Today, Matthew and I witnessed the procession of the Stations of Cross hosted by a Catholic Church in our neighborhood. The daughter of a friend of ours invited us and with great delight we accepted the invitation. The experience was quintessential New York. The children and teenagers paraded down 153rd between Broadway and Amsterdam, a street lined with aging brownstones turned into flats and the historic Trinity Cemetery. We joined just as the procession began with soldiers pushing Jesus forward after each stop and with a small mob of women and children dressed in New Testament era garb. Tennis shoes, white socks, jeans, and even brightly striped leggings peaked out from under their costumes. Some of the plumes on the soldiers’ helmets remained bright red while others had faded to pale salmon from age and use. Sometimes we prayed in English and other times in Spanish. Parents took pictures. Matthew got bored. I recited the Lord’s Prayer, every time, appreciating the reminder of the connection between our denominations.
Also in true New York style, life went on around us. People rode by on their bicycles. Children leaned out of their windows as to fully participate in the scene unfolding just a sidewalk away. A few adults joined as we walked and even allowed their lips to move with the prayers. Some took pictures. Some thought we were annoying because we interrupted the flow of their day. Some slowed as they approached, smiled, and traveled on.
I am struck today by how much these images speak to our witness as believers. Jesus followers try to bear witness to the cross and resurrection. We believe Jesus is real, not “was” real or “might” have been real. He IS real. And we march out there in the world hoping to bear witness to the light and love and life He brings.
Some people ride right on by our witness. Others lean out of their home space, listening, thinking, wondering if they could or should join. Some walk along for a while, remembering the prayers they learned as a child, recalling the Jesus they knew at the time of their confession or baptism or youth camp. “Is He still that same Jesus?” their hearts wonder. For some, we are annoying. We get in the way. We are irrelevant and irritating, and perhaps we’ve earned some of those sentiments. Another crowd, though, slows down, smiles, and moves on.
In all of this I am reminded that I cannot control how people respond to me, or respond to my faith in Jesus. I must simply live as honestly, as transparently, as lovingly, and as courageously as I can. I hope some will peak out of their windows, and that some will join the parade. I’m sure I will annoy a few. In the end, though, my singular hope is that New York City sees Jesus in the Cook Family, right here in our neighborhood, on our baseball and soccer teams, at the grocery store, and on the subway. And I’m really happy, deeply satisfied, if I can just get the smile.