Thursday, April 23, 2009

Holy, holy, holy

We had waited for a long time for this, and it was finally here. Holy Week. For those who still think that all pastors really do is show up on Sunday, preach, and then go home, this week affords the opportunity to show up at the church on other days of the week, and see that – surprise, surprise – the pastors are still there!

The week before, I had finished my sermon series on “Rediscovering the Liturgy,” which, in my free-flowing vernacular, quickly became renamed, “Worship MEANS Something.” I wanted to encourage all of us in mainstream, liturgical Christianity, to understand that what we do when we gather is more than just stand up, say a few words, sit down, then stand up again, later. We are deeply interwoven with something greater than us, a great flowing river of words, actions, and rituals – spoken, sung, and celebrated, in one way or another – for the better part of 2,000 years. What we do together means something. It’s not just done to be done. In short, I wanted all of us at my internship church to be unabashedly, unashamedly Lutheran.

Then we entered Holy Week. I had never been so busy in my entire life, and yet, I had an opportunity to really be, to be a part of the body of Christ, to take part in this holy and ancient ritual. I walked the labyrinth. I fasted. I sat in our sanctuary, the late afternoon sun piercing the darkened space, stopping for a moment to enter through a stained glass window, then continuing on in a kaleidoscope shower of browns, yellows, and oranges.

I was washed in this light, thinking about all the things I had done, and things I had yet to do. Thinking about the real, complicated, broken, and beautiful body of Christ in this church in Central Florida. Considering how God loves us so desperately and unabashedly it’s almost embarrassing. God as my supervisor’s Jack Russell terrier who lays in my lap, licking my cheek, making me blush.

Then came worship. One of the many things I have learned this year is that it’s hard to worship AND lead worship at the same time – but there are always those moments, for this worship-loving boy, when I forget where I am or what I’m doing, and I’m just speechless. Those moments were everywhere during the Maundy Thursday services, as the haunting words of Psalm 22 echoed in the silence, blanketing the child of God as she slowly and methodically stripped the altar. Jesus being taken by the Roman authorities, violence seeming to win over peace.

The Easter Vigil service also poured out those moments for me, drenching me in this grace that comes from the One who created us, who continues to love us, who invites us to co-create this world of ours. Listening to the stories of our ancestors in the faith, I was amazed at how these stories wait there for us, rarely being read in their entirety, enticing us to listen with new ears, to hear how God saves God’s people.

Holy Week is past, and I’m still so exhausted I am daydreaming about my pillow as I type. And last week, two years ago, my Mom died. Easter had come and gone for a few weeks then, but now it’s still in the air. When we call out to a God who says that not even death itself can separate us, I remember Mom.

And I hope that, now, Mom can finally remember me, too.


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