• Rev. Scott Williamson

Stations of the Cross in the City

Grab your cell phone, you will need it to read this guide and to enter addresses into your GPS to help you navigate. Now, take off by foot, car, bike, or bus. You may wish to bring your Bible and a notebook to jot down your thoughts. Stop at each station. Look and explore. Read the scripture then take a deep breath. Dwell on the scripture for a moment before moving on to the meditation. Read the meditation and make notes of your thoughts in a notebook. Pray at each location using the prayer guide, or let your own spirit guide your prayer. Then take action. You can save the action for latter or do it while you are at each station.

Feel free to do part or all of the stations. Do them all in one day or spread them throughout Lent and Holy Week.

Jesus Condemned

Travel to the Hamilton County Sessions Court (600 Market St)

Read: Luke 23:13-25

13 Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people. 14 He said to them, “You brought this man before me as one who was misleading the people. I have questioned him in your presence and found nothing in this man’s conduct that provides a legal basis for the charges you have brought against him. 15 Neither did Herod, because Herod returned him to us. He’s done nothing that deserves death. 16 Therefore, I’ll have him whipped, then let him go.”[a]

18 But with one voice they shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.” (19 Barabbas had been thrown into prison because of a riot that had occurred in the city, and for murder.)

20 Pilate addressed them again because he wanted to release Jesus.

21 They kept shouting out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

22 For the third time, Pilate said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done? I’ve found no legal basis for the death penalty in his case. Therefore, I will have him whipped, then let him go.”

23 But they were adamant, shouting their demand that Jesus be crucified. Their voices won out. 24 Pilate issued his decision to grant their request. 25 He released the one they asked for, who had been thrown into prison because of a riot and murder. But he handed Jesus over to their will.

Meditate: Rabble-rouser. A threat to Pax Romana. This was the charges brought against Jesus the law breaker. Reminding us that just because something is lawful doesn’t make it just. Disobeying unjust laws is not a sinful act, but an act of love and justice. Each day, through the doors of this building, people are judged. Many are caught in a cycle of poverty that keeps them in jail while the wealthy post bail and is set free.

Who do you judge?

Pray: For those who enter the Court House that they may receive justice and mercy. Pray God open your heart to see how you judge and blame others.

Action: Donate to Legal Aid of East Tennessee

Jesus Picks Up the Cross

Travel to the Nooga Diversity Center (1100 Market Street)

Read: John 19:16-18 & Matthew 16:24-26

Then Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified. The soldiers took Jesus prisoner. 17 Carrying his cross by himself, he went out to a place called Skull Place (in Aramaic, Golgotha). 18 That’s where they crucified him—and two others with him, one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 25 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. 26 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives?

Meditate: We all have our own cross to bear is a common phrase with some truth. Suffering is a universal human condition. How heavy are the crosses we lay upon others. Nooga Diversity Center (NDC) provides an affirming environment with a connection to a network of local area resources as well as in-house physical and mental health support groups, and tailored programming that is informational, educational, social, recreational, includes arts and culture and is focused on out LGBTQ+ patrons and their families. Living into who you are created to be should be a blessing not a cross to bear. LGBTQ people are more likely to be homeless, more likely to commit suicide, more likely jobless, all because of who they are.

Pray: Pray for the LGBTQ community that they may discover the beauty of being. Pray for those who hate, discriminate, and judge.

Action: Donate to Nooga Diversity Center

Jesus Falls

Travel to First Tennessee Bank (701 Market St, Chattanooga)

Read: Matthew 21:42-44

42 Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the scriptures, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes? 43 Therefore, I tell you that God’s kingdom will be taken away from you and will be given to a people who produce its fruit. 44 Whoever falls on this stone will be crushed. And the stone will crush the person it falls on.”

Meditate: According to Christian legend Jesus fell three times while carrying his cross. Each of us fall at some point in our life. We trip on little things and big life crisis. The fall is an injury to ones dignity. But Jesus teaches that the stumbling stone would become the cornerstone. God in Christ can take things placed in our way and turn them into the most important stone for building the Kingdom of God.

First Tennessee Bank received $886 Million in the federal bailout from the U.S. government through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) on January 16, 2009. First Tennessee Bank (the largest in the Chattanooga market), for example, originated only one traditional mortgage to an African-American family throughout 2011-2014. Only .05% of their origination's in a city with a population that is 35% African-American

Banks like this serve as a stumbling block for many minorities who are denied access to assets and loans. In the Kingdom of God, such a thing is turned on its head. That which oppresses will become the means of freedom.

Pray: For those who struggle financially

Action: Support a minority owned business

Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross

Travel to The Passage (Ross's Landing, 100 Riverfront Pkwy

Read: Luke 23:26-31

26 As they led Jesus away, they grabbed Simon, a man from Cyrene, who was coming in from the countryside. They put the cross on his back and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A huge crowd of people followed Jesus, including women, who were mourning and wailing for him. 28 Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Rather, cry for yourselves and your children. 29 The time will come when they will say, ‘Happy are those who are unable to become pregnant, the wombs that never gave birth, and the breasts that never nursed a child.’ 30 Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 If they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Meditate: Jesus was too weak to carry his cross any farther. A man from Cyrene, North Africa was chosen from the crowd to carry the burden. We are called to bear the burden of others. People forced to carry a cross or shame are weary.

