They took each other’s arms and started to walk. Arm in arm they crossed the Alabama River on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The Selma civil rights march, which took place 53 years ago this month.
Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, Jesus must be lifted up. For us, it’s chilling to listen as Jesus describes what he knows will happen. From God the creator’s perspective, heartbreaking. Especially as we walk with Jesus along the dark road that leads to Good Friday this week.
And the beloved 17 th century hymn sounds in our hearts:
My song is love unknown,
my Savior’s love to me,
love to the loveless shown
that they might lovely be.
O who am I,
that for my sake
my Lord should take
frail flesh, and die?
We’ve been talking over the last few weeks in this space about how far we might have to go to follow Jesus’ call:
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
When we’re wrestling with what God wants from us, it is natural to be fearful, anxious, unsure what to do. And lonely. God has many attributes, many qualities: reconciliation, mercy, wisdom, unconditional love, loving-kindness, creativity, fun. We can draw close to God at different times in our lives because one or more characteristic particularly reaches us in specific moments. One steadfast quality of God’s is that God – in the person of the Creator and in the person of Jesus – has been through everything and anything we might have to endure.
In the analogy with the serpent in the wilderness, Jesus tells his followers — including us — about what waits for him in Jerusalem at the end of his earthly ministry. He knows how it will end, he knew even before he left God the Creator’s arms and came to live in Mary. And God, the Creator, knew it, too, and still allowed Jesus to come — not to condemn us but to love us, to save us, so that we would not perish but have eternal life.
Sometimes they strew his way,
and his strong praises sing,
resounding all the day
hosannas to their King.
is all their breath,
and for his death
they thirst and cry.
The world is on the march, continuing the long march toward freedom and justice and peace. People all over the world are joining marches and have been since long ago: anti-war, civil rights, in support of women, and the March for Our Lives that took place last Saturday. And people assemble together in masses – and have been since long ago: Tiananmen Square in Beijing, farmers, Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, Moms Demand Action. Every time people join a march or a crowd, the specter of danger lurks. As we saw in Charlottesville, Ferguson, MO, Kent State years ago and on that storied bridge suspended over the muddy Alabama River.
Prior to the students’ walk-out on March 14 to protest gun violence in this country, I asked my sister-in- law how she felt about her daughter participating that action. I asked her if she worried about the child’s safety. And Mildred, in her steadfast, common sense approach to all of life, said that she thought all would be okay. And her words to my niece were: “Go for it.”
Here might I stay and sing,
no story so divine;
never was love, dear King!
never was grief like thine.
This is my friend,
in whose sweet praise
I all my days
could gladly spend.
As we imagine setting one we love free to do what she or he needs to do to follow God’s call, it’s hard to know which is harder: to be the person who goes, faces danger, or the one who lets them go. In the Godhead, we have both: the One who sent, and the One who went. And together, truly, they birth – for us – the song of love unknown.
1982 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church