Starting to get the Good Friday groove...

Earlier this year I wrote something about seeking gentleness in all things. In a volume of poetry that Leonard Cohen published as The Book of Mercy he speaks some of the words I sense in my soul. I am particularly moved by "You Who Pour Mercy into Hell."
You who pour mercy into hell, sole authority in the highest and lowest worlds, let your anger disperse the mist in this aimless place, where even my sins fall short of the mark. Let me be with you again, absolute companion, let me study your ways which are just beyond the hope of evil. Seize my heart out of its fantasy, direct my heart from the fiction of secrecy, you who know the secrets of every heart, whose mercy is to be the secret of longing.

Let every heart declare its secret, let every song disclose your love, let us bring to you the sorrows of our freedom. Blessed are you, who opens a gate, in every moment, to enter in truth of tarry in hell. Let me be with you again, let me put this away, you who wait beside me, who have broken down your world to gather hearts. Blessed is your name, blessed is the confession of your name. Kindle the darkness of my calling, let me cry to the one who judged the heart in justice and mercy. Arouse my heart again with the limitless breath you breathe into me, around the secret from obscurity.

I am starting to get a sense that this should be the opening and closing prayer to this year's Good Friday liturgy - coupled with differing versions of the song first made popular by the Animals but radically reinterpreted by both Nina Simone and Yusuf Islam - Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood. At first I was thinking in particular of the narrative of Peter who stands as an archetype for us in the light of Jesus: Peter is every man/woman who is moved and changed within but who still wrestles with fear, shame and grief. But I am wondering now if we might include other biblical narratives to include Mary Magdalene's confusion as well as the uncertainty that Christ's mother and Judas lived through on the dark side of Easter?
The arc of this experimental liturgy in music, poetry, visual art and scripture would be on the Lord's death. But I am wondering if we might deconstruct the story and retell it from the confusion of three key players? Because, at least in my theology, even through their confusion and betrayal God's grace is stronger than doubt or sin, yes? And just as each of us - individually and together - seek forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, so too the very founders of the Body of Christ.

I am hearing a very open and free jazz improvisation on "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" to start this liturgy before Cohen's prayer is recited on top of the music. And after the music and words have taken root, we would move into the first vocal interpretation of the song to be followed by a series of readings, poems, songs and silence.

I'm also thinking that this tune by Portishead - It's Only You - sounds like something Magdalene would be singing if she were a 21st century hipster owning her real doubts and longings.  And I love the genre-bending these cats do on this cut.  The guiding light for creating this liturgy is the grace Jesus makes flesh.  Earlier this morning, Fr. Richard Rohr put it like this:

You deserve to know my science for interpreting sacred texts.
It is called a “hermeneutic.” Without an honest and declared hermeneutic, we have no consistency or authority in our interpretation of the Bible. My methodology is very simple; I will try to interpret Scripture the way that Jesus did.

Even more than telling us exactly what to see in the Scriptures, Jesus taught us how to see, what to emphasize, and also what could be de-emphasized, or even ignored. Jesus is himself our hermeneutic, and he was in no way a fundamentalist or literalist. He was a man of the Spirit. Just watch him and watch how he does it (which means you must have some knowledge of his Scriptures!).

Jesus consistently ignored or even denied exclusionary, punitive, and triumphalistic texts in his own Jewish Bible in favor of texts that emphasized inclusion, mercy, and justice for the oppressed. He had a deeper and wider eye that knew what passages were creating a highway for God and which passages were merely cultural, self-serving, and legalistic additions. When Christians state that every line in the Bible is of equal importance and inspiration, they are being very unlike Jesus. 

Jesus read the inspired text in an inspired way, which is precisely why he was accused of “teaching with authority and not like our scribes” (Matthew 7:29).

At a worship team meeting the other night one wise and creative soul said, "What would happen if we designed our Good Friday liturgy and music first and then worked backwards to shape our Lenten emphasis? What would happen if throughout Lent we were hearing some of the music that will be lifted up as prayer in the Good Friday liturgy?" What a freakin' brilliant idea... let's see how this starts to take shape and form and we find the groove for Good Friday.

1) Adrian Kellard @

2) Misunderstood @


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