John 19:30 “When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
Well, a bit of business before we get into the devotion. Although I move to my new home on Tuesday and start my new job on April 17, SpiritWalkers is not finished. Once I get moved in, I will be transferring all the current subscribers from the church list to my own list, but I expect that you will still receive a notice asking you to confirm the subscription. Apologies in advance for that, but so far I haven’t found a way around it. If you stop getting SpiritWalkers and that wasn’t your intent, please drop me an e-mail and we’ll get it straightened out.
As my time at the United Methodist Church of Westford is finishing, so is Holy Week and the timeline of the life of Jesus. This is actually the second time I’ve been through the last week of Christ recently. We did it also on the Holy Land trip earlier this Lent. I wrote last week about the Palm Sunday walk. The same day we did the Via Dolorosa or, in English, the “way of sorrows.” Following the stations of the cross through the old city of Jerusalem, we actually carried a cross to each of the stations. It took a couple of us to carry it, and we took turns, winding our way through the crowded streets.
A couple of things struck me as we traveled the Via Dolorosa. The first was that the stations could be easily missed. While many stations had little chapels with them, some were no more than a bronze marker high on a wall with a Roman numeral. Even the ones with chapels weren’t always obvious.
The second thing that stood out for me began near the beginning of the walk as we carried the cross through the middle of a gift shop. Then it was out into the street. It was crowded—most of the streets in the old city are narrow and do not accommodate cars—and not many stepped to the side or did anything to make it easier for us to get through with our load. In some places if we had turned the cross sideways, both ends would have been in shops, and an enterprising young man followed us the whole way, taking pictures every time a new set of people took the cross. He had the photos to sell to us by suppertime.
My first reaction was indignation. We were pilgrims walking the Via Dolorosa. We were remembering the flogging, the mocking, the pain, the death of Jesus and we could hardly get through the street. People were still buying and selling all about, filled with their own business and even trying to make a business out of us as we tried to huddle around the cross at each station and have a devotion. Others didn’t care, didn’t notice, or both.
But at some point of jostling through the street, the thought came to me that it probably wasn’t all that different during that first Holy Week. Jesus, too, must have dragged his burden past the peddlers who continued with their trade unmoved. Surely there were some devoted to Jesus who, like us, tried to stay close to the cross; but probably it was hard for them, too. The hustle and bustle of Jerusalem probably didn’t stop back then, either, except maybe for a minute when the sky grew dark and the earth shook a bit as one of the many crucified that day mumbled “It is finished.” But then, the Jordan River runs along a large fault line and storms can come up quickly. Life went on.
All that made me feel better, somehow. Holiness goes on in quiet corners everywhere, we just often fail to notice. I wonder how many times I have been the jostling intruder on someone’s sacred space—the special moment interrupted, the holy act unrecognized, a savior walking by with a cross and me too busy shopping to notice. The Via Dolorosa is definitely marked, but we have to be looking for it.
That seemed like a good thing to remember.
May we not only walk in your way, Lord, but may we walk with our eyes and hearts open. Amen.
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