It was a moving, jarring experience to participate in the Public Stations of the Cross in downtown Madison today. About twenty of us gathered at the Federal Courthouse and traced a path past many of the civic institutions and social service agencies that dot the landscape downtown. We dodged traffic lights, construction zones, groups of school kids on field trips. We received some strange looks from passers-by and occasionally were joined for a few minutes by someone who wanted to listen.
We walked sidewalks that I walk almost daily, passed the food trucks where I might get a bite for lunch, were greeted by homeless people who hang out on Capitol Square. We had to contend with the raucous voices and instruments of Solidarity Sing Along that meets every day outside the Capitol.
As we walked, I wondered about that day 2000 years ago when a procession went out from Pilate’s headquarters to the hill on the edge of the city where Jesus’ crucifixion took place. How many people noticed that procession? How many people wondered what was going on? Would it have been common knowledge, an extraordinary event? Or would it have been business as usual, another in a long series of public executions which had become so common that residents of the city didn’t even pay attention?
Our prayers and meditations connected Jesus’ suffering to the sufferings in our city–to homelessness, poverty, unemployment, and racism. As we walked and stopped to pray and meditate, I kept thinking of all those people in this city who suffer, all those who walk the street day and night, not just for an hour on a mostly sunny April afternoon. I thought of the man who died on our steps last January and all the men who seek shelter inside our walls. As we gathered in Grace’s courtyard garden for the last station, I thought of the folks who gather in the same area, waiting for our Food Pantry to open its doors.
As we walked, I thought of our worship, taking place safely behind the thick walls of our church, mostly protected from the noise and reality of life on Capitol Square. As we walked, I thought of the cross; I thought of Jesus, his loving embrace of the world and of all of the worlds cast-offs. I thought of his arms, stretched out on the hard wood of the cross, reaching out in love to everyone and to every city, reaching out to the sidewalks and the gutters, reaching out to us.
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.