Saturday, April 12, 2014

Not Relying on a Single Story

I found this TED talk refreshing...

Holy Week & Anti-semitism

Holy Week and the Hatred of the Jews
by Amy-Jill Levine ABC Religion and Ethics 
4 Apr 2012

Jesus of Nazareth, charged by the Roman authorities with the sedition, dies on a Roman cross. But Jews - the collective, all Jews - become known as "Christ-killers." Still haunting, the legacy of that charge becomes acute during Holy Week, when pastors and priests who speak about the death of Jesus have to talk about "the Jews."

Every year, the same difficulty surfaces: how can a gospel of love be proclaimed, if that same gospel is heard to promote hatred of Jesus's own people?

The charge against "the Jews" permeates the pages of the New Testament. In the Gospel of Matthew, Pilate literally washes his hands while "all the people" - all the Jewish people - clamour for Jesus's death: "Let him be crucified ... His blood be on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27.23, 27).

John's Gospel indentifies the Jews as "from your father the devil" (John 8.44) and blames them for backing Pilate into a corner and forcing him to kill an innocent man.

In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter charges "the entire house of Israel" (Acts 2.36) with crucifying Jesus and so having "killed the Author of life" (Acts 3.14-15). Paul then bluntly refers to "the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 2.14-15).

Perhaps this vilification was inevitable. Jesus's followers could not understand how the vast majority of Jews could not accept their belief in him as the Messiah. The majority of Jews, in turn, saw no sign of the Messianic age having dawned: no general resurrection of the dead, no ingathering of the exiles to Zion, no end to death, war, disease, or poverty. What was self-evident to one group was incomprehensible to other. Incomprehension turned to mistrust, and mistrust, on both sides, turned to vilification.

Today, interfaith conversation, in which Jews and Christians learn to appreciate their common roots and better understand the reasons for the gradual and often painful separation, can reverse the process.

Official (and unofficial) church statements facilitate healing as well: Nostra Aetate, the 1965 declaration of Vatican II, proclaimed that all Jews at all times should not be held responsible for Jesus's death, and Pope Benedict XVI, in the second volume of his Jesus of Nazareth, strongly reiterated the point. Christians from many (but not all) other branches of the tradition, generally agree.

But we still have to deal with our pasts, and with our Scriptures. Every time the Passion narratives are read, the threat of anti-Judaism reappears. There is no catch-all for resolving the problems in the New Testament - or in Tanakh/the Old Testament, for that matter; we all have difficult texts in our canons. But there are strategies. Here are six, in order of usefulness.


The first option is excision: take a pair of scissors to the offending passages - or, in today's parlance, hit the delete key.

Howard Thurmond recounts hearing from his grandmother how the plantation minister always preached, "Slaves, be obedient to your masters ..." and how she determined that if she ever learned to read, she would never read that part of the Bible. The story has morphed into the common sermon illustration that Thurman's grandmother, once both freed and literate, took a scissors to the text.

Had I suffered what Thurmond's grandmother suffered, I may well have taken the same approach. However, the destruction of a text considered sacred seems to me extreme. To erase offending texts is to erase memories of both the victims of those texts and those who struggled against them. Moreover, if we each design our own canons, we eliminate community.

A variant on the excision approach is to claim that Paul or Jesus never made the problematic comment and therefore, we can ignore them. For example, scholars commonly argue that Paul did not write 1 Thessalonians 2.14b-16 - it is inconsistent with his positive comments about Jews (such as, "They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises ... as regards election they are beloved ... for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" - Romans 9.4-5; 11.28b-29). The offensive passage can also be removed from the letter without harming the rhetorical flow.

Similarly, many scholars argue that Jesus's invectives in the Gospels stem not from the man from Nazareth, but from the later church in competition with local synagogues.

