Getting ready for good friday...
You just never know... Last night a small group (about 40) gathered forEucharist, story-telling, foot-washing and prayer. As is often the case, I put aside my prepared notes and simply spoke about living as Eucharist for the world (i.e. as the bread of communion that is taken, blessed, broken and shared) - as a servant who joyfully chooses the role of bringing comfort and tenderness to others (i.e. as Jesus kneeling to wash the feet of his disciples) - and as Mary standing at the foot of Christ's Cross and holding the wounds of the world within herself rather than lashing out. At the end of my homily, I washed the feet of our newest staff person - a young soul who is new to the Christian tradition - reminding the gathering that next year "everyone will have the chance to come forward in humility..."
This gathering concluded with a simplified reworking of Tenebrae - a series of readings and hymns shared in the context of extinguishing candles - so that at the close we sat for a time together in the silent darkness. It is a way, as one participant said later, "of making space for all of us to be together in our brokenness." There were lots of tears - my own and others, too - mostly because just below the surface in most of us there are wounds and sighs too deep for human words. So when we are given permission to listen to our wounds, they often erupt as tears, yes?
Once again I was struck by how counter-cultural this gathering was: for whatever reason, this collection of souls decided NOT to go to the pub crawl. They postponed TV for an hour - or whatever else they usually do at 7 pm on a Thursday evening - and came together to weep in the shadows. As those far wiser than I have known for millenia, this is both a form of non-violent resistance to the madness of popular culture and deep soul work. Being together in this safe place, sharing the tender innocence of a foot-washing and then hearing the old, old story mixed with the old, old songs was fortifying as well as humbling. The small mistakes didn't matter - we were going deeper - so even my stumbling over the closing of the Lord's Prayer was not out of place within the darkness.
This was a night where we met parts of our most profound grief and held them quietly in the presence of the Lord. Tonight we will gather to push the edges of this grief in other ways as we wander through the story of the Cross with songs from beyond the church tradition. What I have discovered in our reworking of the Good Friday story over the years is that it is archetypal - it describes the journey of the soul as we commit ourselves to the way of the Sacred - and artists as diverse as U2 and Mose Allison have tapped into this truth. Fr. Richard Rohr recently put it like this:
Following Jesus is a vocation to share the fate of God for the life of the world. Jesus invited people to “follow” him in bearing the mystery of human death and resurrection. Those who agree to carry and love what God loves, which is both the good and the bad of human history, and to pay the price for its reconciliation within themselves—these are the followers of Jesus—the leaven, the salt, the remnant, the mustard seed that God can use to transform the world. The cross is the dramatic image of what it takes to be such a usable one for God.
These few are the critical mass that keeps the world from its path toward greed, violence, and self-destruction. God is calling everyone and everything to God’s self (Gen. 8:16-17, Eph. 1:9-10, Col. 1:15-20, Acts 3:21, 1 Tim. 2:4, John 3:17). But God still needs some instruments and images who are willing to be “conformed to the pattern of his death” and transformed into the power of his resurrection (Phil. 3:10). They illuminate the path because they allow themselves to be used.
Jesus crucified and resurrected is the whole pattern revealed, named, effected, and promised for our own lives. The Jesus story is the universe story. The Cosmic Christ is no threat to anything but separateness, illusion, domination, and the imperial ego. In that sense, Jesus, the Christ, is the ultimate threat, but first of all to Christians themselves. Only then will they have any universal and salvific message for the rest of the earth.
What I take from this is NOT that God only works through human beings, but rather God's love is grand enough to work through human brokenness - and we can become willing partners towards healing and hope, too.