The Journey to the Cross
- Sunday, March 12, 2017
- By Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
Lent is a time when we journey to the Cross and re-connect with the power of the cross and what this means for us. This is a journey that will lead us to the dark corners of our lives and bring to the light our strengths and weaknesses with our relationship with God and the Divine.
This is a journey into the soul where we yearn for a deeper, stronger relationship with God. For us as a Christian people, the Cross is a powerful symbol of how we make this connection. As we make our journey to the cross we are invited to go deep within ourselves and get to know ourselves better. In so doing this provides an opportunity for us to know God more deeply so that when we arrive at the foot of the cross we can join with centurion and echo the words, “surely this is the Son of God” with renewed confidence.
The Cross and our relationship with the cross can and certainly has gotten us into all kinds of trouble before. Scripture, our holy text, while life giving and contains all things necessary for salvation for us, does not necessarily apply to other religions and traditions around the world. It pains me to admit that our gospel today has in the past been used as a weapon of exclusion and hatred toward other religions. Even today, John 3: 16, has a loaded meaning and can send a shiver down my spine.
I am sure you have all been aware of the “Festival of Hope” that has jammed Facebook feeds for weeks. My prayer and my hope is that this festival was an opportunity bring people closer to God and God’s radical and unconditional love and tolerance for all people. However, given who the key note speaker and mover behind the festival was, I have my doubts. To counter this, and in contrast, just this past week there was another evening, not quite at the level of publicity and organization as the Festival of Hope, but another occasion all the same where an alternative message was offered. I, along with Rabbi Hannah from Or Shalom Synagogue and the Diocesan Ecumenical and Multi-faith Unit co-hosted a Multi-faith prayer service which was followed by table conversations and food. We had fifteen religious and faith leaders from around the Vancouver area come and share a short prayer and devotion. The offerings made that evening in an unofficial way served to counter messages of discrimination, racism and violence that has raised its head in recent months.
As I reflect back on that evening, I realize that there is more that unites us as a people of faith from across the religious spectrum than what divides us. Each of us in our own way and specific to our tradition while being respectful of the “Other” described a God of compassion, love and tolerance of diversity. Within each devotion offered there was opportunity for me to learn and appreciate what was different about our respective traditions. At the same time I was able to recognize where we had similarity.
In the end when we think about it what was highlighted at the Multi-Faith service at Or Shalom Synagogue was that there are many ways to know God. Our God is a God of compassion, mercy and peace that is known by many different names and that has a deep radical love for all humanity that God cannot help God’s self but love all people. This is a God that loves the diverse ways in which people are drawn into a deeper relationship with one another and with God.
When engage our own Sacred Text, let us hold it lightly as we deepen our own understanding and relationship with the Divine, recognizing that the cross is but one way in a sea of ways to encounter God. May your journey to the foot of the cross this Lent be filled with opportunities to know God in more deep and profound ways.