Saturday, April 07, 2012

A Few Thoughts (and Prayers) along the Route of the Urban Way of the Cross

It was important to walk in silence and listen in silence. Otherwise, how could we hear the voice of God?  

The words of our Creator were everywhere, if we only those of us who participated in the Urban Way of the Cross on this Good Friday allowed ourselves to listen to the answer.  

We participated in the conversations with God (and with each other) at each of the stations.  

But those were our own words about 
injustice and a lack of faithfulness on our part and on the part of the society that we represent.  

It was incumbent on us to listen to the other side of the conversation.  And God's answer was not necessarily a call to action or empathy. 

 At one station, the question was, "Why doesn't the church speak with a stronger voice against injustice?"  

The words that  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" resounded in our ears and in our hearts.

"There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. 

In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society."

"Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are. 

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century."

God's answer came in a gust of wind that seemed to say "You are right to urge the church authorities, with all their power and influence, to speak out for those who are suffering in many ways." 

But there was also a soft breeze that gently floated a number of cream-colored petals through the mild air until they landed softly at our feet.  "The message was, you are the church too, and you must continue to speak out against injustice."

Even as we focus on the big picture, our Creator also wants our attention to the here are now.  

Another one of our stops was St. Martin's Hospitality Center, the place where my wife Karen spends sometimes agonizing and frustrating, but many times joyful, days as an advocate for homeless clients.

The very presence at this site represented a remembrance of many people who for one reason or another are forced to live on the streets (or alternatively at shelters and motel rooms). But the first station back at Wells Park was dedicated to our homeless brothers and sisters, as was the last station at Health Care for the Homeless. So our reflection at St. Martin's more directly addressed our kinship with with others, no matter what their religious affiliation.
God spoke to us in many, many other ways, and not just at the stations.  For example, it was the joy (and admiration) of seeing an old friend who was just back in the country after serving as a nurse for a couple of years at a hospital in Haiti.

And on this day God gave us the gift of a mild day, golden sunshine and a gentle breeze--not necessarily the images that we have traditionally associated with the death of Christ.

Who says we have to wait until Easter to rejoice in the love of our Creator?

(Rev. Greg Henneman from Central United Methodist Church, one of the organizers of the walk, also wrote about the Urban Way of the Cross.  Read his post in the blog Alive Theology).

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