations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Family of our congregation who takes in young people with no where else to go, young people often rejected by their own parents.

Egyptian protester kissing riot police This is the greatest example of Jesus’ teachings on the Sermon on the Mount I’ve ever seen! Brilliant, non-violent, disarming but still affirms and loves the other, the enemy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Rosa Parks: She would have been 98 years old Friday. We don’t hear that Parks worked with the Youth Council of Montgomery’s NAACP in a “mighty but unsuccessful” effort to integrate Montgomery’s library when she became angry that black children didn’t have access to books.

“As long as people use tactics to oppress or restrict other people from being free, there is work to be done.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Christians encircling Muslims at prayer in Egypt this week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-In January, on Coptic Christmas, Egyptian Muslims became human shields for Coptic Christians to ward off further violent attacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-fighting trafficking – slavery – at the Super Bowl. National Hotline gets more calls from Texas than any other state. 1 out of 3 children who become homeless are sold into sex slavery w/in 48 hours of hitting the street. Super Bowl called “single largest human trafficking incident in USA, especially under-age slaves” Consider that when you see how many commercials this evening denigrate women. A South Florida task force estimated that tens of thousands were trafficked through there for a recent Super Bowl.

About 50 girls were rescued during the past 2 Super Bowls

“I’m not buying it” Campaign. Jay Ratlif, 3-time Pro Bowler from Cowboys made PSA for it. “Real men don’t buy children. They don’t buy sex.”

Airlines holding training to learn what to watch for.

Texas Attorney General working on it. NFL and Host Committee are ignoring it.

The group behind Traffick911, the founder of “I’m Not Buying it” campaign? A nondenominational church plant in Fort Worth. They wanted to raise awareness and show Christian compassion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Friday and yesterday, one of our college students, Catie, participated for the third time in the U of Iowa’s annual Dance Marathon. She helped raise over $1.2 Million for U of Iowa Children’s Hospital Pediatric Oncology Unit

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Another of our college students, Nikki, working with Invisible Children campus group to help child soldiers in Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-19 year old Zach Wahls speaking before Iowa Senate, shining light on a resolution that would return Iowa to the days of discrimination and oppression

People full of light, speaking a very salty language. May God’s Holy Spirit keep moving each of to be citizens in God’s kingdom, to be light bearers, to speak with THAT kind of a salty tongue. Amen? May it be so!