On the Road to Golgotha
Proper 6 (11) B
4th Sunday after Pentecost
By Anne Ellis
The day was beautiful, the strangely liminal day that is Holy Saturday. Good Friday had come and gone and we awaited the Good News of the Empty Tomb. Knowing it would come made the day of waiting oddly anticipatory, there was an air of excitement and without realising it we instinctively moved towards joy. We don’t like to feel the pain and suffering of Good Friday any longer than we absolutely have too, so it’s easy to slip and forget that those alive and grieving on that first Holy Saturday so long ago had no idea how the story would continue.
We gathered. We gathered along the fenceline of the Kinder Morgan Tank Farm, where there is a trail among the trees. Where people have set up tents and buildings, where people have protested, marched and shouted for change. Shouted for the protection of the environment, the protection of the people living nearby, a change in the way we live our lives.
We gathered. We gathered to remember the road to Golgotha that Jesus walked, carrying the burden and weight of the world in the wooden cross on his back. We gathered to walk that same road and remember as best we could that there is suffering and that we are not alone.
In the Stations of the Cross tradition, the 4th station along the road is where Jesus meets his mother. He has been carrying the cross for quite some time now and one can imagine him as tired, perhaps covered in sweat and blood. Breathing hard and weak in his legs.
I saw an image of Jesus dragging the cross along the road. There is a crowd surrounding him and his mother is on her knees before him. His mother. What a horror to have to watch her child suffering and not be able to do anything to alleviate his suffering. Even with just her back visible in the image, I could feel her pain and I felt how much she suffered.
I thought about all the times I was helpless to alleviate the suffering of others. Times when I’ve felt hopeless and could do nothing because the person’s illness or suffering was something I couldn’t change. Or I was incapable because of my own fear, my own apathy, my own selfishness.
Standing alongside the fence at the Kinder Morgan Tank farm, the place of protest and conflict, we shared the words, “ I can’t make a difference, it’s those people over there who need to change, I’m too small to make a difference.” Because standing there, in that spot, we felt very small.
We paused then, our group experiencing the stations of the cross outside the fence, and we read this prayer:
Earth Prayers pg 185
Soul of Earth, sanctify me.
Body of Earth, save me.
Blood of Earth, fill me with love.
Water from Earth’s side, wash me.
Passion of Earth, strengthen me.
Resurrection of Earth, empower me.
Good Earth, hear me.
Within your wounds, hide me.
Never let me be separated from you.
From the power of evil, protect me.
At the hour of my death, call me
That with your living ones I may thank you
For all eternity. Amen.
~~Adapted by Jane Pellowski, from Anima Christi
As we stood in the sunshine, surrounded by a forest just waking from the cold little death of winter. We shared the story of the Mustard Seed. In the story the mustard seed is the tiniest of seeds and it grows into the biggest of trees where all the birds can find shelter.
If Jesus had lived on the West Coast, he might have used the Dandelion or perhaps the Blackberry to explain the metaphor. You can’t stop Dandelions. They are tenacious, determined and beautiful. They grow everywhere, in the cracks of pavement, dry dirt, muddy bogs. Their seeds float about and spread on the slightest wind, with the least amount of disturbance.
Blackberry brambles as as tenacious and vicious as well. They’ll overtake any place they get a tiny root down, spread and grow covering everything. There’s no stopping them.
When we think of the story of the mustard seed, or the story of the dandelion seed, I believe the story is asking us to remember that we are small. We can feel very small and a lot of times hopeless as well. But we can do small things that grow into big things. We can do little things that can bring shelter and support to others, even when we feel the most helpless.
On that day, standing along the fence, imaging we were on the road to Golgotha the dandelions had barely started to bloom. We handed around sunflower seeds (I had them easily on hand) and held them. Sunflower seeds are very small, they grow slowly and they grow BIG. Their seed nourish animals, birds and people.
While holding the seed I asked the group to think of times that they’ve felt small and helpless in the face of suffering. In the face of something that seems so much bigger.
And also think about how they can grow, do something small, and have patience to create something that’s big for someone else. Sometimes the littlest things we do make the biggest differences, I said.
“Little steps, little actions can change the world, think on the little things you’ve done, you DO – no matter how small – they matter.”
We closed with another prayer:
Earth Prayers pg. 115
All Mighty God who are mother and father to us all,
Look upon your planet Earth divided.
Help us to know that we are all your children,
That all nations belong to one great family,
And all of our religions lead to you.
Multiply out prayers in every land
Until the whole Earth becomes your congregation
United in your love.
Sustain our vision of a peaceful future
And give us strength to work unceasingly
To make that vision real. Amen
We gathered and onwards to Golgotha we walked. Along the fenceline, along the trail where people have shouted and marched. Where the dandelions and the mustard seeds grow.
Anne Ellis lives in North Vancouver on the unceded territory of the Tsleil – Waututh Nation. She is ministry staff at Mount Seymour United Church working with Children, Youth and Families. She also co-facilitates Mt. Seymour UC’s Mental Health Ministry. She likes cats, crochet, and good science fiction.
Wild Lectionary, a weekly reflection on land, creation and environmental justice themes in the texts of the revised common lectionary, is curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territories.