Hope

Hope is a dangerous thing.

A radical thing.

A subversive thing.

If you’ve ever looked at this world of ours and wished it could be changed, well, hope is what makes people like us believe we can change it.

It’s an odd sort of day, Holy Saturday. A day when nothing much really happens. The truth of yesterday, the uncomfortable, painful truth that our light and joy and whole reason for being has been sucked out of the world, is still true. But after all the drama and adrenaline of yesterday, today we’re left alone in our lostness.

The busyness – that’s all stopped.

The rest of the world – they’ve gone back to normal, back to the way it was before.

Before him.

Before anyone had ever heard of an upstart young carpenter from Galilee who said he was going to change the world, and who died trying.

In the emptiness left behind, perhaps today we come to terms with exactly who it was we loved and how much it was we lost.

But – has it really gone back to the way it was before?

I come from a tradition where on Holy Saturday we still come together. The people who sat with Jesus at his first Eucharist and his last supper, whose feet he washed, who went with him to the Garden of Gethsemane, and who stayed by his side at the foot of the Cross right until the veryend. On Holy Saturday, with Jesus lying dead in his tomb, we all come back together, in a frenzy of cleaning and polishing and baking and organising.

For what?

Time is a funny old thing during the Triduum. The Passion isn’t something you tell, and it isn’t really even something you relive. And this story we’ve been telling of things that happened in Jerusalem two thousand years ago isn’t a story, it’s a truth and that truth is Gospel. And that truth is something that we live. Every year. Over and over and over again, and for the very first time. Ancient and forever.

Today, God is dead.

On Holy Saturday, I don’t know what’s going to happen on Sunday.

Yet, here we all still are.

Because you can kill a lot of things, but you can’t kill hope.

A hope that is in the cleaning and the polishing and the hiding of Easter eggs, and in the improbable belief of an impossible resurrection that might – just might – happen anyway.

But a hope that is in so much more than that.

As we’ve gone through this week, the world has watched France singing hymns on the banks of the Seine to Notre Dame as she burned. After all the loveliness from the Eucharist had been cleared away on Thursday evening and the cathedral was stripped, I found myself standing still in the middle of the High Altar where, at that point, the presence light still shone, thinking about the people of Paris and the way they would have stripped their cathedral on Monday, trying to rescue it. And they knew that God was with them, even as everything was consumed by fire.

Our hope is everywhere.

It’s in refugees making their way across the sea in search of a better life.

It’s in campaigns for social justice in the Church and in the world.

It’s in people who start as strangers and end up as family.

It’s in Christians and Muslims and Jews coming together in friendship and peace.

It’s in people who stand up against violence, against racism, against the abuse of the vulnerable, against homophobia, against gender inequality and transphobia, against economic injustice, against climate change.

It’s in the blue light that comes with paramedics and firefighters, burning away the darkness.

And, yes, hope is in the people of Paris standing vigil with their cathedral.

Today our light and our joy and our reason for being is gone.

But here we still are.

Because you can’t kill hope.

And because that young upstart carpenter from Galilee who said he was going to change the world?

Well, there’s still a world here, and it still needs changing. A world that still needs to hear that cry of radical love and justice that is also the Gospel truth. A world that needs to be told that hope is not, was not, can never be dead.

A world that has been entrusted to us.

Christ has no body now but yours.

Crowds

The crowds were building in the city,
it was crowded with people from all over.
Jews and Gentiles alike.
Those who had come to sell
those who had come to buy
those who had come to worship
those who had come to just to watch
to be part of the buzz.

None of them knew just what they were about to be witnesses of.

Yes some had their plans
their dreams
their ideas
of what might happen
how things might change
what the future might hold,
for good or for bad,
but none of them knew
apart from one.

The One.

Amid the clamour,
the hustle and bustle:

Of come buy my nard,
names called out for a lost child,
of soldiers marching and beggars pleading.

The sounds from the carpenter,
the heat from the blacksmith,
the smell from the bakers.

The gossip,
the speculation,
the foreign tongues and regional accents.

There in those crowds,
in that everyday scene,
God’s plan was nearing a climax.

Holy Week Procession Malaga by George Campbell
Holy Week Procession Malaga by George Campbell

The hawk

This morning, I watched the chicks scuttle around outside the door.  Their mother was there, of course. Watchful, but not intruding. Because they were quite big now. That gawky, half-feathered stage. And they had no idea that they were gawky, half feathered. They thought they were adult. As we had thought ourselves grown up. Yet it was only the mother hen who saw the circling hawk. Squawked, then they all had to dash for cover and for her.

