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 weepMay 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.
that we may have the strength to live.
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
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 stayIn 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.
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.
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.