Pastor’s Lenten Ponderings

One of the most faith changing events that can happen in the life of a Christian is to visit the Holy Land. While the location of many events recorded in scripture are truly up for grab, the visitor knows that a particular event happened “somewhere” in the vicinity and therefore cannot help but be moved by it. Without a doubt, because of its long history, Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus are in the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher. (Some tours take the visitor to a bus stop above, which is a skull-shaped hill, and say this is Golgotha, but that one is hard to swallow.) Of course, the trip is expensive and sometimes impossible to undertake because of political violence between Jews and Palestinians. I have been blessed to visit the Holy Land twice. I would go back tomorrow if that was possible!

For those unable to physically visit the Holy Land, there are two liturgical occasions when one is “invited” to make the journey. One is on Christmas Eve. We read the Christmas story from St. Luke and then you hear their words: “Let us celebrate, O people, the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, and raising our minds on high, let us go forth in the spirit to Bethlehem, and let us look upon the great mystery in the stable.”

With the shepherds who received a personal invitation to go to the manger, so we, too, are invited to go in our mind’s eye to see the miracle of the newborn Christ child. The service continues with the singing of “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” during which the Christ-child, represented by a doll, is placed in the manger. For this time, we are in Bethlehem—not physically, but spiritually.

The other time we are “in” the Holy Land is when we do the Stations of the Cross. This service finds us making our way from Jesus’ judgment before Pilate, to Golgotha, and eventually to the tomb. In Jerusalem, there are 14 stations or places where events recorded in scripture and by tradition of the Church are said to have occurred. This journey weaves it way uphill through narrow streets, passing by tourist shops, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This church, whose foundations were built around 320 at the command of Constantine, the Roman emperor who embraced Christianity, is thought to be the site of both Golgotha and the tomb of Jesus. This is path is the Via

Delarosa. This is Latin for The Way of Suffering. On any given day if you are there in Jerusalem, you will find people observing this sacred path. Someone is usually carrying a large cross, with pilgrims following. There is a final station in the basilica itself. This marks the resurrection of our Lord. The route is also called The Way of the Cross. Here are the 14 steps:

1. Jesus is condemned to death.
2. Jesus is made to bear the cross.
3. Jesus falls the first time.
4. Jesus meets his mother.
5 Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross. 6. Veronica wipes Jesus’s face.
7. Jesus falls the second time.
7. The women of Jerusalem weep over Jesus. 8. Jesus falls the third time.
9. Jesus is stripped of his garments.
10. Jesus is nailed to the cross.
11. Jesus dies on the cross.
12. Jesus is taken down from the cross.
13. Jesus is placed in the tomb.

As you can see, several of the stations are recorded in the Passion narrative. Others have been added through the years. One is station 16, where a pious woman named Veronica steps out of the crowd and, with a cloth, wipes the face of Jesus. The image of his face is miraculously imprinted on the cloth. What happened to the veil is subject to great conjecture. If it’s not in scripture, is it somehow wrong to include it on the journey to the cross? Well, in the stained-glass window in our Sanctuary that depicts the crucifixion, you will see an image of the veil in the upper right-hand corner at the very top of the window!

The Worship and Music Team, to offer something meaningful and different for Lent, invites you to walk the Way of the Cross on Friday nights at 7 p.m. We traditionally have had a supper, a program, and Vespers, with Holy Eucharist in Memorial Hall and All Saints’ Chapel on Wednesday evenings in Lent. In fact, the last time the chapel was used for corporate worship was the first Wednesday in Lent of 2020, as COVID-19 was spreading its evil wings over the world. In or- der to have a safe worship experience, this service will be in the Sanctuary this year.

What will this look like? We will have 14 brass plaques that will mark each station temporarily placed on the windows of the Sanctuary. A pro- cession with cross, Christ candle, and incense, followed by the assisting minister and the celebrant, and then the congregation, will go from station to station, literally walking with Jesus on the Via Delarosa.

At each stop, there will be an explanation of what happened at that station, with a time for silence and a prayer. In the Lutheran Book of Worship and the Evangelical Lutheran Worship there is a hymn, “At the Cross Her Station Keeping Stood the Blessed Virgin Weeping,” verses of which are traditionally sung as the procession makes its way from station to station. A hymn and brief homily will precede each service. We will make this spiritual journey on 4, 11, 18, and 25 March, and 1and 8 April . Perhaps we could go out for fellowship after the stations, as safety allows.

We returned to celebrating the Morning Light Gathering at 8:45 a.m. in Fellowship Hall on February 20. The 10:30 a.m. traditional liturgy will continue to be in the Sanctuary. Both services are available on YouTube and Facebook. Sunday School is offered at 10:30 a.m.

Your cooperation in being flexible to keep us all safe is really appreciated.

Pastor David Eisenhuth