This is the anniversary, then.  You could never forget it, and it is forever pegged to Passover, to the run-up to Passover. The time just before the frantic clean-up. The time when all kinds of hope and fear and memory grow out of proportion.

I remember a very young Mary, all righteousness and fervour. A slightly sullen Martha, the insult about not remembering, no, not choosing the best thing as yet not wholly forgotten or forgiven. A very very young Lazarus, still a boy really.

I remember my fury with Jesus for not saving Laz, the worse because he had saved so many others, not dear to me at all. Martha being even more sullen. And Laz, well, Laz as a burden on our hearts, as a huge pain somewhere about my diaphragm.

Then, Jesus arriving, and his sitting weeping. And if he had been Laz, I could have gathered him in my arms, but of course I could not. Not touch him. A man and a rabbi and no blood relation at all. And to be honest, I only wanted to comfort him so much, and no more.  Yet I felt for him some, and at last, I said “I am sorry. I am sorry that I thought you did not care.” And his lifting blurred eyes to me, and looking at me as if what I said did not even make the most formal sense. As if there would never be comfort in the world for him again.

Then the amazing trip to the tombside. Jesus standing sobbing again. And the words, and Laz staggering out, and the amazement as the smell fell off with the bandages, and the joy.

And a few days later, the dinner. The men all lying dining, Laz one of them. The joy was still flooding me. Because now it was all over. Lazarus was not just alive, but well. He lay at table with the others, taking his place as a man among men. And the women all serving, so gladly. And then my knowing I wanted to do something more, something special.

Fetching the most valuable thing I had. That pot of nard. Breaking it open. Scent and gladness. And pouring it over Jesus’s feet, because I could never do enough. It was not enough to pour it on his head. His very feet were holy.

Oh yes, I saw the looks, heard the muttering, knew using my hair was so so shocking. I did it to shock, if you have been wondering. Rejoiced in the looks.

And now, I sit in the doorway, and look at the chicken and the hawk. I never saw the hawk. But ever since that Passover, I have known how I helped to draw the hawk down on Jesus.

Now, I am an old woman. Astonishing. I creak when I sit in the doorway. I creak when I rise up from sitting, too. And I sit and think. So. This. It does not matter that I drew the hawk down with a lure as men do. Because there is a price for everything. The love of man and woman brings the child. Brings labour and pain and blood and, if you are lucky, brings a live child. And the child brings pain, too. And grows, and brings more pain. I remember one of Jesus’s stories, and I think of a rich man, so desperate for his son’s love, he would lose his dignity and run to greet him.

I am making a bad job of this. I don’t know how it all works, not really. But I do know that lies, and cruelty and misery and the rich paying a pittance for the work of the poor, and the poor always hungry and desperate – I know these things have to be both forgiven and also put right. I remember the song Jesus’s mother had made, and taught us.

That is what brings the hawk. Every time you put the big ones out of their seats. Every time you fill the poor with good things. And now I realise that when Jesus raised my brother, he chose to call the hawk down on himself. He alone was the grown-up that day. And in all our wild joy, we did not see the cost of what he did. He did not weep for Lazarus dead. He wept for Lazarus living.

Pause

https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=FZe3mXlnfNc&list=RDAMVMFZe3mXlnfNc

 

Listening and watching

pausing from piles of paper

Spiegel im Spiegel

a cello and a piano

slowly thoughtfully

emotionally

a hand lifts slowly

in the air

pauses

then gently hits the key

but it is in the pauses

that the beauty lies

and then

a touch on my shoulder

a paw tentatively rests

and pauses

pawses

have you forgotten that I’m here?

she watches the pianist

and his balletic hand

pause and listen

I tell her

listen to the pauses

that’s where the music lies.

 

Elsewhere

There are so many demands on our lives to be
elsewhere.

On Wednesday I was at a Lenten Quiet Day.
I nearly bowed out.
I had been debating whether or not to go, other places, people, situations pulled at me.
I struggled I still felt I should be elsewhere, but I went.

I felt like I was in a wilderness place not of my choosing, so I hid with paper and glue and coloured pencils.
I played with them partly for distraction, as I thought of other places, other people and guilt tried to take hold.
I prayed and tore paper;
I read, prayed some more and shuffled and glued paper;
I prayed as I ate in silence, the hum of those chatting in the noisy room accompanying the crunches of my listening.
I stuck paper on paper and prayed.
I copied words, wrote my own words, and prayed and listened into the silence.
I took the pencils and made marks,
hundreds of marks,
as I prayed and listened yet more.
For a day I wrestled with why I was there, there in the wilderness rather than elsewhere.

