Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ecumenical Cross Walk Reflections

This past Sunday was Easter Sunday.  At the churches I serve, it was a day of great celebration... I mean, real celebration.  We danced, clapped, laughed, cheered, jumped for joy; we did everything you'd expect those who are celebrating to do.  Easter to us was not just a day to dress in bright, flowery clothing and sing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" (though we did that, of course, especially as Methodists).  Easter was and is a day for us to celebrate, truly.

Yet as I have repeatedly said to my congregations, there is no Easter Sunday without Thursday and Friday.  While Easter and the resurrection are the center of the Christian faith, we cannot celebrate what Christ did and does for us on Easter without Thursday and Friday.  Indeed, Christ hardly did anything for us if we don't acknowledge Friday.  For what reason did Christ rise from the grave?  If we can't answer that question then what meaning does Easter have?  And the answer to the question is that Christ rose to save us from death and sin.  Death and sin.  Both of which are the key players of Maundy Thursday (sharing a meal but also the betrayal; betrayal as in betraying our God) and Good Friday (death and, wouldn't you know it, betraying our God).  So if we don't first acknowledge that we are mortals, that we are created beings who fall short of our intentions and dreams and our created purpose; if we don't first acknowledge that we are sinful, whatever we mean by that; if we don't first acknowledge those facts then Christ rises for no purpose.  We must, then, at the very least, make Good Friday a critical part of our faith journeys every year.

Since first experiencing a cross walk in Swanton, VT, and carrying a rather heavy cross a short distance, I have decided that some form of a cross walk on Good Friday is indeed the best way to faithfully journey with our God on Good Friday and Holy Week in general.  Even if you don't carry a cross or if the cross isn't all that heavy or if you haven't been tortured and beaten before carrying the cross, still you are using your whole being to journey with Christ when you walk.  Doctors, psychologists, theologians, etc. all agree that there is a mind-body-soul connection, so walking as a spiritual exercise beats all other spiritual exercise.  Not to mention, of course, the fact that you can imagine yourself actually walking with Christ who himself walked (stumbled?) up to Cavalry.

I have further decided that ecumenical cross walks are the pinnacle of spiritual exercise.  At the cross walk we just had here in Jericho and Underhill, VT, we had at least seven denominations represented by my count.  It was probably eight, who knows.  Pastors of all these various denominations offered reflections on the "I AM" statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John while walking three miles.  It was, if such a thing can be said about Good Friday, a beautiful experience.  And everyone knew it. 

Our last stop took us to a UCC church.  Pastor Kevin Goldenbogen asked us to reflect together on what the experience meant for us.  A number of people said it was a joy to walk with people of different faith backgrounds and beliefs.  Probably half of the folk who stood to say something in reflection mentioned that we were walking together in unity.  Sure, you could tell that the pastors were of different theological and pastoral persuasions, but that made the walk all the more meaningful as we heard, hopefully, the full breadth of God's Word to us on that momentous day of our faith.  And, of course, in the midst of it all, as Pastor Kevin said (as I remember it), "There are reasons why we have upwards of eight denominations represented here, but it does us well to be reminded there is one God." 

It does do us well to be reminded there is one God.  The gospels tell us this constantly, even though we may not be attune to the reminder.  Think of how many times the Pharisees are mentioned, and scribes, and priests, all Jews but clearly believing in God, the one God, differently.  There were other sects of Judaism, too, including namely the Sadducees and also the Essenes.  Yet all these sects and groups were, it would seem, present with Jesus on his, on the, cross walk.  In the Gospel of John "the Jews" is an unfortunately all-encompassing derogatory remark, and in John 19:20 we read that "many of the Jews" read the inscription above Jesus's cross because Golgotha "was near the city."  The Gospel of Luke says a great many followed on the walk.  The Gospels of Mark and Matthew say that the chief priests and the scribes were among those who mocked Jesus at the crucifixion.  All the gospels place enough people at the scene for them to have conversations.  All but John's gospel relate that Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry the cross.  Who the heck was he?  Since he was compelled to carry the cross, we don't even know for certain if Simon was Jewish.  So,  you see, it took all kinds on that first cross walk, too.  Different denominations and non-believers, many disagreeing passionately with one another, certainly few agreeing on who Jesus Christ is, all present on the cross walk to witness, willingly or unwillingly, what God was doing.  As well it should be for us: if there is a God, there is One, so why not walk together on this journey of life?

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