Early on in Lent, I was at a meeting with the Archbishop. As he led the closing prayer he used a simple image: “Lord, help us to be faithful in our journey to the foot of the cross.” That phrase got me to thinking about a couple of things. First, I am grateful that I don’t have to climb on that cross – that suffering love has already been endured for my salvation. I don’t have to re-do what our Lord has done. But journeying to the foot of the cross made me realize that I have to face the sufferings that Jesus embraced upon that cross. I had to see what Jesus took to himself in his agony. I had to understand what Jesus was reconciling in his body as he suffered. I became aware of those sufferings in different ways this lent.
Listening to NPR as I drove in my car, I heard recent stories about the gang and mafia related violence in and around Mexico City. The reporting commented that these are primarily fueled by drugs, fueled by people in the U.S.’s addiction to cocaine and marijuana. People are dying in Mexico because people in St. Louis and around the country want to enjoy a ‘toke’ on the infernal weed, or a hit of the white powder. I find myself at the foot of the cross trying to figure out how to stop the demand on this side of the Rio Grande so that people might live on their side of the Rio Grande.
Like you, I’ve been reading and hearing as the abuse scandal that we faced in our country is now being faced in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and the like. Parallel to our experience, some of what is written is true – and we need to hear it and face it. Some of it is false, and it needs to be corrected. And some of it is blatantly attacking the church in an effort tear down and destroy the body of Christ – and that part needs to be confronted. I find myself at the foot of the cross praying once more for victims and perpetrators, leaders and followers in this church of ours – that we might let the example of Christ lead us.
On a more personal note, my family has been dealing with issues around my mom’s broken but slowly healing arm, her failing mobility, her fierce independence and our desire to love her in a way that keeps her safe but respects her freedom. So I find myself kneeling at the foot of the cross called aging and geriatric care, asking for the wisdom to know a path forward.
And then there is that pesky Lenten resolution to spend more time in prayer. Where did that go? How did I get to Good Friday and not significantly change my behaviors and patterns despite my best intentions. And I find myself at the foot of the cross, begging forgiveness and mercy.
What brings us here tonight is probably as varied as the people sitting in the pews next to you. Whether corporately or individually, we have all journeyed to this moment and this hour – to the foot of the cross. Perhaps it is the foot of the cross of cancer where you find yourself this year. Perhaps it is a lousy job that you are trapped in, especially in this economy. Perhaps it is the corporate sin of our country so locked in one way of thinking that we can’t even disagree civilly anymore.
Whatever the cross invites you to face this year, we assemble at its foot. In a few moments, we will have the chance to venerate the cross. Bring whatever you need to this place of costly grace – your sin, your repentance, your need for God, the situation YOU are FACING – and surrender the burden. Lay it down upon the Lord. It is what he wants to do – for you, for me, for the world…