Comforting as such arguments may be, they are based in hypothesis, not fact. Paul may well have changed his mind; Jesus would not be the first Jew critical of fellow Jews. Moreover, Christian proclamation is not based on some scholarly construct of an original text or a "historical Jesus" apart from the Gospels. It is based in the words of the Bible as interpreted by the faithful community. Therefore, Christians must deal with those words.


The second option is to retranslate - or, bowdlerize. For example, some "progressive" translations read John's Gospel as condemning not "Jews" but "Judeans" or "Jewish leaders" or "religious leaders" or simply "leaders."

Such translations are well-meaning, and at least "Judean" is legitimate translation of the Greek term Ioudaioi. But to replace the New Testament's "Jews" by other terms is to have a judenrein text, a text "purified" of Jews.

Such bowdlerizing obscures part of the reason why Jews have been persecuted over 2,000 years, divorces Jews not only from Jesus and his earliest followers, and even serves to de-legitimate the relationship of Jews today from the land of Israel.

Hence, politically correct translations are not necessarily biblically faithful ones.


The theological answer to the question "Who killed Jesus?" is not "the Jews" but humanity. This is an excellent place to begin. The problem, however, is that those who see themselves as "Jews" on Good Friday then see themselves as redeemed "Christians" on Sunday morning. The Jews, by not accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour, remain in their guilt.

The same romantic approach today is best exemplified in the celebration of Passover seders in churches, usually on Holy Thursday. While there are educational benefits to introducing Christians to Jewish ritual, holding seders in churches is not necessarily a good idea, and here's why:
It is not clear that the Last Supper was a Passover meal; it is not, in John's Gospel, which at this point has better claims to historicity.

The seder is a rabbinic invention which then developed over the centuries; Jesus did not eat matzoh ball soup or gefilte fish, sing "Dayenu," or say "next year in Jerusalem" - for Jesus, the seder would have consisted of a lamb sacrificed in the Temple and eaten in Jerusalem, not a brisket cooked in Nashville.

The Passover at the time of Jesus was limited to Jews, because one needed to say "My ancestors came forth out of Egypt."

In John's Gospel, Jesus is the Passover offering, crucified at the time the lambs are sacrificed in the temple, so for the church to celebrate a seder would be theologically retrograde.

Not only is the Christian seder historically compromised, it is also a problem in interreligious relations. Today messianic Jewish seders teach that the perforations on the matzah (only present since the baking of matzoh by machine, by the way) represent Jesus's wounds; the afikomen, the matzoh hidden until dessert, represents Jesus' body in the tomb, and so on.

Baptizing Jewish symbols in Christian terms is not a strong move in interfaith sensitivity. Nor do Christian seders remove the problem. To the contrary, the performance serves to absolve the congregation: how could they be anti-Jewish if they are doing something so Jewish as having a Passover seder?


The fourth option is to allegorize: to say that the text really doesn't mean what it says. For example, we take Matthew's blood-cry (27.15) not as a self-curse, but as a plea for redemption: the people are ironically asking to be redeemed by Jesus's blood.

While this approach redeems the verse theologically, it also suggests that the Jewish crowd wanted and needed this redemption, so that Judaism apart from the Christian message is ineffective. The move turns Jews into crypto-Christians.


The fifth approach, the darling of the academy, provides historical rationale and often justification, for the problematic statements. For example, we claim that Matthew is a Jew writing for a Jewish community; therefore his words cannot be anti-Jewish - as if Jews cannot be anti-Jewish, which is a silly idea.

Also complicating this view: we know neither who wrote the Gospels, which were originally transmitted anonymously, nor the community to which they are addressed. It is a dirty little secret in biblical studies: we determine, based on the contents of the Gospels, both author and audience. Then we interpret the text on the basis of our reconstruction. This is a circular argument.

Similarly, we note the historical unlikelihood of "all the people" saying, "his blood be on us and on our children" - that all of us Jews would say the same thing, ever, is a tad unlikely. Then, we see how Matthew understands the destruction of Jerusalem, witnessed by the "children," to be punishment for the Jews' refusal to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Therefore, so the argument goes, since the people never said the line, we can ignore it. But the line remains in the text; ignoring it is not an option.

