Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ecumenical Stations of the Cross

At noon on Good Friday, the Alpine Christian Ministerial Association hosts a Biblical Way of the Cross. Pastors and members of five or six Alpine churches (over 100 people total) gather at Queen of Angels Catholic Church on Victoria Drive and together walk the fourteen Stations along the west side of the church property. At each Station along the Way, numbered simply with black Roman numerals on the six-foot tall white crosses, one of the pastors reads a passage of Scripture and, as we walked to the next cross, we sang a verse of "Were You There" related to the passage. Father Acker and three of his Free Teen Guitar Class students, including J, accompanied the singing. It was a meditative walk, pondering Christ's suffering and death on the cross for our sins, thereby opening a path to eternal life never before available.

As the leaflet that was given to each of us read: Christians throughout the ages have been drawn to the Holy Land to walk the path from Jesus' prayer in the Garden on the night He was betrayed to His burial in the tomb. The traditional stopping places were known as "stations" by Christian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem.

While most Christians don't have an opportunity to walk that path in Jerusalem, the events recorded in Holy Scripture have been used by Christians throughout the world to be reminded of Jesus' way of redemption won for us through His death upon the Cross.

Today we join together in hearing these words of Holy Scripture read by our community clergy and we sing together "Were You There."

We started with a prayer on this cloudy, overcast Good Friday:

Fr. Acker: Christ Himself bore our sins in His Body on the tree.
People: That we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
Fr. Acker: Let us pray.
People: Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross so that He might draw the whole world to Himself. Grant that we, who glory in this death for our salvation, may also glory in His call to take up our cross and follow Him; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Acker: Wait for the Lord; His Day is near.
People: Wait for the Lord; be strong; take heart.

Then we listened to the Scripture passages as read by the pastors, and then sang the related verse of "Were You There" as we slowly walked the 20 feet or so to the next Station. Here are the Stations and the verses from the hymn:

Station I: Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives: Luke 22:39-45
"Were you there when they couldn't watch one hour?"

Station II: Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus: Matthew 26:47-56
"Were you there when a kiss betrayed the Lord?"

Station III: Jesus Before the Council: Mark 14:60-65
"Were you there when they asked, 'Are you the Christ?'"

Station IV: My Kingdom Is Not of This World: John 18:33-37
"Were you there when Pilate called Him king?"

Station V: Pilate Delivers Jesus to be Crucified: Mark 15:6-15
"Were you there when the crowd cried 'Crucify!'?"

Station VI: Jesus Delivered to Be Crucified: John 19:2-6
"Were you there when He wore the crown of thorns?"

Station VII: Jesus Bears the Cross: John 19:14-17
"Were you there when He laid His own life down?"

Station VIII: Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross: Mark 15:20-21
"Were you there when Simon bore the cross?"

Station IX: Jesus Speaks to the Women: Luke 23:27-31
"Were you there when the women wept and wailed?"

Station X: The Crucifixion: Luke 23:32-38
"Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"

Station XI: The Criminals Speak to Jesus: Luke 23: 39-43
"Were you there when He promised Paradise?"

Station XII: Jesus Speaks to Mary and John: John 19:25-27
"Were you there when Mary lost her son?"

Station XIII: The Death of Jesus: John 19:28-34
"Were you there when the Lord said, 'It is done.'?"

Station XIV: Jesus Is Buried: John 19:38-42
"Were you there when they laid Him in the Tomb?"

After the last guitar strum, we all turned and silently left the fourteen white crosses, bathed in weak sunshine through the clouds. The birds twittered in the flowering trees above our heads, and it would have been a beautiful day promising spring. But we knew better.

Today was the day to ponder Christ's willingness to undergo the most extreme physical suffering imaginable, plus the most extreme spiritual pain as He shouldered the sin of every single person -- past, present, and future. Today was a somber day, a day to ponder the effect of Jesus' willing sacrifice for us. Saturday is a day of Vigil, a day of preparation. Imagine how His disciples felt that Saturday: the triumphal entry of a few days ago, of seeing the Messiah enter Jerusalem to accolades and "Hosanna" is crushed by the Cross. No conquering Messiah is here to drive out their Roman oppressors. They are beyond depressed, crushed by the Romans who once again robbed them of hope. What was Jesus thinking? He had the power to save Himself, and He didn't do it. The disciples are bemused, sorrow-laden, and fearful. Would the Romans come after them as well? The promises of Christ to rise again the third day is forgotten in the sorrow of the Cross. They are in hiding, waiting for something to happen....

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