John 19: 6, 15-17 Jesus bears the cross
7 Seventh Station: Jesus Bears the Cross
When the chief priests and the guards saw [Jesus] they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him." ... They cried out, "Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your king?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.
(John 19: 6, 15-17)
(Video version is here: https://youtu.be/JofOM307-D8)
Well. Here we are Dear Ones. It is the time when we would normally be meeting for our Wednesday night Lent worship with soup and bread and singing bluegrass music into the night with the wonderful band, Out of the Blue, a local bluegrass band that we found a few years ago when we wanted real bluegrass to sing along to in our evening service. And we wanted to support local artists as part of our work as a church here in this community. Jamie, Ginger and Rob, we love you guys! I will link some more Out of the Blue songs in the video description below (point).
So, here we are - I’m here on the land and you are in your homes, waiting for the worst of the COVID-19 virus to pass through us. We are staying at home, keeping distances, to keep those at risk safe, and to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed so that we can treat all of those who need treatment - from this virus and from all of the other usual emergencies and sicknesses. So that we don’t wear out our doctors and nurses and hospital staff.
So here we are, at Station 7 of the Stations of the Cross, tonight: Jesus bears the cross. Here we are with Jesus, who has stopped talking in our story. I’ll put the readings for all the stations below as well, so you can see the whole story of the last days of Jesus’ life, which the stations depict.
At this point, Jesus isn’t talking. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, has had Jesus beaten. Then he has had a crown of thorns made, so that he can make it clear that this is not just the torture of one troublemaker, but the humiliation of a whole people, the Jews - to remind them that they are subjects of Rome, they are defeated and occupied, they have no rights or dignity if they allow prophets to rise up and speak. Rumors of a messiah cause Pilate to show the Jewish people that they have no power, much less a king. Just this beaten, naked man, marching through the streets publicly to his death.
So it makes sense that Jesus isn’t talking much at this point. He’s been up all night, on trial, speaking fewer and fewer words after he was taken from his disciples, after he prayed to God. He is beaten and now carrying his own final torture implement, the cross. He’ll speak just a few more words: to the women of Jerusalem, to the thief on the cross next to him, and to God in anguish, in forgiveness, and then in surrender to death.
And here we are, in a time of uncertainty as we figure out how to wait for a virus to pass through the population, in the odd position of knowing that the less we do, the less power the illness will have. And we have this story. We are so lucky, as Christian people, to be steeped in THIS story. God coming to be with us, in all the real messiness of our human situation: all the illness, suffering, doubt, war — all of it. And carrying it all, to the end, to be with us and show us that the end of the story is already written, and love wins in the end.
He came into ALL of this, this life. The hard and ugly parts, but also the loving and kind and joyful parts. This beautiful planet, this beautiful creation - Jesus walked here, too. He loved his friends, they shared meals and long discussions about scripture and life. He went to weddings and went fishing. He came not to show us that this life is BAD, but that this life is HOLY. This life is part of eternal life: eternal life doesn’t start after we die. God came into this world to show us that all of this is part of ALL of the story. We are beloved now. We are precious now. As humans. Not just later, as harp-playing, winged angels walking golden streets.
Even as he carries the cross, Simon helps. Even after the crowd joins Pilate in calling for their own humiliation as a people, killing this man mocked as their “king,” the women of Jerusalem weep for this man - that comes next, stations 8 and 9. Even as he tells the women that their children will have harder times than this—even then, God stays here, in this broken and beautiful world. This is holy, Jesus says, by staying with us. Even the hard parts are holy. They are all part of this story.
Death and resurrection: that’s our story, and we are sticking to it. That is our central Christian story. Jesus repeatedly tells his followers that things will get worse. And still. He is with us. He is here. This is holy. What a gift to have our story in this time and in all times.
Easter is coming. Spring is coming - the wildflowers are blooming, calves are romping in the fields. Jesus is carrying his cross, and yet, we know that is not the end of the story. It is just part of the story, and soon the tomb will be empty, just as the earth is begining to tilt the northern half toward the sun again, just as the gardens bear vegetables. We are waiting out a pandemic virus, and soon we will gather again. We will be different, changed, wounded in some ways, stronger in some ways, made new in some ways. This is all part of the story, and the story IS LOVE.
Receive this blessing: May God bless you and keep you, may God’s face shine on you, and + give you peace. Receive the blessing of this land. These trails are waiting for you. The land is waiting for you. We will gather here again soon, singing Easter joy.
OUT OF THE BLUE at New Life
First Station: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
Second Station: Jesus, Betrayed by Judas, is Arrested
(Mark 14: 43-46)
Third Station: Jesus is Condemned by the Sanhedrin
(Luke 22: 66-71)
Fourth Station: Jesus is Denied by Peter
(Matthew 26: 69-75)
Fifth Station: Jesus is Judged by Pilate
(Mark 15: 1-5, 15)
Sixth Station: Jesus is Scourged and Crowned with Thorns
(John 19: 1-3)
Seventh Station: Jesus Bears the Cross
(John 19: 6, 15-17)
Eighth Station: Jesus is Helped by Simon the Cyrenian to Carry the Cross
(Mark 15: 21)
Ninth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
(Luke 23: 27-31)
Tenth Station: Jesus is Crucified
(Luke 23: 33-34)
Eleventh Station: Jesus Promises His Kingdom to the Good Thief
(Luke 23: 39-43)
Twelfth Station: Jesus Speaks to His Mother and the Disciple
John 19: 25-27
Thirteenth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross
(Luke 23: 44-46)
Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb
(Matthew 27: 57-60)
From Rob Lifford:
Can’t go wrong with Ralph Stanley on Rock of Ages:
Bluegrass legends Reno & Smiley have got your Roadmap:
Dailey & Vincent sing Amazing Grace, um, pretty well I guess :^D
The Old Rugged Cross, nice live version from The Trailblazers:
Three Men On A Mountain with a killer band:
Gotta have have some more Ralph for that sending song:
Bonus track, not one that’s been an official part of our services, but here’s the mega-classic take on “The Soul of Man Never Dies” — Skaggs & Rice!