This Holy Week has been one for my long term memory collection. From the excitement of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, to "Hosanna: the Sequel "on Monday, anguish at the "keening of the women" as we read Katie's "Women of the Passion, a Journey to the Cross" on Tuesday, to Wednesday evening's shared meal, to last night's call not only to let one wash my feet but also to wash another's and then to the stripping of the altar making it into an empty tomb, this week has been full of the expected and the unexpected. Many moments stand out as exceptional ones. Of the unexpected, two moments and one thought are haunting me.
On Wednesday evening, a small group of us – twelve to be exact – met in the Nave of Christ Church to share a meal together. It was very informal. I had made a huge loaf of bread. As I made the bread, it never occurred to me that it would be held up to God, blessed and broken as Jesus might have broken that bread so long ago. It was a profound moment wherein the holiness that I always knew existed in the making and sharing of bread came into full light. I have to say I will never bake another loaf without that visual in my head.
During that same meal, as we were gathered together at that long table, there was a certain seriousness because we knew what we were doing, what we were emulating. Yet, 'life its ownself' took over many times and the conversation would spontaneously erupt and there would be laughter. I think this also must have occurred at that last supper that Jesus and his followers shared together. During our meal, as the timbre and volume of our group rose and fell, I had small flashes of perception. This was what happened then. Jesus was trying to give insight as to what was to come. They would all be serious for a few moments as they listened and tried to grasp his message but then conversation would gently turn from the serious to the way of conversation when family and friends gather together, regardless of the reason for the gathering. We are no different. We would have understood and misunderstood the same things as did the disciples. We would have tried and failed. The saga continues.
Last night we attended the Maundy Thursday service. I did not want to do the foot washing thing. No phobias, nor hang-ups. I just did not want to do it. Worn from the previous days or maybe fearful of the emotion I knew I was about to feel, I do not know. But, first as I heard the Gospel reading and then Mike Kinman's sermon, it became one of those things that I could not not do. To allow another to wash our feet, that private part of us that even the most brazen of us are often unwilling to share with another, is to open ourselves up to the fullness of truly sharing our love for one another. To wash another's feet is to give that same gift. As Mike noted, to open ourselves to that degree is to put ourselves in a fully vulnerable place.
A woman washed my feet. I do not know who she was although her face was familiar. She was so gentle, as if I would break, as if I was fragile, precious, and yes, irreplaceable. When it came my turn to wash another's, I tried to emulate that action of love that she gave to me.
During this whole week, my mom has been close on my mind and heart. She and so many others in Fort Worth (and other dioceses) are displaced from their physical buildings as they grow their faith communities in women's club, civic centers, schools and other borrowed or rented places. I know that many are experiencing a sadness that they are not in the familiar and known places of Holy Weeks in the past.
Yet, perhaps they are actually closer to the reality of that day so long ago than are we as we watch from our permanent pews as the tomb is prepared.
This stripping of the altar, no, not just the stripping but the actual removal of all things connected with our crucified and risen Christ, this does not happen just on a Maundy Thursday in Holy Week for them but each and every Sunday since having left their familiar and beloved buildings of community worship.
Each Sunday, they prepare a temporary Holy space. Then each Sunday, they prepare an empty space. What they do, intended or otherwise, encapsulates a holiness that is profound in its necessity.
A friend of mine warned me about being too busy; that if I was, I might not have the empty holes in my life through which I can see how God is leading me. Maybe this idea fits here also. Rather than too busy, perhaps necessity and inconvenience leads us into a new comprehension of how and where God is leading us. With the familiar comes a rote understanding, good and necessary yet not always open to change.
I perceive the sadness from several people in Fort Worth as they lament the road they have had to travel as they feel poignantly the loss of the material. A hole has been created in their lives. Yet it is in this hole, through this hole, that they might come into a closer vision of what it is that they are doing each week as they break down these precious tokens that we use to share this meal together in remembrance of Jesus.
My mom had already mentioned a couple of times to me the new understanding of Altar Guild that many of them were experiencing. I am sure this is happening in many places were Episcopalians have found themselves locked out of their places of worship. Suddenly, rather than a Sacristy or a closet, the Altar Guild is working from a car trunk. While tedious, I am sure, there must be a renewed reverence for these special tools used in the sharing of Holy Eucharist. The lack of a permanent building, the hope for a return to the old and familiar – these are also opportunities for a renewed reverence for a space of worship. Wherever we are gathered to praise God, to remember, to worship is Holy. There is definitely a sense of the Holy from my point of view as far as what these Faith Communities are doing, what they have endured and what will be in the future for them. There is a strong sense of re-memory, of what came before to bring us to this new place.
The lesson for me is this: Life is precious. All other things are fluff. The building I work and worship in each week and each Sunday, is temporary regardless of its age. The vision of the crucifixion, the tomb and the glorious Resurrection are in my memory forever, regardless of where I am physically. The holes that I create during my moments of stillness, silence and even inconvenience and necessity are opportunities for me to see more of what God has placed before me to see.
My thoughts and prayers are especially with all who are in these temporary spaces. May you find the "holes" of holiness in these spaces. May those of us who, in the comfort of our material, understand the temporary and the permanent.