Another variation on the historicizing approach is to claim that the anti-Jewish language is reactionary: invective would be quite natural from the pen of those excommunicated from the synagogue.

The problem here is, first, that we have no evidence, other than John's attestation (John 9.22; 12.42; 16.2) of synagogues tossing people out. If some synagogues did expel Jesus's followers, we should ask why.

Because they wanted to replace Torah with Jesus? Because they were seen as compromising monotheism? Because they told synagogue members that unless they worshiped Jesus they would go to hell? Because they put the community in danger, given Roman distrust of the new messianic movement? Because they cherished their own traditions, which they found completely fulfilling? Any of these would be quite good reasons, and would likely result in censoring in my synagogue today.

Finally, if we define this polemic as reactionary, again we blame the Jews for the problem. Finding history behind the text can help. But we cannot be secure with the history we posit, and when all the historical work is said and done, we still have to address what the New Testament actually says.

Admit the problem

We come finally to our sixth option: admit to the problem and deal with it. There are many ways congregations can address the difficult texts. Put a note in service bulletins to explain the harm the texts have caused. Read the problematic texts silently, or in a whisper. Have Jews today give testimony about how they have been hurt by the texts.

Those who proclaim the problematic verses from the pulpit might imagine a Jewish child sitting in the front pew and take heed: don't say anything that would hurt this child, and don't say anything that would cause a member of the congregation to hurt this child. Better still: educate the next generation, so that when they hear the problematic words proclaimed, they have multiple contexts - theological, historical, ethical - by which to understand them.

Christians, hearing the Gospels during Holy Week, should no more hear a message of hatred of Jews than Jews, reading the Book of Esther on Purim, should hate Persians, or celebrating the seder and reliving the time when "we were slaves in Egypt," should hate Egyptians.

We choose how to read. After two thousand years of enmity, Jews and Christians today can recover and even celebrate our common past, locate Jesus and his earliest followers within rather than over and against Judaism, and live into the time when, as both Synagogue and Church proclaim, we can love G-d and our neighbour.

Amy-Jill Levine is E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Graduate Department of Religion, and Program in Jewish Studies. Her most recent book is The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Coming to the City Nearest You.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you.
Jesus comes to the gate, to the synagogue,
to houses prepared for wedding parties,
to the pools where people wait to be healed,
to the temple where lambs are sold,
to gardens, beautiful in the moonlight.
He comes to the governor’s palace.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you,
to new subdivisions and trailer parks,
to penthouses and basement apartments,
to the factory, the hospital and the Cineplex,
to the big box outlet centre and to churches,
with the same old same old message,
unchanged from the beginning of time.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you
with his Good News and…
Hope erupts! Joy springs forth!
The very stones cry out,
“Hosanna in the highest,
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The crowds jostle and push,
they can’t get close enough!
People running alongside flinging down their coats before him!
Jesus, the parade marshal, waving, smiling.
The paparazzi elbow for room,
looking for that perfect picture for the headline,
“The Man Who Would Be King”.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you
and gets the red carpet treatment.
Children waving real palm branches from the florist,
silk palm branches from Wal-mart,
palms made from green construction paper.
Hosannas ringing in churches, chapels, cathedrals,
in monasteries, basilicas and tent-meetings.
King Jesus, honored in a thousand hymns
in Canada, Cameroon, Calcutta and Canberra.
We LOVE this great big powerful capital K King Jesus
coming in glory and splendor and majesty
and awe and power and might.

Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you.
Kingly, he takes a towel and washes feet.
With majesty, he serves bread and wine.
With honour, he prays all night.
With power, he puts on chains.
Jesus, King of all creation, appears in state
in the eyes of the prisoner, the AIDS orphan, the crack addict,
asking for one cup of cold water,
one coat shared with someone who has none,
one heart, yours,
and a second mile.
Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the city nearest you.
Can you see him?

