At The Cross

At The Cross

Video Courtesy of The Kingdom Choir

Up on the cross is where Jesus overcame. I have a victorious life, but I will remain at the foot of the cross.

Sometimes I find myself getting so caught up in me and the things I experience day to day.  I think back over my career the past thirty years and I feel as if I’ve been dealt a bad hand.  I did all the things I was taught to do to be able to have a prosperous career.  After high school, I attended a major university and received a bachelor’s degree.  After securing a good job and working for several years, I decided to further my education and get an MBA so I could move up in the corporate world.  It wasn’t enough to boost my career, so I joined associations in my field and even held offices.  It still wasn’t enough. I had gone as far as I could and started seeking employment with other companies.

I got another job, and I was starting to rise up the ladder. But when a new management group came on board, I was stuck again.  Less qualified people were hired on my level, even though I had more experience.  It became clear to me that it’s not about what you know, but who you know. 

I began to feel that life is so unfair.  I did all the things I had been taught to do, but I was never able to move into management positions.  I complained to God, asking, “Why am I being treated so unfairly? I’ve done the right things, but I’m not prospering like others.  What am I doing wrong?  Am I being punished for something I did earlier in my life?  I go to church every Sunday. I teach Sunday School. I attend Bible study. I sing on the choir. I am the VBS director. I don’t just know your name, but I personally have a relationship with you.”

God dropped in my spirit: Because of who you are and whose you are, you will experience trials and tribulations.  You may never have more than what you have.  As a matter of fact, you may have even less than what you have now.  I need you to be a vessel for me.  I need you to serve.  You say you want to do My Will, experiencing these types of things and not getting where you think you should be is exactly where I want you to be. 

I am understanding why I need to remain at the foot of the cross.  I’ve done what I perceive to be the right things, but that doesn’t mean I will get what I have planned for my life.  I need to be able to accept the disappointments in life and continue to have joy and peace.  I need to know that the things I want are not necessarily the things God wants for me or needs for me to be. When His will is placed in my life, I need to know it may not look like what I expected. 

Every day of my life is a victorious life.  I need to stop complaining, stop whining.  Each day that I am alive is a new opportunity for me be an example to others on how to take disappointment and handle it as an assignment from God. 

As I feed on God’s word, my actions should be as the Bible states “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV). I should be challenging myself to live a victorious life and to stay away from sin, such as complaining and whining about what I wasn’t able to accomplish but concentrate on and be thankful for my many blessings from God.

I will stay at the foot of the cross.  I need to keep “executing God’s plan for my life.  Keep advancing in my kingdom purpose.  I need to stay focused on the outcome.”  I will stay around the Cross and live a victorious life. Are you challenging yourself to live a victorious life? Search yourself and decide what you will leave at the foot of the cross.

Video Courtesy of The Kingdom Choir

Pray About It

Lord, each day I am alive is a victorious day for me.  I need to be an example so others can see that I am at the foot of the cross.  I have sins such as complaining, whining, gossiping, not always being humble and so much more that I need to leave at the foot of the cross.  Thank you, God, that you correct me and instill in me the desire to do better.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Luke 14:27, NLT: “And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”

TONIA WILLIAMS. Tonia lives in North Augusta, SC where she grew up.  She received her BA degree in Journalism from the University of South Carolina (USC), Columbia, SC and her MBA degree from Brenau College in Gainesville, GA.  She is actively involved with her church, Old Macedonia Baptist Church, where she sings on the choir, is Director of Vacation Bible School, and teaches the Women’s Sunday School class

REFLECTION: Liturgy in the public square

REFLECTION: Liturgy in the public square

An occasional offering from Faith & Leadership, Duke Divinity School’s online magazine on the practice of Christian leadership.

We walked together, some carrying placards, some taking turns carrying the 5-foot-tall cedar cross. Not a large crowd — 25 or so. Enough to be intentional, enough to attract attention. I wore my collar and black cassock, signs of my ministry, signs of the church.

It was Good Friday, and we were walking the Way of the Cross through our town, Carrboro, N.C. This made church public — we felt a little timid and a little bold at the same time.