The Passage is a pedestrian link between downtown Chattanooga and the Tennessee River and marks the beginning of the Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears refers to the journey which forced the removal of the Cherokee tribes from Ross' s Landing in Chattanooga to Oklahoma. Some 4000 Cherokees died before reaching Oklahoma.

We can lift others burdens when we repent for our collective mistakes. We can lift crosses when we make reparations for stealing land, wealth, and humanity.

Pray: For all those who have been and continue to be burdened by a cross to heavy to bear.

Action: Learn more about the Trail of Tears

Jesus is Stripped

Travel to the Community Kitchen (727 E 11th St)

Read: Matthew 27:28-30

28 They stripped him and put a red military coat on him. 29 They twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand. Then they bowed down in front of him and mocked him, saying, “Hey! King of the Jews!” 30 After they spit on him, they took the stick and struck his head again and again.

Meditate: Many people seem to believe homelessness can be stereotyped into the panhandler, the beggar, the bum. Stripping people of their humanity and valuing them based on what they produce. However, homelessness does not seem to conform to any stereotype. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty states that each year approximately 3.5 million unique individuals experience homelessness in America. 1.35 million, or 39%, of them are children.

Jesus understand what it is liked to be stripped of humanity and mocked. God’s kingdom promise is first to those who are stripped and starved. In what ways have you been laid bare? In what ways do you strip others of their dignity?

Pray: For those who are stripped of human dignity

Action: Volunteer at the Community Kitchen

Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

Travel to the Bessie Smith Cultural Center (200 E M L King Blvd)

Read: Matthew 27:33-37

33 When they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place, 34 they gave Jesus wine mixed with vinegar to drink. But after tasting it, he didn’t want to drink it. 35 After they crucified him, they divided up his clothes among them by drawing lots. 36 They sat there, guarding him. 37 They placed above his head the charge against him. It read, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.”

Meditate: The cross and the lynching tree. How little has changed. What strange fruit we hang from trees. Human fruit. Throughout our city are many Golgotha’s. Places where humanity hung from the end of a rope. The only charge, being born with brown skin.

Located in an area once dubbed as the city’s black enterprise zone, (the famed 9th Street District) now known as M.L. King Boulevard, the African American Museum at the Bessie Smith Center presents the many contributions African Americans made to the development of Chattanooga. So many contributions made and so many more lost to a shorten life at the end of a rope. How can we do better? In what ways can you be the agent of change?

Pray: Thanksgiving for the contributions of African Americans.

Action: Visit the museum

Jesus Dies

Travel to the Walnut Street Bridge (1 Walnut St)

Read: Mark 15:33-37

33 From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. 34 At three, Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”

35 After hearing him, some standing there said, “Look! He’s calling Elijah!” 36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, and put it on a pole. He offered it to Jesus to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 But Jesus let out a loud cry and died.

Meditate: The crowd had its way. Actual guilt did not matter. All they wanted was blood, and that is what they got. In 1906, a young African American man named Ed Johnson was murdered by a lynch mob in his home town of Chattanooga, Tennessee. He had been sentenced to death for the rape of Nevada Taylor, but Justice John Marshall Harlan of the United States Supreme Court had issued a stay of execution. To prevent delay or avoidance of execution, a mob broke into the jail where Johnson was held and lynched him from the second span of this bridge.

In what various ways do we still lynch and kill?

Pray: For those who experience hate for the way they are embodied.

Action: Get involved with the Ed Johnson Project

Jesus is placed in the tomb

Travel to Citizens Cemetery (850 E 3rd St)

Read: John 19:38-42

38 After this Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate if he could take away the body of Jesus. Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one because he feared the Jewish authorities. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and took the body away. 39 Nicodemus, the one who at first had come to Jesus at night, was there too. He brought a mixture of myrrh and aloe, nearly seventy-five pounds in all.[a] 40 Following Jewish burial customs, they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it, with the spices, in linen cloths. 41 There was a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified, and in the garden was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish Preparation Day and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus in it.

Meditate: Jesus death was shameful, but he was buried respectfully and honorably by Joseph of Arimathea. So often we treat people one way in life and another way in death. Can we not celebrate each other’s lives while we are still alive, at least as much as we celebrate them after death?

What part of your life is entombed? What would transform this and bring about new life?

Pray: For the deaths on your life and for resurrections to occur.

Action: Make a list of things you have left buried. What should be left in the tomb and and what should be resurrected?

I hope this spiritual exercise was meaningful for you. This was our first attempt at such a project. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Pilgrim Congregational 


400 Glenwood Drive

Chattanooga, TN 37404

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