Canadian poet Carol Penner, who is also a Mennonite pastor, her poem is entitled Coming to the City Nearest You.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Holy Week Schedule

Join us this Holy Week
& find the meaning of Easter
through the
Passion & Resurrection
of Jesus!

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday (April 13) 8 & 10:15 AM

Holy Wednesday: Tenebrae (April 16) ~ 7 PM

Maundy Thursday (April 17) ~ 6 PM at Christ’s Church, Easton

Good Friday (April 18)Children’s Stations of the Cross ~ 10 AM
Ecumenical Stations of the Cross ~ 12 Noon
Liturgy of Good Friday ~ 7 PM

Holy Saturday (April 19) Easter Vigil ~ 7 PM

Easter Sunday (April 20) 6:30 AM ~ Sunrise Service (Wolfe Park)
8 & 10:15 AM ~ Festal Eucharist

Our Diocesan HQ is moving

Twenty-two miles south and slightly west, in Meriden ... is where we - Episcopalians in Connecticut - will have a new common space for our shared work in God's mission.  We are embracing a new future as we bid 'adieu' to Diocesan House in Hartford and find a new home at The Commons of The Episcopal Church in Connecticut, located in a former ball-bearing factory.

Please note our move dates, on the right. Winter storms affected the U.S. manufacturer of carpeting and delayed our initial move date. While we will be out of Diocesan House on April 16, the possibility of a slight further delay in carpets would mean pushing desk and file setup further into Easter Week.

We ask for your patience during this transition, and for your prayers for the movers and all others involved. Check for updates on diocesan social media and notices on the diocesan website.

The email servers will be briefly interrupted after hours, possibly as early as April 13, as they're physically moved. This shouldn't affect service during the week and we'll post notices of any known outages.

The phones will be disconnected at Diocesan House on April 15 and new service started April 17. If there is an emergency during these two days please contact one of your bishops on their cell phones. 

Here is the new address and contact info.

The Commons
Episcopal Church in Connecticut
290 Pratt Street
Meriden CT 06450
Local phone: 203-639-3501

Email addresses and phone extensions will remain the same in Meriden, for now.  

It is a time of tremendous hope in the midst of other huge changes. We pray that this move is a faithful response, by all of us, to what God is doing with us and among us, here in Connecticut. 

Karin Hamilton
Canon for Mission Communication & Media
The Episcopal Church in Connecticut

A Prayer in the wake of Viloence at our Military Bases

In the wake of recent violence at the Naval Station Norfolk & Fort Hood
(and the daily violence on our streets)…

Adapted from a prayer by the Suffragan Bishop for Federal Ministries:

O God of mercy, you sustain us with your grace as we live in a world which seems to abound in violence, often violence we have visited upon one another. Sadly predictable and all too commonplace, this violence is expressed in many settings: at a sprawling Army post, on an urban street, aboard a Navy ship, in rural communities, and even in our schools and families. This day our hearts are particularly heavy as we mourn the recent and violent loss of life in our country. We pray with you to deliver us from the ongoing harm and damage that we do to one another. Guide our hearts and minds in the paths of peace so that the greatest instrument we use with our brothers and sisters is the love of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

April 6 Sermon - Station 10

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. Amen.

Jesus began to weep. He was overcome with emotion at the tomb where his friend lay. Jesus who knew new life was coming, was still suddenly emotional, seeing the faith of those who lost their loved one who still believed even in the midst of their grief.
Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live…Do you believe?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."
Faith in the midst of the most dire circumstances, Martha has it and she shares it in the midst of her pain. Jesus lives the faith and still weeps for his friend.
To paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., “The ultimate measure of our faith is not where we stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where we stand at times of challenge and controversy.”
So in the midst of faith and pain, Lazarus is raised. Jesus said, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

Sadness and fear were present in that village. So too was faith, a faith that believed in the resurrection, a faith that began with Mary & Martha and would spread to others, the belief of Jesus as the messiah, and Lazarus was freed.

