Scripture says we are “surrounded by a cloud of witnesses”. In fact, I’ll quote it here for you in full:
“Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. 2We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. He endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, because he knew that later on he would be glad he did. Now he is seated at the right side of God’s throne! 3So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won’t get discouraged and give up. (Hebrews 12: 1ff)
So we are in no wise alone. The risen presence of Christ in and through the Holy Spirit is with us; but more than that, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses to the blessings of Christ and the strength he brings us.
Over the Season of Lent, a period of 40 days traditionally taken as a time of preparation for Holy Week, we have been visiting the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross.
Tradition is not the same as “traditionalism” – which is the anachronistic veneration of dead things. St. Paul speaks of “the tradition handed on to me…” and in 1 Corinthians 11:12 commends them for keeping the traditions he passed along to them. Tradition is the handing over of memory. “Traditionalism” is where we do things without a proper understanding of why we do them.
So we observed the Stations of the Cross. The reason we did is to give us pause to stop and reflect on the meaning of Holy Week. I have tried hard to be both scholarly and offer fresh insights. I believe that simply knowing things in the head is not significantly useful. By this I mean, knowing the words of the Bible is pretty meaningless if we do not act on them. Simply knowing famous doctrines of the Church is impotent to save us. No, Christ saves us and transforms our lives.
His new Commandment is to love others by serving them. Having a head full of dogma is useless unless they lead us to roll up our sleeves, pick up a proverbial towel, and bend our knees to serve others.
Thus in our reflections on the Stations, we have constantly sought to ask, “so how do I follow Christ in the way he served the world?” This is how he transforms us. It is telling that Jesus never once vilifies anyone for their sins. His wrath is reserved for hypocrisy; for those so concerned about the irrelevant things they miss the important things; for those who are always so worried about the sins of other people; for those who honour the Law above Love.
The Stations of the Cross show us the humility in Christ over his self-righteousness. They show us how we are the legalists in common with those who crucified Jesus. The Stations of the Cross are an opportunity for us to see how and where we can be more Christlike in our attitudes and actions.
Above all, the Stations point us to the wonderful reality that even when we mess up, God offers resurrection from death. So as we sing Amazing Grace this weekend, let us remember what we have received from Christ, and to offer it to the world. Not because “we know” but because we serve.
“Oh let the Son of God enfold you
With his Spirit and his love
Let him fill your heart and satisfy your soul
Oh let him have those things that hold you
And his Spirit like a dove
Will descend upon your life and make you whole”