Music. Movies. The Way of the Cross. Week 3
Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
A huge crowd of people followed, along with women weeping and carrying on. At one point Jesus turned to the women and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, don't cry for me. Cry for yourselves and for your children. The time is coming when they'll say, 'Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!' Then they'll start calling to the mountains, 'Fall down on us!' calling to the hills, 'Cover us up!' If people do these things to a live, green tree, can you imagine what they'll do with deadwood?" Luke 23:27-31 (MSG)
When Eugene Peterson began working on his idiomatic translation of the Bible (The Message) in 1993, he - like almost every biblical translator after Luther - wanted to offer something that was accessible for the contemporary reader.
I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn't read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become 'old hat.' - Eugene Peterson
Colloquial, accessible, for the average Joanne...that was John Steinbeck’s style, too. While Peterson wanted to get the message of scripture across to people, John Steinbeck had a message he wanted to share when he wrote The Grapes of Wrath. A witness to the Great Depression and the brutal effects of the Dust Bowl, Steinbeck wrote a series of articles for the San Francisco News on migrant workers from the Midwest in California's agriculture industry. The Grapes of Wrath, read by almost every high school junior in the country was developed from these articles.
I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy bastards who are responsible for this. John Steinbeck
Towards the end of John Ford’s 1940 film interpretation of The Grapes of Wrath, the character Tom Joad is sitting with his mother, who has begun to weep at his recent decision. Tom has, like a young Moses, witnessed a beating and responded with violence, killing the attacker. He has decided to separate from his family and continue the work of his late friend Jim Casy, a former preacher turned organizer, and struggle for working people.
When Jesus turns to the women of Jerusalem, lamenting his trek...his death, he puts them on their heels: “Why waste your time sobbing for my departure, so many more will leave this world under the iron fist of injustice.”
Tom’s speech echoes the themes in Jesus’ pained, gentle and prophetic rebuke of the women of Jerusalem. They both seem to say: “I am not leaving. There is still work to do.” The toil for balance and peace, in ourselves and in the world, continues. Steinbeck knew that there was more to do then write a book. Jesus knew there was more to do then cry for his death.
Both Jesus and Tom project a sense that they are part of something bigger. For Jesus, it’s Messianic wisdom - knowledge of the truth that he (and we) are forever unified to God and to each other. We find it in the Whitman’s idea of the individual as a manifestation of the collective soul, in Emerson’s Over-Soul. For Tom Joad, it's a 'big soul.'
Tom: Well, maybe it’s like Casy says. A fellow ain’t got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody, then…
Ma: Then what, Tom?
Tom: Then it don’t matter. I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere.
In his 1995 song, The Ghost of Tom Joad, Bruce Springsteen highlights the idea that the systematic issues affecting Tom are not relegated to 1920's America. When he played it at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, he opened to the song with a statement that the situation's the same even if the names have changed.
Another song we wanted to share was by a new artist (compared to Sam Cooke, The Band and The Boss) named Lucy Dacus. Her song ‘Pillar of Truth’ confronts, with sober melody, lilting hope, and explosive guitars the loss of a loved one. Maybe she is singing for the women of Jerusalem.
Themes of darkness, of wasted tears and of hope that must prevail in the face of humanties never ending capacity to perpetuate violence against itself. They are present when Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, when Tom Joad just let’s his Ma know what’s on his mind. They are present in Lucy’s song and in Bruce’s song.
Look forward to sharing with everyone next week.
The Rev. Jesse Lebus