I wonder where the faith of his followers were as they watched Jesus stripped of his clothes, station 10. It is the final moments before crucifixion. The brutality of the torture he received is on full display. We are at Calvary, Golgotha. The last acts of this grim charade is about to begin, as one of our hymns put it.

It must have challenged their faith deeply to see this happening. Today, our faith is often challenged by death, illness and fear, which entomb us, we are stripped of hope and love.
His life was a never-ending winter of depression. His heart had been broken too many times; his last few dreams finally died in defeat and disappointment. He would leave his house only to go teach his classes or see his doctor, but his real life was lived under a blanket in his dark bedroom.

Then, one day, he was drawn to his empty yard and felt the urge to dig. He turned over spade after spade of dirt until he had cleared a small plot. He planted a few seeds and managed to find the energy to water, fertilize and weed. Soon he picked his first small basket of tomatoes and beans. He now had reason to get out of bed. He was a gardener. That was a few years ago. Now, each winter, as the snows rage, he spends hours at his kitchen table planning the next year's garden. While the world around him is entombed in winter, he lives in the never-disappointing hope of spring, looking forward to digging in his garden and gathering the bounty of the harvest. [Suggested by "The Garden" by Richard Jones, Spirituality & Heath, March-April 2011.]
The Christ who calls Lazarus from his tomb calls us out of the tombs we dig for ourselves in order to walk in the light of hope and possibility. He calls us to live life to the fullest, to bring the love of God into our cold, winter world. Jesus calls not only to Lazarus but to all of us: Come out! Go free! Unbind yourselves from the wrappings of death! Live life to the fullest - the life given to you by a loving God. Sadly, unlike that gardener, sometimes the winter of heartache is out of our hands and control…
Britney Gengel was a sophomore at Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL. After Christmas in 2009, she volunteered for a service project in Haiti, helping out at food stations and orphanages before the new semester began. Britney texted her mom and dad: "They love us so much and everyone is so happy...I want to move here and start an orphanage myself." That was the last they heard from their daughter.

The next day, the catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti, killing 250,000 people and destroying the country. The hotel where Britney and the group from Lynn were staying collapsed. Her family waited helplessly for thirty-three anxious days - including a mistaken report that she had been found alive - before her body was found in the rubble of the Hotel Montana. Britney was 19.

Her family was devastated. But they are determined that part of their daughter's dream will be realized and decided to help build an orphanage. A friend's camera found in the rubble included photos of Britney's last days. Her mother is convinced this project is what Brit would have wanted - to play a role in helping the country she loved to flourish. "She was genuinely happy there. She was at peace." "We have an obligation as parents to honor our daughter's last wish," her father says, "& that was to help the children of Haiti."

Building this orphanage to honor Britney, the Gengel family says, helps them move forward despite their grief that Brit's father calls "unfathomable . . . The pain is incredible, and maybe that's what powers us." As we stand watching the grim charade, Jesus stripped and ready for death, we need to follow what Jesus does at Lazarus' tomb: and bring life out of devastation, to enable hope to take root in the most barren of places, to lift others out of the pits and rubble of fear and pain. We have been entrusted with the work of resurrection: to bring the life and love of God into everyday situations.

Even at the Cross, Jesus who called Lazarus to life, calls us to that same life, to be unbound from sin and death that prevent us from loving & being loved & to live free to love in our broken world. Amen

March 30 - Stations 8 & 9

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you: because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. Amen.

Today is Refreshment Sunday, a moment during Lent when people are invited to ease their Lenten discipline for a day and refresh themselves through feasting and resting. The day reminds us that we are saved by grace, not by what we do during Lent. Carl Jung once noted that he had to be careful not to deny himself too much and today we are invited to remember that for ourselves as well.

