One of the stories that needs to be told of the Advocate’s formation has to do with our processional cross.

It is modeled off an African style of Jesus on the cross,

in which Jesus is neither the agonized, limp, and suffering Jesus depicted in many Corpus Christi crosses,

nor is he the triumphant, robed and crowned Christus Rex of other crosses.

Rather he is on the cross but not dead,

modestly clothed, but not robed,

his arms outstretched, no longer nailed to the wood,

but welcoming and inviting,

our Advocate.

 

Our processional cross was funded by a member of our launching congregation, Philip Cree,

and it was crafted by a sculptor, Bill Moore,

who has a wonderful geodesic dome studio out in the woods of Chatham County.

As I described to Bill this kind of Jesus that I hoped for in the sculpture,

I added that it was important that there be a wound carved into the side of Jesus.

There needed to be a wound, because the suffering of Jesus is important to our understanding of him and of God.

While the cross was in process, Philip and I visited the artist’s studio several times,

and each time I would repeat the request.

When at last Bill called to say the work was done, I went to pick up the cross at the studio.

It was beautiful.

As you know.

But there was no wound in the side.

I said, “It’s beautiful, just beautiful. But there is no wound in the side.”

Bill looked at me, and said,

“I just couldn’t do it.”

Then he handed be a carving tool and said,

“You want to do it?”

 

Well, I couldn’t either.

It was a moment that was both comical and cosmic-al.

We want to keep the suffering part of the story out of the story.

We didn’t want him to hurt.

But the suffering of Jesus is essential to the experience of Jesus.

 

Well, as some of you know, within the first years of our life

Jesus of the Advocate cross took some falls and suffered first one broken arm, then another.

Repairs were made.

Then one day while we were setting up for worship in the Kehillah,

the cross fell from it’s credence table holder and more than the arms were broken.

I don’t know the extent of the damage, because parishioners didn’t want me to see it….

Again, repairs were made,

with rods and screws, glue and polish.

 

Then there was Palm Sunday before last,

when, in a gust of wind,

right in middle of the Passion narrative,

the cross fell onto the concrete floor of the covered Carrboro farmers market space where we were gathered….

A hush fell over us all…..

Suffice it to say,

our Jesus has suffered.

And yet he is a beautiful and inspiring and welcoming as ever.

——————–

It is perhaps one of the better distractions of the Great Distracter,

or whatever you might call him,

or her….

It is perhaps one of the better distractions of the Great Distracter,

to get us to believe that if, or when, we suffer,

it is a sign that God doesn’t care or isn’t there.

 

It is also one of the better distractions of the Great Distracter,

to encourage us to keep the suffering of Jesus at a distance,

and our own suffering as well.

 

It is perhaps one of the better distractions of the Great Distracter,

to lead us to believe

that if we can just believe enough,

or put mind over matter enough,

or have enough,

or do the right things,

we will no longer know suffering.

 

And because suffering is painful,

we want to believe that the Distracter is right.

 

But the truth is

suffering is.

Physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain,

suffering.

It is.

And no amount of distraction,

no amount of possessions,

no amount of transcendence or putting mind over matter,

no amount of good deeds or of being with Jesus

will remove suffering from us or from others.

 

God became incarnate in Jesus,

became human like us,

not that suffering would be removed from us,

but that suffering could be embraced,

fully embraced,

shared,

by Christ.

 

This means that our suffering is no longer something that we endure alone.

But that God in Christ is in it with us.

And just as Jesus embraced his suffering,

he now embraces us in ours.

Just as Jesus embraced his suffering,

He know embraces us in ours,

so that we can, at our best,

embrace the suffering of one another.

 

The arms of Christ are long,

the embrace of Christ is wide.

the love of Christ is sure.

Made known to us in prayer,

in the breaking of bread,

in the tender ministrations of another,

in the depths of our soul.

 

The arms of Christ are long, the embrace of Christ is wide.

The love of Christ is sure.

A balm like no other.

Thanks be to God.