Friday, September 02, 2011

Seeing Through the Cross


Friday, September 2, 2011 -- Week of Proper 17, Year One
The Martyrs of New Guinea, 1942


Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 982)
Psalms 31 (morning)      35 (evening) 
1 Kings 11:26-43
James 4:13 - 5:6
Mark 15:22-32


Perspective changes when we see reality through the cross.  Mark's spare, straightforward account of Jesus' execution is so gaunt and factual.  It is raw, like a pitiless camera.  


"Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).  And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it.  And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.  It was nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified him..." (Mark 22-25)


Helplessly we watch.  The taunting and shaming -- even his fellow victims join the insults as they die.  


There is something purging about our attachment to this scene.  It changes the way we see injustice and suffering.  And being willing to see, able to see injustice and suffering, changes the way we perceive everything.  


If we can look upon this scene and see hope, we have cause for an unquenchable hope in all circumstances.  What God does is resurrection.  What God does best is to bring new life out of death.  Whenever we see another human tragedy, or even evil itself, we know we are looking at another manifestation of the cross of Jesus.  We can look at the new horror with the same stark reality as Mark's depiction of the cross; we can look, and not turn away.  We can see, and yet hope.  For we have seen the cross, and we know the resurrection.


Pain can be revelatory.  Robert J. Wicks tells about a Dominican priest, Albert Nolan, who worked extensively in South Africa during the saddest days of Apartheid.  Nolan once said, "There is nothing to replace the immediate contact with pain and hunger -- seeing people in the cold and rain after their houses have been bulldozed, or experiencing the intolerable smell in a slum, or seeing what children look like when they are suffering from malnutrition."  Wicks goes on to interpret:  "In saying this, his message was not one of despair and defeatism, it was one of faith.  To a faith-full person, such an experience would certainly hurt, but more than that, it would lead to compassion.  Faith gives us the opportunity to listen for the call of Christ in pain just as we listen to his support and encouragement during times of joy.  With such faith, no matter what the circumstances, the step toward hope is a real and natural one."  


(Robert J. Wicks, Living Simply in an Anxious World, Paulist Press, 1988, p. 5.  The quote from Albert Nolan is from Spiritual Growth and Option for the Poor, a speech to the Catholic Institute for International Relations, London, June 29, 1984)


Lowell

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"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
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The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

2 Comments:

At 8:42 AM, Anonymous janet said...

Hi Lowell,

I've been sitting for the 20 minutes for peace in the garden outside St. Paul's. This morning I thought of Jesus in the garden, before the crucifixion. The dew was brilliant in the early morning light, softened diamonds on the green leaves of the roses and on the pink rose petals and blushing pink buds. I was startled by such silent beauty. And I wondered about the garden where Jesus spent some time, and especially those moments before his time of trial, as he agonized over his 'cup'. His disciples were asleep, and could not witness with him in his pain. I hoped that Jesus also experienced God's presence and the harmony of all being in the garden setting, maybe not with the roses offering their fragrance, beauty, and love, but perhaps some other flower - I've heard the jasmine when blooming in Israel is so fragrant people feel as if they are drunk because they are intoxicated by the scent. Do you know anything of the 'garden' that Jesus may have been in, from your travels?

And so I come to work - and wonder if I can do much more than witness to the suffering. And yet I know that the harmony is there, God's creation in tune each with all, and it seems the gentler I can walk, the easier it is to hear the silent symphony and take my part in that.

Beautiful reflection - stunning in the way only words can be. Thank you for your witness of words.

Peace,
Janet

 
At 8:30 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for your Friday words, Janet.

On the Mount of Olives there is a garden preserved for pilgrims that is supposed to be the place where Jesus prayed on the night he was betrayed. It is filled with ancient olive trees. I want to say that some of them might have been alive on that fateful night.

The trees are deeply anchored, thick and gnarled, beautiful in their roughness, twists and knots. The word "Gethsemane" is a combination of two Aramaic words that mean "olive oil press." There is a small cave near these olive trees where there once was an olive press -- you can see the indention in the ground where the press was installed. It is likely that this cave was a secret meeting place for Jesus and his friends, and the place where Judas betrayed him.

The image of a great millstone rolling over the olives, crushing them with its weight, releasing the precious, fragrant oil is a rich one. In a cave, beneath the garden.

 

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