Lent begins just next week as Ash Wednesday is this next Wednesday! And already the various clergy groups I am a part of on Facebook are in a collective frenzy of preparation, materials gathering, and occasional meltdown. Now, I’ll always be thankful for the lessons learned from the Boy Scouts and for the most part I find myself prepared. But I also heed this advice I learned in Seminary about Lent: “Lent is not about giving this up!”
Rev. Dr. Craig Satterlee, now Bishop of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod of the ELCA, was the preaching professor at LSTC, my seminary, and began his Ash Wednesday sermon during my first year with that exact phrase. He went on to surmise that we can easily allow ourselves to become too focused upon the practice and that act that we are giving something up, that we lose sight of intended spiritual purpose. We can also become consumed with attempting to choose the right thing to give up, too easy or too hard, that we again miss the spiritual discipline all together.
So, what I wanted to share with you all is a Lenten Spiritual discipline that has been of great intrigue to me ever since I first learned about it. The Stations of the Cross have always been captivating to me ever since a member of my home congregation told me about how he had walked the stations in Jerusalem. He expressed to me the awe, wonder, and profound faith he felt as he walked in the very steps of Jesus Christ. There is a sincere and deep connection felt during such a journey when you are in the same location that the original event took place. It is that connection to the original event that makes these places special. For instance, there is a distinct quietness that seems to envelope the Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg and Antietam. These places as we entwine them prayer and with our memories become for us Sacred Spaces.
These Sacred Spaces are of such importance to us that we seek to make pilgrimages to these distinctive locations. The pilgrimage to Mecca for instance, is one of the pillars of the Islam faith, and indeed visiting Jerusalem and the Holy Land hold a distinctive and meaningful pilgrimage in the life of a Christian. Not everyone, however, is able to take these journeys for a myriad of differing reasons. To that end, various spiritual practices have arisen that seek to emulate the spiritual journey of the pilgrimage; even when the physical journey is no longer possible.
One of these spiritual practices emulating the very real journey of Jesus through Jerusalem, is the Stations of the Cross. Christ’s own passage has been marked and remembered in Jerusalem with several different stations/locations depicting the various events that occurred from his condemnation to his burial. These several events, or stations, literally translated as ‘to stand,’ have been depicted in churches and sanctuaries across the world. For our Lenten journeys we too will have a set of stations and I invite you all to come along on this journey this Lent. While Jesus’ exact steps occured long ago and far away, his journey continues to live on in each and every one of us.
To that end, the historical stations seek to depict Jesus’ actual journey through Jerusalem. Our fourteen stations that will be up on display here at LCM throughout Lent will depict Jesus’ journey in a different way. These stations will seek to explore how Jesus’ final steps might manifest themselves in our lives today. I invite you all to come along, reflect, meditate, be still, and to stand this Lent, as we walk with Christ both in times past and today.
God’s Peace & Blessings,
Pastor Dave Elliott