In England this Sunday is called Mothering Sunday, in the old days, servants and apprentices were allowed to take a day off and go home to visit their mothers; in the life of the church, people made pilgrimage to the church of their youth, their “Mother Church” or to the cathedral. Again the day was for refreshment and rejuvenation with fun family activities.

So let’s a take a moment and relax. Take a deep breath. Exhale. That’s better. We are at the half way point of Lent.

We have also traveled half way through the Stations of the Cross – experiencing the last moments of Jesus life on earth through the first 7 of 14 stations. People have walked this journey for centuries, in Jerusalem, in their parish and many other places and we walk it, because it is like our own journey.
As Anglican author John Macquarrie put it, “The Christian life is a way of pilgrimage, summed up in the way of the cross, and it is because the devotion of the Stations of the Cross concentrates this way for us and so helps to shape the whole way of life that we follow, that this devotion can be a useful discipline, conforming our lives to Christ. This also means that as we follow out the devotion, we find ourselves at various levels of identification, just as there are various stages in the Christian life.” (Paths in Spirituality)
So we now turn out attention to the next station on the way, and where might we find ourselves here…

The Eighth Station – Jesus meets the daughter’s of Jerusalem.
We are told that as Jesus walked toward Calvary and his crucifixion, a group of women followed after him, wailing in their grief. “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me,” he said to them, “but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’
Jesus’ words seem unusually unkind. Don’t weep for me, weep for yourselves. Why does Jesus speak this way? Maybe he is trying to console them even in his pain. Don’t weep for me, my time is ended, but weep for what you will suffer, what will happen to others. For it will come a time when mothers will wish they had never given birth…

But I wonder, if those women replied to Jesus what they would say? For maybe there is more to their wailing and weeping (This is from The Daughters' Reply)
We weep
that we may have the strength to live.
We wail
that we may have the power to speak
of these things in the times to be.

Let not the days come, when we will mourn
for having given life
for having birthed
for having hoped.

Let not the days come, when we bid
the mountains fall
or the hills
to cover us.

Bid them, rather, to dance
for having loved so well.
Bid them, rather, to fly
for having dreamed so long.
From Sacred Journeys © Jan L. Richardson
May we with the daughters of Jerusalem wail at what has taken place and speak so others may live with a justice that bids everyone to move from mourning to dancing, from wailing to dreaming.

But even as we consider how we do this, the reality of the situation is still in front of us. The toll of everything continues to wear down on Jesus. Jesus moves on from that consolation.

And Jesus falls for the third and final time, station 9.

Everybody stares at him. Fallen. Beaten. There is so little life left. His executioners watch and wait. The cross is heavier now and exhaustion sets in. He falls, can he even get up again? It’s just a little ways now to Golgotha.

And as we have found at each step along the way on our journey, Jesus has fallen just as we do, but he will stay with us when we fall, as this sonnet tells us:
He weeps with you and with you he will stay
When all your staying power has run out
You can’t go on, you go on anyway.
He stumbles just beside you when the doubt
That always haunts you, cuts you down at last
And takes away the hope that drove you on.

This is the third fall and it hurts the worst
This long descent through darkness to depression
From which there seems no rising and no will
To rise, or breathe or bear your own heart beat.

Twice you survived; this third will surely kill,
And you could almost wish for that defeat
Except that in the cold hell where you freeze
You find your God beside you on his knees.
(Malcolm Guite)
In today's Gospel, Jesus cures a man born blind - but the greater miracle is opening the eyes of those around him to "see" God working in their midst. Today, God is opening our eyes to see Christ on his way to death, who weeps with us, walks with us, falls with us on our knees.

For Christ did that long ago for us on his way to Calvary and continues to be with us in everyway in our refreshment and our exhaustion. May you always see that God is beside you on his knees. Amen.

