18 April 2014
This morning has dawned with clear blue skies, bird song and the steady rumble of cars carrying peopleto who knows here. Soon the shops and museums, cafes and cinemas will open their doors to welcome the holiday hoardes. Roads will fill up as the sunny day lures those who can to head coastwards or hillwards.
Meanwhile, in churches and chapels, and even on the steps of prominent buildings some poeple will choose to partake in bizarre rituals... anything from making nests from chocolate coated shredded wheat, to fabricating tombs from plasticene or a mini garden in foil baking trays... anything from walking stations of the cross to re-enacting the crucifixion in a city square... anything from Stainer to Bach to Kendrick to Townend... anything from cross veneration to prostration to procession.... anything and everything absurd and authentic in an attempt to recognise and remember the absurdity of a God who can die, an itinerant preacher executed after a kangaroo court...
Then, once we are done, when we should feel bereft but actually, for the most part, don't... we too go shopping, watch TV, get ready for tomorrow... and in my case drive out of the city for a wedding rehearsal... life goes on as it ever did, just as was the case in Jerusalem two thousand years ago.
There is a green hill, far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.
The words of Isaac Watts, amended, emended, loved by many, recalling or evoking school assemblies and the smell of disinfectant in draughty corridors or polished wooden floors... they really only work on Good Friday, I think
He died that we might be forgiven
He died to make us good
That we might go at last to heaven
Saved by his preicous blood
Oh dearly, dearly has he loved
And we should love him too -
And trust in his redeeming love
And try his works to do
Try - not necessarily succeed, but try, do our best... will we?
Off soon to share in our Good Friday children and family vigil - always moving and meaningful. I hope whatever your Good Friday involves it includes moments of wonder, space to reflect and time just to be
17 April 2014
I posted this on social media then decided it might work here too!
Thursday of Holy Week aka Maundy Thursday aka Holy Thursday
Today a cathedral full of perfectly scrubbed up, repsectable pensioners will be handed soft purses of shiny coins by an earnest, elderly monarch. It's an odd tradition that has emerged and changed from its inception when the then king handed out sums of real value to grubby peasants - the nosegay being the last surviving reminder of the stench that must once have filled the air.
In other cathedrals, Roman and Anglican priests will be handed out silver boxes, blessed by the bishop and containing the holy chrism - oil for anointing those who are sick or dying or undertaking special service.
It's come a long way from a few blokes meeting in a borrowed room and their recongised leader stripping off his clothes, wrapping a towel round his waist and washing the day's dust from their feet - something the host would usually get a servant to do. Somewhere all the pomp and circumstance, ritual and repetition has obscured the message.
Tonight we will share a simple communion service using a new Iona liturgy "Deniers, Doubters, Betrayers All" and I hope that somewhere in the midst of all of that we will hear afresh and understand a little better the mandatum, the mandate, the command "as I have done for you, so you must do for others"
I wonder who I can serve today?
And I wonder who I will betray, who I will deny and what I will doubt?
I learned something new yesterday - that the Wednesday of Holy Week is called, in some traditions 'Spy Wednesday' and focusses on Judas' betrayal of Jesus. Last night's service used a poem I'd not come across before, and which I found thoughtful, though maybe others did not. Authorship is debated, so I cannot properly credit it:
Judas, if true love never ceases
how could you, my friend, have come to this:
To sell me for thirty silver pieces
and betray me with a kiss?
Judas, remember what I taught you,
do not despair while hanging on the rope.
It's because you sinned that I have sought you;
I came to give you hope.
Judas, let us pray and hang together,
you on your halter, I upon my hill.
Dear friend, even if you loved me never,
you know I love you still.
Whilst searching 'google' for the above, I also found this one by Ruth Etchells:
In Hell there grew a Judas Tree
Where Judas hanged and died
Because he could not bear to see
His master crucified
Our Lord descended into Hell
And found his Judas there
For ever haning on the tree
Grown from his own despair
So Jesus cut his Judas down
And took him in his arms
"It was for this I came" he said
"And not to do you harm
My Father gave me twelve good men
And all of them I kept
Though one betrayed and one denied
Some fled and others slept
In three days' time I must return
To make the others glad
But first I had to come to Hell
And share the death you had
My tree will grow in place of yours
Its roots lie here as well
There is no final victory
Without this soul from Hell"
So when we all condemned him
As of every traitor worst
Remember that of all his men
Our Lord forgave him first
D. Ruth Etchells
It's no secret that I have a soft spot for Judas, a 'there but for the grace of God...' sense about it all. i think in these poems I find hints of allies in this 'heresy'!