MORRIS – After being saved three years ago, Michael Gonzalez of Morris said he has begun a life free of drugs and alcohol as he now follows in the path of Jesus.
Now a member of Living Water Church, Gonzalez was chosen to be the first to carry the wooden cross from First United Methodist Church to Immaculate Conception Church during the Walk with the Cross event in downtown Morris on Good Friday.
“I could only imagine the suffering he did for us to be free today. John 3:16 is a daily verse that goes through my head,” Gonzalez said. “It’s an honor to walk with Jesus every day, we have to believe in something we can’t see, and he wants us in our hearts.”
For eight years, the Morris Ministerial Association has invited residents to join in worship and reading of one of the last seven statements Jesus made during his crucifixion at seven churches in the downtown area.
“It was our vision to have a walk with the cross to witness our faith to the community. We will walk in the footsteps of Jesus with the cross. There were seven words spoken by Jesus on the cross when he was crucified by the Romans. We will meditate and reflect on what Christ did for us,” First United Methodist’s the Rev. Robert Sathuri said.
At noon, over 100 people from all walks of life and all ages filled the church to listen to scripture and sing in worship. Gonzalez then picked up the cross, placed it over his shoulder and walked down the aisle toward the door.
The group followed and a large stream of people, somber in the knowledge that Jesus was in the midst of his death, walked to and from each church to listen, and soak in the meaning of the day.
“It’s important for them [my kids] to see other believers and visit other churches in town. It’s Holy Week and we try to attend extra things during this week,” Morris resident Katie Mueller said.
Her daughter, Julie, said this walk shows when “Jesus died on the cross to save us.”
Each church had its own portion of the seven statements made by Jesus. First United Methodist read from Luke 23:34 and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Next was Immaculate Conception Church, where Luke 23:43 was read, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” The third statement spoken was recited at First Presbyterian Church, “Woman, behold your son; behold your mother,” John 19:26-27.
Rev. Dr. Roy Backus of First Presbyterian Church began this tradition in Morris after he organized a similar event when we worked in a northwest Chicago suburb.
“I got the pastors together and said that we were all close enough we could do this. This walk shows Christian’s unity. The cross is our sign and symbol of what the Lord has done for us. Today is a unified picture of what Christ has done for us,” Backus said.
At 1 p.m., the group made its way to Living Water Church of the Nazarene with siblings Meghan, Noah and Sean Smith carrying the cross.
“It’s humbling and powerful to carry it and think of what Jesus went through,” said Meghan Smith, 18, of Morris.
Once at the church, Pastor Steve Cook led with two songs, and then the fourth statement, “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” Which means, “My God, My God, why have your forsaken me?” from Matthew 27:46.
“It’s a reminder that each and every one of us of what he has done and completed for you, for me. Place your name on this on this journey today. Steve, or Joe, or Barb, whatever your first name is, you are walking this journey of the cross because he loves you that much,” Cook said.
The fifth stop was Canal Port- Life Church where two words from John 19:28 were spoken, “I thirst.”
Next, the sixth words “It is finished” from John 19:30 were read at the Christian Youth Center and the last statement read was Luke 23:46 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
“Our goal was to be Christ centered and help people know each other from other churches. We also want to bring attention to Holy Week and give people who may be on the fence about celebrating Easter weekend, a nudge,” Backus said.