Sunday, April 8, 2012

Maundy Thursday: Economically unsustainable, but beautiful

 4/3 and 4/4 
Teddy and I struggle to get Wesley and Antonia moving off the steps...short time at the office, working with Danielle, the daily visit of our US Post Office mail carrier who always greets us cheerfully and stops for a chat....
Meet with Don to talk about church, how Disenchanted is going and how he enjoyed Newsies with its working class themes...
There’s that middle aged white guy asleep on the steps again. Marc Greenburg of Interfatih Assembly drops by to pick up a check from the Halbreich Foundation. Chris feeling a bit down, imprtessed that no one has left a mark in the new concrete sidewalks. 
Runi has much on her mind. I feel the swirl that is racingg around her head. I know what that feels like. I try to get her to focus in on just one thing, find one issue that Danielle and I can help her with. And keep thinking about the days that I’m not too far removed from that feeling. Like most of the week, with everything that’s going on, not always sure where to begin.
People gathering for Maundy Thursday. Tables set up in the the sanctuary. Soft candlelight. Simple meal of bread, cheese, grapes, wine...Mark fron the UN has joined us, pitching in to help set up. David and Donna from the  Occupiers have joined us for the first time. Jane, Jamie, Anna and Puppy, Hope, Arcadia and Hugo,Teddy. 

While we are gathering, I ask each person to talk about the most interesting thing that happened that day. I mention that Don had lunch with Katherine’s friend Bonnie, who had produced the play about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire at Judson. How she was one of the first who said we had to come back into the church, start living there even before repairing everything.  We talk about the Passover story. How the Hebrew word for Egypt, mitzrayim, means the narrow place, the tight place...and we share the tight spaces we all are living in. Jane mentions the birth canal, a metaphor we can all respond to. And Jamie has trouble getting past God’s killing of the first born. And I completely get it. Even though in the passover seder, a drop of i eis taken ffor our cups to symbilize our joy dimished by the suffering if the Egyptians, you just can’t nuance your way around the angel of death. What kind of God are we dealing with here? 
We talk about footwashing and I remember the first time I ever did that with Kevin, a Seventh Day Aventist student of mine back at the University of Bridgeport. When  Deacon Ken introduced us to the ritual here at West-Park. The times we did it right here in the sanctuary. For me the sense of uncomfort combined with humility.Talk about the foot ministry of First Presbyterian, Atlanta. Pedicures, new socks for the homeless. How important the treatment of feet...and shoes.... are for the poor.

Tonight we share a handwashing ritual, perhaps more appropriate in our own day. Remembering the ritual created by Scott Matheny for the haggadah-like Maundy service at Good Shepherd-Faith  that has inspired our own. Thinking about all the places  our hands have been over the course of the day, subway poles, metal straps on buses....we symbolically wash each others’ hands. 
We use the matzoh and celebrate the last supper like Jesus and his friends. Connecting the passover story and Holy Week. The paradigm stories, the ur stories for each of our tradtions. I read the Corinthians words we use to institute the eucharist. Jamie asks about consecration. And its a good discussion. I mention that I come from the left end of the reformed tradtion and Jane and others laugh a bit. Really? But I explain that I’m talking about Zwingli. That it’s us who get transformed into the body and blood, not the bread and wine. 
 Jane smiles, says how beautiful it is.
We finish with our simple meal. Anna has brought a variety of pies. As if to make everything perfect, Bobby comes in and sits at the end of the table. Teddy leans over, whispers to him, helping him to clean up a little. He is gentle, firm, caring. Hope and Jane and I looking down the table. Someone says it feels like da Vinci or Vermeer, the candlelight, the deep red mahoganys of the wood. 
 I laugh and say, yeah, economically unsustainable, but beautiful. Like the conmmunion of saints.The kindom of God. The way its supposed to be. 

All that's left is to strip the altar and pepare for Good Friday.

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