Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How lovely…

“But Moooom! Father Tom said I could!” Oh, how I raged in that moment; convulsed by the injustice of life, or at least, of my mother.

Here’s what happened. St. Nicholas Episcopal, my church during elementary school, celebrated Good Friday with a service known as “The Stations of the Cross.” For those unfamiliar, that service symbolically ‘follows’ Jesus through Jerusalem from trial to crucifixion, ‘stopping’ at fourteen ‘stations’ to pray and contemplate. But it’s not a “sit down and listen to the preacher” experience. The church actually walks from station to station, which are located around the sanctuary’s edge. And our church didn’t just walk, we processed, with the crucifix (a long pole with a heavy brass cross on top) at the head. Carried by an acolyte. For an hour.

On the year in question, I was that acolyte, with my buddy Joel. And Father Tom, understanding how physically demanding that was for young boys said, “You can switch who holds the crucifix every few minutes. If you get tired, you may sit, even though everyone is standing.” Alas, Mom hadn’t heard his instructions. So in the middle of prayers and readings, she watched her son abandon his post to go relax in comfy chairs. “What’re you doing!?” she whispered heatedly, “Stand up!” “But Mooom…” You can imagine. Eventually, Father Tom nodded his assent, Mom calmed, and we agreed later it simply added a new wrinkle to the year’s service. “We won’t forget that Good Friday,” she said. She was right.

But it was the last Holy Week service I remember until college, since not long after, I switched churches, and the new one considered Lent and Holy Week suspect observances. In college, though, I was the token Christian among my secular friends. And one after the other, around Mardi Gras, they asked, “What’re you giving up for Lent?” “I don’t do that…” I answered, at first. But the more I was asked, the more I considered it, and eventually decided to try it out. I gave up coffee that year.

Never again.

Still, ever since, Lent has become important to my spiritual life. Some approach their faith differently (and that’s probably a good thing!), but Lenten routines help me feel like, when Easter, the most important day of our spiritual calendar, arrives, I’m prepared.

Prepared for…well, to be honest, that changes every year, and that’s what the month of Lent helps me discover. Obviously, I prepare to celebrate the central mystery of Christian faith- that our leader was killed because he challenged people with love, and then returned to new life. But life changes, so what Easter means to me changes. Like one year, I contemplated sin, and the depths of God’s unyielding forgiveness. Another year, I wondered if we should give up the word ‘sin’, and talk instead of injustice, self-defeat, pride… because ‘sin’ has been wielded like a club too much. This year, I’ve been exploring how God loves, and our response. Does God love like a parent, unconditionally and wisely? If so, will we move out of the House eventually, call every couple weeks to catch up? Does God love like a lover, intimately sustaining peace and well-being over a lifetime? If so, should we worry God might break up with us? Or like an intimate friend, or…? In our Lenten class, we discussed some of this, and I’ve been grateful for the conversation. It’s helped me know God better, and identify metaphors for God that I cling to too closely (i.e. idols). And through all that, I’ve prepared anew for Easter.

And now it’s here. He is Risen! The preparation is finished. So I wonder, however you chose to get ready, what does this Easter mean for you? Any new ideas challenging you? Any struggles finally becoming clearer? Worried about places in life- spiritual, emotional, financial, social- where a God-sized dose of resurrection could help? Whatever the answer, I pray you discover Jesus raised again- in our midst, beyond our walls, wherever (and however!) love is needed. And especially, I pray this year’s Easter services will be memorable in profound ways, even ways we haven’t prepared for!

Grace and Peace,


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