For Tuesdays during Lent, I’m going to talk about my faith and spiritual practice (or lack thereof). So this is the time to look away if you’re not interested in this topic. No worries, there will be an allotment post tomorrow and I’ll see you then!
This is the final stretch, the last week depending on how you do it, we are in Lent until Sunday or Lent finished on Sunday and we’re in Holy Week but still observing our Lenten resolutions or Lent doesn’t end until the evening of Maundy Thursday when the Triduum begins and honestly diving into whatever you gave up for Lent on Good Friday, seems a bit off.
This Lent has been the ‘lentiest’ that I think I’ve ever been through and I’ll observe until Sunday morning but this is the week when faith gets real.
Jesus is God as man, God loved us so much he sent Jesus so He could experience humanity. Jesus didn’t share all of human experience, he wasn’t (that we know of) a parent or a spouse, he wasn’t necessarily a perfect, devoted child but he was human, last week, I talked about being made to feel all the emotions and Jesus experienced that. Holy Week is the point that we can actually walk through this journey with Jesus, with the disciples, with God.
The thing about a consistent practice of Christianity is that we do Holy Week and Easter every year and every year it can be a different experience. If you feel that God is asking too much of you or has abandoned you or you’re just afraid, you can find your experience in Jesus begging God in Gethsemane or on the Cross. Feeling cross and fighty? You can be with Peter in Gethsemane. Can’t own your faith, meet Peter (again) as that cock crows. Parents who have lost a child or fear losing one, this week you can walk with Mary. Lost a friend or just don’t understand them anymore, take a walk with the disciples this week.
We started on Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph. We know what he knows and the disciples don’t, it’s all going to end, it tears and death and then something else entirely. This week we are going to walk in this and find something of ourselves in it.
Years ago I wrote a Stations of the Cross meditation, and as it’s still part of my Holy Week practice, I’m going to post it here. It’s quite long and I find that every year, I end up spending more time at different stations. It’s always changing and it’s always the same.
1. Jesus is condemned to death
Jesus has done everything that God has asked of him. He left home, told everyone he could about God. For a while it looked like they’d heard him. Last week everything was going right. He’d been welcomed into Jerusalem with crowds calling his name, waving palms. Now they’re shouting for him to die. He did was what was asked of Him, what He was supposed to do and this wasn’t the plan. God said there was no other way, so Jesus said He’d do it but now…He’s been condemned to death, to be crucified and it’s going to hurt, a lot. God has no idea what He’s asking…does He?
How often do you feel that God hasn’t kept His promises? That life is harder than you can cope with?
Now is the time to tell God how hard you find things and to ask for help to take the leap into the unknown and trust God’s plan.
2. Jesus is given His Cross
God has asked Jesus to do this and though He doesn’t want to, Jesus picks up the Cross. He has put his life in God’s hands and he has to trust that God will give Him the strength and support to do this.
Sometimes following God is hard and no-one understands this more than Jesus. He’d asked God if there was another way and God said no. So Jesus picked up the Cross and reluctantly walked to Calvary.
Now is the time to ask God to walk with you, no matter how hard things are.
3. Jesus falls for the first time
The Cross is heavy and it’s difficult to carry. Jesus falls.
We all fall, but it doesn’t make us hopeless or losers. Think of times you haven’t succeeded and realise that sometimes failure can help you to see your mistakes.
Now is the time to talk to God, to admit that you have failed and acknowledge that you need his help to get up and carry on.
4. Jesus meets his mother
Mary sees Jesus, her little boy. She put her trust in God. Endured so much – humiliation, exile, pain – but she got Jesus. Her baby, her beloved child and now, He’s going to die for God and she has to watch. Nothing she can do can change this. How does she feel? Is she sad, angry, does she feel God let her down?
When do you feel that God has failed you? That God doesn’t understand your sacrifices, doesn’t understand your pain? That God gives other people an easier time.
