26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him.
The world today feels as though it is the most fragile of places. Human against human, human against nature, nature against human. Mothers wail and creation groans. And if you look across borders and across oceans, it seems as though the fragility is amplified. James and I have spent the last 10 years of our lives in proximity to communities across sub-Saharan Africa where the geography of your birth is a leading determinate of whether or not you will live. Hunger, thirst, illness, gender inequity, underemployment, disempowerment, dehumanization, injustice. We have seen some of the most atrocious symptoms of systemic poverty, where early yet preventable death is as common as a rainy day in the thousand hills of Rwanda. Where mothers bury their babies and children bury their parents. Where basic water sources are a day’s walk away while I run my shower in the luxury of waiting for the perfect temperature. Elsewhere, we see civil wars and terrorism and Zika and human trafficking and closed borders and on and on and on.
Meanwhile, there are other communities saturated by self-sufficiency and affluence; numbly living out an inner poverty of spirit, lacking that raw experience of what it means to have your life literally depend on a God of provision, instead believing provision to come from ourselves. Point your finger to any place on the map and you will see why we are a world so desperately in need of rescue. My continued prayer: "God, fix it."
Some of us have given up reading the news for Lent because the news of our day does not feel like Good News. We can turn the news off and in some ways pretend it doesn’t exist; we have the privilege of looking away. Give ourselves a break from the noise and the ache of humanity up against itself. And self-selected ignorance or worse, cynicism can win the day, and the story of Jesus could be that of a good teacher treated unjustly, offering nothing but love to the world and receiving a cruel march of death in return. But no matter how negatively we may respond to the layers of brokenness - be it a response of grief, paralysis, or cynicism - we can all agree that our world is in need of a rescue. "God, fix it."
It’s Good Friday, so we hold back on our Easter answers for now, but of the hundred things I wish I could understand about the Christian story, the one that hits me here with Simon of Cyrene is why the God of the universe, the alpha and the omega, the Maker of land and sea and stars, the Deliverer of justice and mercy - chose to limit himself within the bounds of human skin. The Son of God who walks on water and gives sight to the blind and raises his friends from the dead could not carry his own cross up the hill. Like us, he was flesh and blood and tired muscles and a beaten body. He was betrayed by his friends and perhaps by his God who did not take the cup from him as he pleaded that night before.
As I think about all that is wrong in the world and how it would seem so simple for God to fix all of it with the snap of his heavenly fingers or the wave of an almighty wand, we must take into account the fact that by some great mystery, and by God’s choosing, he is in need of us. In this case, he needed a stranger, a passerby coming from north Africa to carry his cross and make it up the hill to complete his mission. And if that is so, then perhaps we are not to be bystanders or spectators as we look to God to fix the problems.
Perhaps we are the Simons who sometimes unbeknownst to us are the ones God invites to carry some portion of the load. To loose the bonds of injustice, undo the thongs of the yolk, let the oppressed go free, share your bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into your house, clothe the naked. The flesh of us is part of how God is God, too. He did not have to invite us into the work of redeeming the world, but He did it anyway. The privilege is ours, to not look away, but rather to be participants and co-laborers of Christ’s work in the world.