Friday, April 18, 2014
Out of the corner of my eye I saw an older woman quickly stand to reach up and touch the cross as it came crowd-surfing overhead. Everyone wanted a piece of it. To touch it. To do our part, if even for a moment, to keep it lifted, and then pass it forward to the worshippers who stood directly in front of us. It was the least we could do—dare we say, for Jesus?—who 2000 years ago had carried a much rougher and heavier tree-like cross all the way through the crowd-lined streets of Jerusalem, for heaven’s sake.
None of us wanted to let the others down. So, we each stood tall, reached up and grabbed the cross as it came surfing overhead, and did our part to keep it surfing on ahead. I couldn’t help but notice the old woman again, now that I had turned around to receive the cross as it swiftly advanced from the back. I didn’t think she would make it before the cross had passed us by. But she twisted and strained to quickly move a body that clearly preferred slower movements. And in one last burst of desperation she helped to carry one of the cross-arms for a split second on the tips of her three longest fingers. Success!
I stood in awe as I turned back around and watched the cross continue to sail overhead all the way to the front, held up and passed on only by the hands of ordinary people. People for whom the Jesus who had carried it originally had been later put to death. For their sake. To give them a second chance, and a new lease on life.
The cross was gently laid to rest upon pillows, placed carefully on the marble stone steps of the altar area as if the cross was the body of Jesus himself. The last three candles were extinguished, except for one. Then even that one soon disappeared with its bearer down the aisle with the great hall growing darker with each step. An “earthquake” quickly filled the whole cathedral with a loud, chaotic roar, punctuated by timpani and cymbals. On and on it rumbled and roared and thundered and crashed until those assembled just wished it would stop!
When the candle was finally returned, the air was filled with the feel of death. Stuffy. Quiet. Dark. Like the funeral home where I went at age five to visit my grandmother, the first dead person I had ever seen.
We all stood, hesitating… waiting for the next movement in this world drama. Yes—there would be one final scene. A subtle moment of joy, and perhaps… humor. At least I interpreted it that way.
Out of the heavens, above where the cross had been gently laid, tumbled down a waterfall of bright red rose petals. Dozens of them. Hundreds of them. Fluttering down like red butterflies. A sight to behold! Like one “last smile” out of the corner of the Father’s mouth, as a Final Statement to the scene that had just unfolded. A Final Statement that was revealing the deeper truth about what we had just witnessed. A foreshadowing of the magnanimous love that was about to awaken the world. A Final Word by the One who really had the Final Word about this whole ignominy. In another three days time.