Then I took the once bread, now Body, in my hands and joined with God and in that moment heard,
Jesus too was broken.
I took the cup and felt the liquid warm my soul,
Jesus came to heal.
Jesus couldn’t be in all places.
Even Jesus when he walked this earth had to make decisions as to where to go, when.
Although part of me stilled wished I could have been elsewhere,
a bigger part,
the part God inhabited knew I was in the place God wanted me to be.

Nothing changed or fell apart or failed to happen because I spent Wednesday wrestling with God rather than being elsewhere.
I am but dust and to dust I will return,
but dust or flesh I am Beloved of God,
nothing can change that.

I could have been elsewhere on Wednesday, …

change

Recently I have had a few experiences of worshiping in ‘the round’ with chairs in circle or oval round an altar. It completely changed my experience of the Eucharist. I could see more of what was going on at the altar. I could see faces of people and not the backs of heads. I could see musicians and not just hear them. It was a big change for me and I liked it.

This Lent I thought that I might do the same in my church. Each Sunday we have to set out the chairs in rows because during the week the building is used from morning to night by community groups. But the church is rectangular and there is plenty space to create a circle of chairs round an altar so that’s what I did. It wasn’t perfect the first week but I think we got it right last week. Two semi-circles of two rows of chairs facing inwards, with a small table to be our altar.

Oh how I wish I’d had a camera to capture the looks on faces as my little flock arrived. Mouths dropped. Frowns settled in. Eyes narrowed. Oh what is she doing now, I could see them think. Where’s MY chair, I could see them think. Enthusiastically I ushered them in. We’re just trying it for Lent, I exclaimed. Let’s try something new to give us a different perspective on things. Look, you can see the altar closely. Look, you can see one another’s faces not the back of their heads. Look, how different it can be. Look!

It’s just for Lent, they asked hopefully. How many more weeks?

Is change always good for us? Are you someone who likes new things, is excited by something different? Or do you like the same old same old? Do you prefer things to stay just the way they’ve aye been?

Sometimes Lent can be a good time to make changes. We are asked to give up things which take us away from God, to take on things which bring us closer to God. Lent is a time for new things, new ways of being, new ways of seeing, new ways of doing. Change can bring growth.

Image result for change

run

Sometimes things happen in church.

Tonight, as I stood at the altar, saying the prayer of offering, someone entered the worship space and I froze. It was the way he entered, coming in fairly quickly, not walking forward to one of the altars, or coming towards the sanctuary to join us. He cut across, to the fair aisle, the hidden aisle, the place of greatest shadow. He had a hood raised, and a large puffy coat unzipped, but wrapped around him.

It might have just been a wanderer, someone seeking shelter. But it felt wrong, and I was very aware that there were only three of us at the eucharist tonight, all way up by the altar, and he was out of sight. I watched as I said the prayer, and tried to asses options.
There was a moment, just a moment, when I saw him moving and I came within half a breath of saying ‘Run! Into the sacristy. Now.’ But I wasn’t sure yet — so I did something else instead.

I left the altar and walked towards him — and towards the light switches, because we had been lulled by a light evening into too much carelessness. I think I said to the others, ‘stay here.’ I certainly thought it, and they did.

I spoke towards him, saying loudly, ‘let me give you some light, so you can see better.’
He walked towards me and said, ‘is it alright that I am here? Can I stay?’

I relaxed a bit, and said yes. He was welcome to stay to pray or for some quiet. We would continue the service. I returned to the altar and began the eucharistic prayer. He sat in a pew. Then shifted, and wandered again. He came up into the choir where we had been before we moved to the altar. I called ‘you are welcome to join us here.’ And then realised — there were handbags. He suddenly walked out.

And as I said ‘handbags’ to the congregation, one realised hers was missing, and ran like a flash after him.

‘Don’t go alone. Don’t put yourself in danger,’ I said as I too ran from the altar to follow her. By the time I caught up, they were on the path, and she had confronted him. She took her bag off him, and he did not resist.

We were very lucky. Had he wanted to harm us, he could have. For some reason, he seemed unclear of his own desire.

But later — once the adrenaline was gone — and once I had shown the tiny Tuesday night congregation where the hidden exits were, and told them that if I ever gave them a command to ‘Go’ they must obey. Into the sacristy. Lock the door. My phone will be in my bag or on the desk. Better one person in danger, and three people safe with a phone than all at risk. They must go. But later, I wondered…

What happened that Maundy Thursday night?

What happened when the soldiers came for Jesus?

I have always, always preached this as betrayal. The disciples scattering. Fear overcoming love.

But what if he wanted them to go? What if they were right to flee? Run. Scatter. Dissolve into shadows.

What if Jesus walked toward the cross, not desolate or afraid, but thanking God the others had all gotten away?

 

This was also posted on wonderfulexchange.