Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

("Jesus Dies on the Cross", by Mark Wolfe, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church 2007 Stations of the Cross Exhibit, Charleston, WV)

Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross

Leader: O holy Christ, we worship you, we adore you;
People: You displayed perfect obedience to God even unto death.

What little Jesus said in his last hours spoke volumes. He cried out to God in his anguish, much as we have done ourselves when we feel forsaken, alone, and separated from God. He called for his mother. He entreated the disciple whom he loved to take Mary as his own mother. He promised a criminal a home in heaven alongside of him. But it is also what he did not speak that the few people with him at the end must have heard. He could have asked for God to deliver him, but he did not. He could have mustered the forces of heaven and earth to shower plagues and strike down those who opposed him, but instead the sky simply grew darker, as if it would die itself. He could have cursed his accusers and tormentors with the full weight of God's holy wrath, but instead he forgave those who participated in his crucifixion.

Finally, he cried out, "It is finished," and breathed his last.
(a period of silence is kept.)

The air suddenly became electric with confusion. Those remaining at the scene were somehow astonished that he was really dead. There was no doubt. His chest no longer moved. When he was pierced with a spear, both water and blood flowed, and his body displayed no reaction. Those who had believed in him felt foolish, spurned, abandoned. Had they believed in nothing real, nothing of substance? Was belief in an Almighty simply a cruel joke, a fairy tale spun to placate the world's fear of death?

Only one spot on Golgotha remained free of fear and confusion--the spot where a lone centurion stood, distant and silent. Up to that moment, he had believed in many gods--Jupiter and Venus, Pluto, Mars, and Bacchus. As he stared at Jesus' lifeless frame, he said to no one in particular, "Truly this man was God's son."

Leader: As Jesus died, an eerie darkness silhouetted him,
People: And the grip of death clutched the hearts of those who remained.

Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)

Almighty God, the bearer of true Light,
we are no strangers to the razor sharp daggers
of the fear of our own deaths.
They stab our hearts while we lie upon our beds
in the middle of the night,
or in the shaking chills of fever and sickness.
The seven words of our deepest fears cry out,
"Maybe this life is all there is."
Give us the courage, dear Lord,
to pierce the marrow of those seven words
with the six courageous words of the centurion--
"Truly this man was God's son."

People: Amen.

Holy God,
Holy and Mighty,
Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.


Sorry. You do not have to read this.

Know we have already spoken about this painting. But I cannot get it out of my mind - is too disturbing, troubling, ambiguous. Back when I had the chance, I hesitated to express my thoughts about it - did not want to appear foolish or impious. But the image seems to ask whether or not the Christian religion is dead - whether Christ and the Passion narrative are just dead bones? have been been dead for some time, dead for so long that they have decayed, that there is no flesh on them, no meat to the tradition. And Christ is not on a cross. The only visible crosses are those for the two thieves - for mankind. The Christ skeleton is only mimicking crucifixion. And, really, can that Valentine heart bleed? Can those insect wings carry anyone to heaven? The skeletons at the foot of the cross do not seem to mourn - seem to be interested only in the impression they make. And yet while the foreground is scary, the background - the world - is bright and colorful. The total effect on me, my response to the painting, is a forcing of the question whether Christianity, its meta-narrative, its old, old story, is dead - no longer meaningful - whether the myth has died.

On the other hand, perhaps this death, this death of our simple hand-me-down faith, is precisely the point of the Good Friday narrative - is an announcement that our god has died, that all that we previously believed about god and his ways was not true, that we did not really know or understand him, that the divine, with the things of the spirit, is still a mystery. And now that our god, our religion, is dead, we must wait for a new revelation, a renewing of the spirit, a rebirth of the myth, a deepening of the old narrative - must await an Easter resurrection, wait it with fear and anxiety, hoping that it comes soon - comes before we despair.

Sorry, got carried away - did not mean to expound.

By the way, I checked out the painter, Mark Wolfe. He is a local Charlestown, WV, artist. Most of his art work seems silly. It is only his pastels that contain religious symbolism, that displays any religious thought. Perhaps we are reading too much into this painting - seems more than likely. His website is:

I found this link that was interesting:

It is interesting that a recurring theme in much of his work is "juxtaposition." He did a photo exhibit in Charleston, WV of people he knew "coming and going."

I agree, it's very easy to over-read an artist. I always remind myself that the artist's goal is often to strike feelings in the "looker" not the "creator."

I wonder if he is simply a person who is fascinated by "juxtaposition" and his religious art likes to make us think about those juxtapositions between the church and the world.

When you think about how Christianity is changing through the "emerging church" movement (google that one sometime) perhaps looking at these juxtapositions of old/new; what the church is today compared to previous generations, can be valuable.

Have some acquaintance with the emergent (emerging) church movement. Have read the Phyllis Tickle book, "The Great Emergence". And have read what I could find out about it on the web - read all sorts of articles, pro and con - including the articles about it on Wikipedia and Theopedia, and have followed the links contained therein, followed them to all sorts of strange places.

Anyway, in doing so, I recognized that this movement -with its postmodern theology, with its emphasis on practice, with its emphasis on liturgy - offered a way to orient myself to Trinity - a clue to the meaning of what I found there - the church's freedom from dogmatism, its theological openness, its respect and revival of ritual. Have to admit that, at first, I had a difficult time at Trinity - in understanding what was going on there. It was not what I expected, what I was accustomed to, was not the old-fashioned Episcopal church. However, using what I learned about the "Emergent Church" movement (and it is not much) - using this little as a compass, a paradigm, I am now beginning to understand the folks at Trinity.

By the way, I also found useful in this regard the book "Christianity for the Rest of Us" by Butler Bass.

Incidentally, as an additional benefit to all this reading I, I am also gaining some insight into your blog - why you do it. Since I do not blog myself, I did not understand blogging. If I thought about it at all, I assumed it was a self-indulgent practice - isolating - arrogantly self-important. However am beginning to understand that you and your readers actually form an affinity community, self-selected, but a real community of faith - that you are truly a church - to understand that you care about each other, helping each other to grow spiritually, to find Godn - that while you are bound together by electronic impulses, you are also bound together by love.

Sorry. Feel guilty wasting your time.

We actually read "Christianity for the Rest of us" around 2006 in Trinity's book club. It generated a lot of interesting responses of which some of them, I think, slowly continually evolve in the life of the church.

I find myself fascinated with combining ancient practice with postmodern theology as we do at Trinity. It does bring a new meaning to the old rituals.

You are absolutely right about the spiritual blogosphere being a new form of the definition of "church." That is also true for a subset of what makes up "my Facebook Nation." One of the things I have to ponder in my upcoming discernment process is that I do consider my blogging as a form of lay ministry. I find it also is part of a dynamic between my "virtual church world" and my "physical church world." Writing the stations is a good example. I have always done a Lenten project. In the past two years, I decided to have the courage to "blog my project." This year, according to my site counter, the Stations have been the most popular set of links I have ever had in four years of blogging. In the last 500 hits, they have been truly 1/3 of them.

As you know, we used these stations at Trinity Fri. night. So what started as a personal Lenten project became an object presented with love to my virtual church, which in turn made me brave enough to present it as an offering to my physical church.

Really expands the definition of "ministry," doesn't it?

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I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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