Saturday, 26 March 2016

Stations of the Cross (4) Jesus is taken from the cross

So what are we to make of Esparmer’ 13th Station of the Cross?

Jesus had died so what could be done for him?  A burial with dignity is one answer.  Joseph of Aramathea offers a family tomb and Mary, at least in the drawing, with a broken heart oversees this ritual.

She held him at his birth, she followed him with her feet during his life and in the days to come she would surely carry her love for him in her heart.  But on the evening of Good Friday maybe the burden was just too much for her to hold – someone else had to lift him down from the cross and take him to the garden tomb.

We are gentle with the bodies we love.

Like all ministers I sometimes sit beside people who are spending their final days on earth – I witness relatives holding the hand of the person who is dying, lovingly offering them a sip of water, mopping their brow or rearranging their pillow.  There is great love and profound dignity in these precious moments and I always come away deeply touched by the beauty of our humanity.  I simply don’t see the world getting worse and life becoming hopeless – I see it populated by loving and courageous people whose journey alongside us makes this pilgrimage a privilege.

After his brutal death Jesus was surrounded by such folk who lovingly and courageously took him down from the cross and honoured him with the burial rites of his Jewish culture.

In his devotional book accompanying Erspamer’s drawings, Father Timothy Radcliffe writes of this 13th Station:  We must not wait to show our gentleness until someone is dead.  Be tender while it can be felt and reciprocated.  Say the word of love or gratitude while it can be heard. 
To illustrate the point he reminds us of the lady who just before the Last Supper anointed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment.  As the disciples protested against this seemingly inappropriate extravagance Jesus said: She has done a beautiful thing to me...she has anointed my body beforehand for burying.

Just last week a lady from our congregation did something similar to me.  Well – let me qualify that – she neither anointed me nor measured me up for a shroud but she did send me an email.  Because she has been following a Lentern series and that day the author suggested the reader send an email ‘blessing’ someone – saying ‘thank you’ to someone.  And this lady sent an email to Erna and I thanking us for being her ministers.  I was deeply moved by such a kind act in the middle of Lent.

We can all do it – we can all show our appreciation, offer our encouragement or simply be there for someone this day.

As Timothy Radcliffe ends his meditation on this particular drawing: He writes - Carpe Diem: grab the moment to show your love.

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