Now is the time to give any pain that you have to God and acknowledge that he does understand and is carrying you through that pain
5. Simon of Cyrene helps carry the cross
Simon is a visitor, he’s come to Jerusalem for Passover and got caught up in this. Now he’s being asked to help this man, this traitor, this could cause trouble for him. People are going to see his face, know that he helped, judge him because of this.
When do you see someone who needs help that you can give? But you’re busy, there are other things to do. And helping is interferes with your life…
Now is the time to ask God for the strength to help others, even when it may be difficult for you.
6. Veronica wipes Jesus’ face
Veronica sees Jesus, there isn’t a lot she can do to help. She can’t carry the Cross for Him, but she sees that He’s suffering and what she can do, she does. She wipes His face, lets him know that she cares about His pain.
Sometimes when people are suffering, it’s hard to think what to say or do, we feel so helpless in the face of great pain
Now is the time to ask God for the courage to look through your awkwardness and to do the small things that may make a difference to others
7. Jesus falls for the second time
Simon’s helping with the Cross, Veronica wiped His face, but it’s still too much and Jesus falls again. Where does the strength come from to stand up and take another step?
Despite all the help we receive, sometimes it’s not enough and we fall
Now is the time to tell God about the things you can’t do without His strength to support you and help you carry on.
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
Jesus is doing the hardest thing He’s ever done. He’s literally reeling from the effort of it, yet He finds time to comfort others. Maybe He’s thinking about Simon and Veronica, following their example and setting His own.
In the midst of great pain, it’s easy to forget that others are suffering too. However, sometimes helping others helps us.
Now is the time to ask God for the courage to see through your pain and into another’s and to help them if you can.
9. Jesus falls for the third time
He keeps falling down, He keeps getting up.
Maybe the moral isn’t that we fall, maybe the victory is that we get up again. All God ever asks of us is that we keep trying. Think of a time when you’ve failed again and again and wanted to give up.
Now is the time to ask God for the strength to keep trying, even though you want to give up, especially because you want to give up.
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
Jesus had given up almost everything to serve God. He’d told the disciples “leave everything”. All he had left were His clothes, but now they’re being gambled away for sport. Everything has gone, He is now completely naked before the world. Mocked and humiliated. Nothing left. No dignity, no possessions. Nothing.
It’s the stuff of nightmares to be naked before the world. How many of us have had the being naked dream? Jesus lived it. To work and have nothing but people tearing us apart. Reflect on a time when you have felt that you had nothing, that you were nothing.
Now is the time to show yourself fully to God and acknowledge He accepts you and loves you, just as you are
11. Jesus is nailed to the Cross
Nailed to the Cross. Jesus knows that He is going to die. God has told Him what happens next but He’s never been dead before. What is really going to happen next?
It’s easy to worry about the unknown and be anxious about how we will deal with new people, places, ideas.
Now is the time to ask Jesus to be with you when you doubt
12. Jesus dies on the Cross
Before He dies, He asks God “Why have you abandoned me?” This is the blackest and bleakest space.
How often do we feel alone? How often do the things we are called to do make us lonely? How often do we feel that God has abandoned us?
Now is the time to ask God for His presence in those times
13. Jesus’ body is removed from the Cross
Joseph of Arimathea was a secret follower of Jesus. Now when it’s most dangerous to be known as a disciple, he asks for permission to take Jesus’ body down from the Cross. He risks everything and steps into the light.
We are often slow to step up to the responsibility that comes with the privilege of knowing God.
Now is the time to ask God for the courage to step into the Light.
14. Jesus’ body is laid in the tomb
A body. All that hope, all that promise. Gone. Dead.
When people die all we are left with is a shell. A body. We bury them. Death can bleach our world of colour. We can’t imagine our future without the person we love and it’s too painful to look at our past.
Now is the time to ask God for the vision to see beyond the bleakness of this moment
15. Jesus rises from the dead
Empty tomb. Jesus’ followers are really panicking now. What’s happened? Has someone stolen His body? Where is our Lord? He did speak about being raised from the dead, is this what He meant?
It’s not always how we think it’s going to be but God keeps His promises. We don’t know the details of the plan, we have to trust Him.