Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Things He Carried...

I am indebted to Stephen Cottrell and the chapter entitled 'The Sins of the World' from his moving book 'The Things He Carried - A Journey to the Cross: Meditiations for Lent and Holy Week' which lie at the heart of the meditation that follows...


I wonder what you are you passionate about? What drives you? What could you be a total bore about in conversation with others? Perhaps it’s gardening? A favorite sports team? Maybe Reneissance  art? For some others of us it might a certain era of music, or the books by a particular author, or stories about the antics of you and your best friend when you were younger or your other half’s superb cooking. What or who do you carry in your heart that you absolutely love...?

What about you Jesus? What are you passionate about? Is it possible that for some you became a total bore as you talked endlessly about the love of your Father? Was it that some got sick to the back teeth of hearing about the topsy turvey values of the Kingdom that you lived and loved by and called other to too?  Is that why we are here with you - making this last journey with eternal consequences?  What do you carry in your heart Jesus that you absolutely love?

Jesus as we turn with you toward your Passion I know that you carried the harsh words that I reserve for those I love most. You carried the bruising resentfulness of my pride. You carried every one of the petty excuses that I use to defend myself. You carried the puffed-up charade of my vanity: my self- importance and my self-reliance. You carried every wrong decision I have ever made. You carried those moments of wilful wrong-doing, where I have stared down the right path, seen what it would cost me, and chosen the easy road instead.

You carried the times I take delight in seeing someone suffer. You carried the times I have bullied and cheated. You carried the time I stole, and the time I fiddled my expenses claim, and the many times I separated sex from love, and all the lies I told, and the hundreds of times I never said thank you, and the thousands of times I was so self-obsessed that I was blinded to the good that I could do.

I even stood in the street as you walked by, carrying all this for me, and I did not notice you. I passed by. And you carried this as well. You carried my negligence and my envy. You carried my broken promises. You carried my deceit. You carried all those little hurts where I have let people down, where I have sat on the fence. You carried my cynicism: all my carefully rehearsed answers, put-downs, excuses; all my reasons for not caring, not believing, not trusting. You gathered up all the fragments of my conceit, every piece of bread that I refused to share – and the baskets You carried were overflowing. 

And You carried the big, global horrors born of our pretentious complacency. You carried the melting ice caps and the ravaged rain forests of our plundering the earth, imagining it was ours to do with as we pleased. You carried the xenophobic fantasies that have bred the genocides and holocausts that litter our history. You carried the poisonous hatred that built Auschwitz and the arrogance that invaded Iraq. And the economies that thrive on division; and the poor whose plight is a necessary part of the equation that makes others rich; and the exploitation and degradation, and the corruption of power, you carried it all. The raped child and the bloody horror of the rapist – You carried it. Every hair on our sinful heads You counted and carried. All the idols we worship. All the things we do with our power and our wealth: the towers of Babel we build; the bombs we stockpile; the sophisticated ways that we kill each other, and the money we pour into finding new ways; the crucifixes we erect; the palaces we adorn for ourselves, and the thrones we set in place, and the walls we build around ourselves, and the sentries we post. Everything we construct to keep ourselves in and everyone else out: You carried it all. The divisions were so vast that they had to be dragged together, united in bin and in you, nailed down. You saw everything that separates me from us, and us from each other, and all of us from God, and You pulled it together and carried it. You picked it all up and he took it to the cross.

Ringing in your ears, You carried the frightened denials of Peter. Still wet upon his lips, You carried the moisture from Judas’ kiss.

‘Sir we wish to see Jesus.’ Is this what we came to see? A failed circus act?  As you went by we heaped more things upon You. We spat on You; we ridiculed You; we made fun of You; we gambled for Your clothes; we jostled for a good view of Your dying, or we fled in fear; and when You was thirsty we gave You vinegar to drink. And then we laughed at You some more.

This is what sin does. It isolates. It divides. It rules. It flourishes in the fertile ground of self-delusion, where every decision begins with me. And why do You carry this great weight? This impossible burden of everything that is warped and twisted? What possible good can come from it? Isn’t this stupidity just one more reason to sneer?  The answer will shame us. Unless, that is, you have let cynicism get such a grip on your heart that there is no room left for love. For that is the answer: love.  For God so loved the world . . .

The weight is unimaginable, but the arms that bear the weight are stronger still, and they are true. You carry them because You want to get rid of them. You will take them to the cross and crucify them.  Father forgive them, they don’t know what they do... And we still don’t.

You will take them to the tomb and bury them. You will go on loving when all we can do is load insult upon injury. For this is what we do: we pass the buck, we blame each other, we evade the spotlight of responsibility, and we hide. We duck and weave. We squirm and sneer. And You carry it. You carry it for love. For when we say You carried the sins of the world, we mean every sin; and we mean that there is no such thing as a large sin or a small sin; and we mean every sin that separates us from each other and God; and we mean that sin is real; and most of all we mean my sins and your sins. It is all so horribly simple: I don’t do the things I want to do. And I end up doing the things I don’t want to do. I am compromised and defeated by all my wrong choices. I choose to call it something else, but I know it is sin. It is what I know to be wrong and I don’t need God to know it. I am stranded. I am weighed down.

‘Sir we wish to see Jesus.‘ What do we really see as we look at you here?  If I look very closely I can see something else that You carry Lord. Not just my sins as if they were separate from me (I am dead in my sin, I am not the person I want to be, I am already isolated and alone). You are carrying something else: carrying something which is very precious; something which needs to be restored; something which You knows can be beautiful; something which can be loved back to life. Jesus what are you passionate about? What is that you carry in your expansive heart of eternal love?  You carry me. And I am not heavy to you.

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