Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good Friday: Women looking on from a distance


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....

Friday, March 29, 2013

Maundy Thursday, Holy Thursday


Need a break. UP to RL’s studio for a quiet sit. He’s playing classical music for a change. We share complaints and stories of woe. If it were music, it would be the blues. There’s a group called Mudfoot coming in to shoot a music video on Saturday. We want to check them out, but the Internet is disappearing again. Stephen comes down to give it a look. I’ve got t be on y way to my colleague Alistair’s for a screening  of Of Gods and Men....a film about the seven Trappist monks kidnapped from the monastery of Tibherine during the Algerian civil war of 1996. Perfect film for Holy Week.


It’s Maundy Thursday. Holy Thursday. The night we remember Jesus gathering with his friends to celebrate the Passover. The last supper. Danielle meets me in the sanctuary. RL passes through and allows as to how he’s bemused encountering us in the sanctuary trying to figure out what we’re doing in the sanctuary. Stephen and Danielle have prepared the table. It’s already set with fresh grapes, mozzarella, basil and tomatoes. Welch’s grape juice. 

I go out for two cheeses. Matzoh. Wine.  I’m in a state of rising anxiety trying to finish packing up my manse for its renovation. And ultimate sale. Feeling fragile. While I’m racing round trying to get ready, I encounter Rachelle on the steps. Tonight it’s almost too much. She’s heading to Borough Park for a seder. Telling me about all that they’ll have left over.  She can’t carry it. All we need is someone with a car. Am I sure that I don’t know anyone with a car? Why not? Punctuated by horror stories from capital hall where she lives. I’ve been trying to figure out what ‘s wrong with my debit card until I discover I put the deposit in the wrong account. Just enough to run out and run back again. But she’s relentless. I pull away.

When I come back, she’s gushing over a nice young couple, an intelligent young couple,won’t they come in? They’re just in town and just married. Won’t they come in, pastor invite them in...They are glowing, I try to be nice. Realize I’m being unpleasant. Not good. I try to reverse course, probably too late. Maybe they’ll come back tomorrow. Rachelle’s about to chide me. Looks at me. Thinks better of it. I wish her again a happy pesach. 

My phone  rings. It’s P_____. I know what she’s up to. About to accuse me of betraying her again. She's still angry we wouldn't let her move in. Madness is beginning to get to me. Stephen sees and decides to stick around. We are very small. So I ask everyone to sit down. Speak quietly and calmly. And so the conversation  goes. Anna and puppy have arrived as well. 

I remember last year. Teddy leaning across to wipe Bobby’s mouth. The warmth of the circle around the table. Each year is different. But I do begin  calm down. Relax.

Stephen promises me he’ll be sure everythings ‘s cleaned up right. My keys see to be missing. Son Dan and Andrea waiting at the Indian restaurant beside the B. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Remembering Romero in song and film


Some weeks ago, I received this e-mail in response to an earlier post which quoted Archbishop Romero.  It is fitting that the anniversary of his death this year, March 24th, fell on Palm and Passion Sunday. His story is very fitting for reflection on Good Friday....when we truly enter the Passion, and even more Easter. I share the original e-mail with you along with the links contained. May this song aid you in your reflection and experience of the dramatic conclusion of Holy Week...

Date: Mon, Mar 4, 2013 at 11:03 AM
Subject: Oscar Romero/Music

Your recent posting quoted Oscar Romero.  The words you referenced are the very ones we chose for a song. With the approach of March 24th, I thought you might enjoy seeing a music video of that song that we just produced on Oscar Romero.  It is part of a new CD release. The singer is a UMC deacon, Michael Glen Bell, and the film maker is Owen Thomas. The Project is the subject of of a three part podcast by Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis which you may link to here:, and of a wonderful article in Canada’s Catholic Register

Go to, or click on the image below to view the video. Feel free to use it on your site, review the album or video, or blog about The Project.  If you do, let us know so we can put a link on ours. If you are interested in a story on The Project, please get back to us. We are located in Indianapolis. You can follow us on Twitter @martyrsproject.

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