My Psalm 44
Pilgrimage and Pain in the Web
The faithful are often given the metaphor of “a cross to bear”. Many make a pilgrimage which involves carrying a cross as a sign of devotion. Even for those whose religion does not involve the symbolism of a cross like the Christian faith does, make a similar symbolic gesture as a sign of their devotion. Psalm 44 introduced a different type of psalm to the collection. It was a shared lament of the community and mutual liturgical actions that followed a defeat.
The sacrifice of the cross and the purpose of it, its connection to suffering, the concept of “reformation”, and the mind-mapping of pilgrimages are very much on the minds of many in these days following the attack on a civilian airliner which resulted in its crash into the landscape of Ukraine.
It encourages us to think of what a crucifixion might mean to us and for us. We all have our own crosses to bear and certainly the lack of consensus regarding the purpose for the suffering, both on the cross by Jesus in the theology realm and for ourselves is ongoing. However, bearing the burden of an event like the downing of MH Flight 17 takes the question out of the imagined metaphor and into reality. It asks how we think and how those thoughts might bring us to new thinking and more peaceful action.
In the world of fashion design, the new designer is often asked: “Who is your customer?” The answer should be obvious, by the way, in the design, and if it is not, then the designer is told to work harder. The rebels who are supported by Russia might have intent but one wonders just who their customer is. Certainly in all of the footage shown officially and unofficially around the world, there are no cheering crowds. What did this action accomplish? Russian President Putin is rather like the parent who puts the cookie jar on the floor, takes the top off, and then acts surprised that the children have eaten the cookies. One wonders if he really thought no one would notice a missile being fired. If it truly was an accident, then perhaps he should spend more time in organization and training of his military resources and less time doing photo ops with outdated symbols of masculinity. He needs to make a pilgrimage to the homes of each family who now must bear the cross of grief over the loss of a loved one on Malaysian Airlines, Flight 17. He is the ruler, the top commander of Russian forces and they were his missiles.
I have no questions as to why the suffering on the cross by the man Jesus of Nazareth was necessary. Having worked around military people, I know they consider a good leader as one who would do anything they asked of their troops… and most probably have done it before and in worse conditions. A parent will forego a large helping to give their kids more food. A friend will go out of his/her way to help a friend. In other words, the relationship makes the pilgrimage a worthwhile journey and the cross one bears during it is not that heavy because it has purpose.
Many believe God understands our prayers because Jesus suffered. Others believe Buddha understands pain just as the Dali Lama does because they are intricately connected to the web of life. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church of the United States explains it this way: “Creation is an intricate web of life, more complex, awesome, finely balanced, and exquisitely beautiful than any human being can possibly envision. So is the human community. The dream of God, the heaven on earth we pray for so earnestly, needs all those parts, working together to build up the whole.”
We live in a 3-D world and usually there are at least three times three different versions of the same incident. . We think based upon what we feel, know, see, hear, touch, smell, taste, learn, and conclude about something. What we think changes with each passing second because life evolves and we evolve, hopefully. Life is its own “reformation”. However, some things should be absolute and the value of human life is just that – values and absolute.
The glory of a pilgrimage is the lesson learned, the sacrifice made, and the promised glory. The meaning of the pilgrimage is the same as the cross one might bear. It is a symbol of hope, of transformation, of devotion to something outside of us. The incongruity of suffering for beliefs may seem to make that faith insensible but actually it makes it possible. The pilgrimage we make within the web of our world community reminds us that we are more than just one person. When we lose sight of our connectedness, then we neglect the pilgrimage of life. We need each other to complete the journey and we need to let others make their own journey – free and without fear.
My Psalm 44
You asked for my faith, Lord;
You have it.
Life has asked for my suffering;
I have suffered.
For my beliefs,
I am persecuted.
I will stand firm;
You are my God.
Deliver us from such grief, O Father.
Protect your children;
Keep them safe;
Strengthen them in times of turmoil.
Cover us with your grace, O God.
Make swift your promises of salvation.
We who follow you into paths of danger
Seek your guidance and mercy.
Our faith will comfort us
As our pain increases.
Show your glory , O Lord,
In our time of need.