March 23 Sermon - Stations 5 - 7

We adore you O Christ and we bless You. Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. Amen.
Thomas Merton once said, “Doing the Stations of the Cross was still more laborious than consoling, and required a sacrifice…Nevertheless the work of performing them ended in a profound and fortifying peace.”
Our journey with the stations of the cross is not one without labor or sacrifice. To watch someone bear it, is terrible enough; to know our savior bore it for all, is even worse. It would be easy to avoid it, to look away, to forget…

But our news constantly tells us about people bearing crosses…

· Families who still don’t know what happened to their loved ones on MH370.

· Those hurt & killed in the Jersey Shore Hotel Fire – which housed people displaced by Superstorm Sandy.

· Adrianne Haslet-Davis, an accomplished dancer who was injured in Boston Marathon Bombings – lost her lower left leg. She began intense rehabilitation enduring intense pain, both physically and emotionally. With the help of a new prosthetic leg, she was determined to dance again, which she did this week…

This morning we continue our way of the cross, hoping to find that peace that Merton did

Simon of Cyrene picks up the cross for Jesus. Station 5. He finally has some help, even if it is for a moment. The weight is off and on another’s shoulders. Simon was compelled by the Romans to carry the cross, but his name would be passed on to countless generations as one who helped Jesus in his last moments, the father of Rufus and Alexander who tradition holds became missionaries. To this day, I still see Sidney Poitier bearing the cross (from The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)).

Station 5 is a symbol of the need for all of us to help each other bear our crosses, for there are moments that it is too hard to bear alone & we need each other’s help on our journeys

And so it is with Station 6. Tradition holds that Veronica wiped Jesus's face with her veil. There is no reference to the story of Veronica and her veil in the Gospels, but it is another gracious gift on his way to crucifixion. A moment of compassion. We should notice that Jesus is helped by a woman, in a way that society would not have permitted.

She offers her veil, which is meant to conceal! Consider the story from today’s Gospel.

Jesus is travelling through Samaritan territory, Samaritans and Jews of Jesus day looked at each other as an enemy of sorts, certainly they believed each other practiced their religion wrongly.

As Jesus sees a woman going to the well for water, he asks her for a drink. She is right to be astonished. What he is doing breaks all the boundaries, even taboos of the time. It’s just isn’t done this way!

And Jesus does all of this because his message is for everyone, Jew or Samaritan, he is not interested in our labels or our social limits. The Good News of the Kingdom of God was for the world. We see this as well when his disciples return and Jesus is speaking to her. They don’t seem shocked that he is talking with a Samaritan; they probably have seen him interact with so many different people, they almost expect it. Blind man, leper, stranger, they have seen it all, or so they thought.

But he is talking with a woman, alone at the well and they are astonished. They know all social conventions say he should not be doing this but they don’t ask why. But through this encounter, it changes her, she believes the words of Jesus that he has that living water. And she goes and tells others to come and see and they also come to believe. She in fact becomes a Samaritan evangelist and a disciple.

Like Veronica, the Samaritan woman at the well, who in her own act of discipleship gives to Jesus a moment of refreshment in the midst of his hard life. It would come from an unexpected place, and it would be remembered.

Those brief moments of comfort from Simon and Veronica are not enough, at station 7, Jesus falls a second time. The weight of what he has to bear is again too much, and onto his knees he falls. So we pause once again, to take in the scene, the power of love in the midst of such pain, those who helped on a dark journey.

A poem for our continued journey in the midst of pain and love by Elizabeth Jennings (Prayer for Holy Week)
Love me in my willingness to suffer
Love me in the gifts I wish to offer
Teach me how you love and have to die
And I will try

Somehow to forget myself and give
Life and joy so dead things start to live.
Let me show now an untrammelled joy,
Gold without alloy.

You know I have no cross but want to learn,
How to change & to the poor world turn.
I can almost worship stars and moon
And the sun at noon

But when I'm low I only beg you to
Ask me anything, I'll try to do
What you need. I trust your energy.
Share it then with me.
May we be Simon and Veronica in our world today, for all those struggling with their crosses…that Jesus may teach us how to love and how he died, and we will try to give life and joy so dead things start to live again. Amen.