I had a whole Lenten series planned around a particular curriculum – both for my congregation’s weekly Bible study and for these Lenten reflections on my blog, but my blog writing has been kind of a slog, and when I sat down to prepare for last night’s study, the curriculum was just…bad. The previews looked good, I had been excited about the topic and the questions we’d get to explore, but it just wasn’t working, in either context.
So, I changed things up. Instead of esoteric conversations about the existential meaning of pain, my congregation is spending the season reflecting on the Stations of the Cross.
Stations of the Cross is a spiritual practice that follows Jesus’ last few days on earth, from his trial to his death. Early followers of Jesus would make an actual, physical and geographical pilgrimage, walking where he walked up Mount Calvary, where he was crucified. Later, Christians made that practice portable by installing 14 stations – usually with imagery and prayer prompts – all over the world.
Reflecting on Jesus’ suffering has not ever been a prominent part of my faith practice, and even now I’m sort of surprised by how eager I am to enter into this study and reflection. But the new curriculum is actually good and thoughtful, and I also had a meaningful encounter with the Stations on sabbatical last year that changed my perception of them.
St. Francis Springs Prayer Center has a prayer walk with the Stations installed along a hillside and beside a gurgling creek. I walked that trail and prayed the stations several times when I spent time there during the first week of my sabbatical last March. Their stations included the traditional images, but the prayer prompts each tied Jesus’ suffering to the immediate suffering in today’s world.
Praying the Stations of the Cross is meant to be a contemplative practice, and walking the trail at St. Francis Springs last year definitely was that for me. I spent three days there in silence and solitude, walking and napping and relishing the gift of having someone else cook and serve me every meal. This Lenten season is very different in my life. Instead of a month-long sabbatical, I’m juggling three jobs, traveling much more, and floundering a little to find my footing both personally and vocationally. I appreciate the invitation to combine personal contemplation with global justice, and (no surprise), I’ve got some things to say about it.
So, if you’re up for me calling an audible here in the middle of the season, stick around. February is over (thank the Lord), and I’ve got some new direction. I’d love for you to join me.