Somewhere between the fifth and sixth stations, a man rode by on his bicycle.

“F*** God!” he yelled, waving his fist in the air. “F*** religion!”

We walked on.

Good liturgy both expresses and shapes what we believe. That day, the people of my church understood a little better how it felt to publicly claim our identity as Christians, and how a God-made-flesh was vulnerable to the powers of this world.

My congregation, the Church of the Advocate, is a 21st-century mission of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. Launched in 2003, we are rooted in the traditions and liturgies of the Episcopal Church and the Book of Common Prayer.

Because don’t have a building, though, we experience the liberation and the challenge of inheriting the liturgies without the usual structures in which they take place. From the beginning, members of the Advocate have asked, “Why are we doing this? What does it say? How does it form us?”

This has allowed us to consider our Holy Week liturgies from scratch and to take them into new and different places, including outdoors.

In the past year, imposing ashes on Ash Wednesday in public has gained traction in cities and towns as “Ashes to Go.” We have found that the liturgies of Palm Sunday and Good Friday are also conducive to exposure and practice in the world.

After all, that’s where they started.

Palm Sunday

Remembering Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem, we gather as the people of the first century did, outdoors by the walls of the city (in our case, town hall).

Standing in the cool spring air, we hear the story of Jesus, the colt, the people, the palms. And we, too, wave palm branches and carry redbuds, azaleas, daffodils from our own gardens and trees, as the citizens of first-century Jerusalem did with the original palms.

We walk in procession to the entrance of our town commons (home to a playground and a weekly farmers’ market), singing “Jesus is coming! Hosanna! Glory!” I encourage people to crowd as close to the cross as they can.

Before entering, we cast our palms before the crucifer and cross and enter singing, “This child through David’s city shall ride in triumph by; the palm shall strew its branches, and every stone shall cry. And every stone shall cry, though heavy, dull, and dumb, and lie within the roadway to pave his kingdom come.”

The service quickly moves to the Passion story, a liturgical jolt. Yet experiencing these two narratives in one hour helps us realize that we, like the people of first-century Jerusalem, can quickly convert from cries of “Hosanna!” to shouts of “Crucify him!”

All who pass by are welcome to join. Some do: people walking with kids or dogs, people who have never been to church, people who remember the church of their childhood and are intrigued to see it being made new. Some stand on the periphery; others take a seat on chairs we have brought with us.

Good Friday

At noon on Good Friday, we return for a simple service from the Book of Common Prayer. Once again we hear the Passion narrative — the third time in a week — and it begins to penetrate our hearts and our bones. When it’s cold and rainy, we identify with Peter, warming his hands by the fire as he denies he knows the Lord.

Someone brings forth the cross, made of two pieces of cedar lashed together, and we see and feel its heft. We walk to town hall and begin the Way of the Cross/Via Dolorosa with the first station: Jesus is condemned to die.

We have recast the traditional stations for a 21st-century context, so as we walk through our own town, we also reflect on the state of our world, our nation, our community and ourselves. We walk past social service agencies, nonprofits, a center for conflict resolution, the police station, the local food co-op. We realize and make known Christ’s presence in all of these places.

We read the stations in English and in Spanish in recognition of our Spanish-speaking neighbors, many of whom come from countries where the Fridays in Lent are marked by a public procession of the cross. And every year strangers spontaneously join us on the Way, sometimes just for a station or two, sometimes to the end.

Last year we added placards as a way of showing how we were applying the gospel today: “Love the World”; “Jesus Welcomes the Alien and the Stranger”; “Dichosos los Pobres.”

The signs made us feel even more public and vulnerable. We were cheered and jeered. Drivers honked support and annoyance.

Yet when we talked about it afterward, we agreed that we felt strangely empowered and formed as Christians in the world. We realized that we can be open with our faith.

Moving outside the confines of a church building allows us to remember profoundly the experience of Jesus and his followers on the streets of Jerusalem, in the upper room, before the councils of church and state, and on the road to Calvary. And we come to understand more fully Christ’s gift of vulnerability to us all.

The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck is the founding vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Advocate, a 21st-century mission in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, N.C.