Somethings just take more time...
Praying about who should go first... love that.
We finished the Eucharist (Wopila Wakan Woecun) just as the sunlight was disappearing in to the night sky. It was time to strip the altar to prepare for Good Friday. I called the young man forward to put out the altar candles. I invited everyone who wanted to help to come forward. I stood back. The entire congregation came forward. The whole place was stripped and put away in minutes. The altar was washed. Black drapes on the cross. It was not pretty--done with an eye to draw one in to contemplation or give peace in one's prayers... it was stark. Naked.
Today, the wind is howling, making the storm windows clatter. But it is supposed to be warm, really warm.
And, today, we will read those awful words --of betrayal, hatred, deceit, fear and death. I will have to rehearse it all first, because each year I never really dwell on this day --it is always pushed aside in the rush to prepare for Easter. And, this year is not much different --because I am hard at work preparing for the Vigil already --and the baptisms already... . Only on the second step of four steps in preparing the Vigil bulletin... all the others are ready and printed... . Not folded, but printed... .
Today, those awful words... blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus. I can offer no consolation to the utter hatred and destruction that the reading of these words has fomented. Christians turning and crucifying --murdering Jews. None.
--except to say that each and every death is a sign that the Cross is alive and well among us. Religious righteousness is the ultimate denial of the Spirit. Christian. Jew. Muslim. Hindu. Buddhist. It does not matter who foments the pogrom at this point. Each have participated in the slaughter of the other at some point in time.
The words in Gospel today should sting --should make us cringe, weep, fall to our knees... if we don't hurt by the end of the story, then we don't get it. If we turn and exact righteousness of any kind against any of whatever --then we don't get it. If we try to explain away what's wrong, try to get people to remember Jesus was a Jew, or do anything to soften the story in any way --then we don't get it.
Today is brutal. Devastating. Gross. Ugly. Deadly. A day of placing blame --just like Eve did when she took the apple... a day of repenting like Judas did, and returning the thirty silver pieces --too little too late --a day of denial, like Peter... --a day of corruption, like the soldiers, just doing their job, following orders and having a little thoughtless dehumanizing fun doing it...
--it doesn't make a damned difference... we are all neck deep in the blood and muck... All. Of. Us.
I don't have the parts of the story read by individuals in character --nor do I force the congregation to shout 'crucify him.' The readers read a paragraph --so sometimes you hear the words of Jesus out of the mouth of a woman --sometimes you hear the words of hatred out of the mouth of a child, a respected elder --or even your own beloved. The story is shared. All of it.
This is not a day of moral disconnect. It is not a morality play. It is not the day to say who has suffered most, who has been most victimized, who is the biggest monster.
It is the day to remember corrupting power. The beast of majority rule. The devilishness of righteousness. And how we participate in each to destroy what is good and godly.
Today is brutal. Devastating. Gross. Ugly. Deadly.
If you are looking for beauty, you are in denial. If you are looking for a liturgy or a sermon to lighten the load, you are in denial. If you are looking to intellectualize it, you are in denial. If you are looking to teach a lesson about it, you are in denial.
If you are Christian and refusing to go to church today because it is too hard, I understand. Been there. Take the time to find your unresolved grief or disbelief.
If you are not Christian, pray for us. Pray for the families of the dead in the Korean ferry tragedy. Pray for the survivors. Pray for the people of The Sudan. Pray for the people of Ukraine. Pray for the children of Iraq and Afghanistan and the devastation they must bear for generations to come because of the actions of our government. Now do something about it.
Pray for yourself in your votes that got us in to Iraq and Afghanistan, or your unwillingness to not protest against the actions of torture or aggression that perpetuated our violent destruction in those places. Pray for our mother earth, and the continued assault on our environment --and all those ways you participate in its destruction, and what you have neglected to do or have decided you "can't" do to change our march towards an ugly, polluted, greedy death.
Today is not a day any one 'gets off the hook.' It's not a story about placing blame on someone else. Well, it is a story about placing blame on someone else... and our perpetual desire to find the escape hatch, the scapegoat...
It's The Story about us. All of us. Too ready to move quickly on to the next thing. Too ready to think we have it all together --too ready to think we're cool -or hot --or whatever the word is in this generation....
At prayer this morning (John 13:36-38)
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.”
Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Let's put it this way-- before the sun rises tomorrow, you will have denied me three times.”
Translation: Tunkasila-Grandfather Tokaheya-First Cewakiyelo-I pray Mitakuye ob-With my relatives Wanikta ca- I will live, so Hoyewayelo-I send my voice (pray) Wakantanka-Great Power (God)
--and we call it "Good" Friday... .
Now, there's something to pray about.