Good Friday. At high noon. An amazing beautiful sunny day. In stark contrast to the darkness that fell at noon on this day. Covering the word in darkness for three hours as Jesus hung on the cross.
My family is taking clothes and other items to the thrift store at Holy Name Church as I come to West-Park. Cara is stretching, doing yoga in the darkened sanctuary as I arrive. She helps me remove the table from last night’s Holy Thursday simple meal. Remove all the purple from the communion table. All the candles except for one lone one. We lay a black cloth across the table. Open the front doors.
In years past, we have had a children’s service of the seven last words. I was questioning about this at first, but it worked. This year is different. We have decided to open the doors between noon and three. Have readings and prayers at every hour.
I take out a simple white alb. Put it on. Walk to the front. Light the candle. Open the Bible to Mark and read 15: 16-41. Pause for silence. Then pray.
In between each reading I will come back to the office, remove the alb and work on issues that must be dealt with before Easter. Then on the hour, vest again and return to the sanctuary. Cara asks what you call the alb. Vestments, I say. And I look it up to trace its meaning back to the Latin having to do with dressing which them becomes in Middle English something having to do with ceremonial dress.
At 1 PM, I turn to Matthew 27: 27-55. Marsha has come to join us. To keep watch. Vigil. As her hour ends, I read Luke 23: 26-57. This is the passage with the good thief, the one who says Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom. Which my friend George Todd and Jacques Berthier turned into the Taize chant. And I ask that like the thief, Jesus may remember us as well. And as I read Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing, I hear Cara sigh. It’s true. So often we don’t.
We take care of business. Do a quick tour of banks and make it back for 3 PM. It may seem sacrilegious to be doing so much in between reflection but there is no choice. The sanctuary remains a place of quiet and refuge. Anna and puppy and Stephen has joined us as I turn to 19: 16-42. The invitation to the one who Jesus loved to care for his mother. John’s own mysterious voice.
I look through the quiet of sanctuary to the light of the street shining through. The sound of buses. People in motion. I like reading each of the stories on their own. Pondering each one as its own narrative. As opposed to the traditional mash up we have come to know as the seven last words. Over the years that our neighbor Rutgers used to host this service, with participants from all the churches, I had finished the cycle by the time they stopped doing it. I both hated and loved that service. When I was a kid, by the time I had spent so much time in one week in church, Easter never came across with quite enough joy. There was of course the candy....
But here, the point is we have to know this moment, the moment of My God, my God why have you forsaken me? Before we can experience resurrection.
There’s still two services to get done. RL ducks in and out. I’ve got more packing at home ahead of me.There is a voice behind me. Asking for money. Sounds familiar. I turn around. Say aren't you the pastor who was here 10 years ago? and he tells me his story of redemption gained and redemption lost, a whole story lived through. Later I call P______. her anger continues, her apocalyptic vision of the world, the forces aligned against her now including her own children. But it's true. What the legal system did to her was unconscionable. The landlord's behavior obscene. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean their out to get you.
Part of me is wondering how you can preach the resurrection when the dying part isn’t over with yet.
But I’m thinking of this...There were also women looking on from a distance; among then were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses and Salome....and to these names I would add Cara, Marsha, Anna...they too sat their vigil, looked on from a distance, kept watch....Cara from beginning to end....women looking on from a distance....