Vah-sayers invited to the table

A service of Holy Communion in Tripoli, Lebanon, January, 2018.

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” – Matthew 26:26-28

Last evening we gathered at West Hills Church for a solemn Maundy Thursday service. It’s Holy Week, and this is the reminder of the table we are invited to on this day between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. I say it every year: we can’t get to Easter without this in between time of suffering, loss and grief. We come to the table and remember who did this great sacrificial thing for us. And then we walk through the Friday we call “good.”

Last night was special because the choir played the role of those who called for the death of Jesus. We sang Dubois’ beautiful “Seven Last Words,” and marvelous soloists took the parts of Jesus, the Father and the Mother. But the choir took the part of the crowd yelling “Vah! If thou art king over Israel save thyself then!”

Because we are the crowd. We yell like that all the time when we choose to not see Jesus in the homeless man: Get off the sidewalk! Quit panhandling! Vah! Or in the grieving high school students whose friends have bled out in front of them: Don’t walk out of class! You are too young to preach about gun control! Vah! Or in those seeking refuge from war and poverty: We don’t want you here! You’re not like US! Vah!

We come to the table spread for us by the one whose bread/body is broken for us and whose wine/blood is spilled for us. And even though we cry “VAH!” he still…

…takes

…blesses

…breaks

…gives

All over the world his actions are repeated in churches big and small. And we remember that it is Jesus who invites the broken, sinful, vah-spewing mob to his table of forgiveness. May we be taken and blessed and broken and given in his name and in his memory to love like he showed us to love.

This is my prayer for Holy Week.

 

Three days

Cathy and Mommy's headstones 2014

March 24 was this past Tuesday, and it marked the second anniversary of Cathy’s brutal, inhuman exit from this world. Sally and Susan had asked us Omaha siblings to put some flowers at her cemetery marker that day. Mike, Jana and I, along with Barb, did just that. It was cold and rainy, but we put a beautiful small bouquet in the vase by Mommy’s stone (soon it will be between the two matching stones). Mike brought some of Cathy’s own stones which were precious to her, and some sage, which we burned. I reminded him that in the church when incense is burned, it is a fragrant representation of our prayers rising to God in heaven.

We each prayed in our own way that day. And we took pictures and shared them with Sally and Susan and George. As I have said, we once were seven even if now we are only six.

The picture above is from last year when we began this new, poignant tradition. Year one, and now year two; next year will mark three years.

But standing there in the chilly misty air, I was again struck by the dates on the stones: Cathy’s death was on March 24 and Mommy’s was on March 27.

Three days.

It took me back to 1966, when I was seven years old and we had said good-bye to Mommy at the mortuary as they closed her casket. I can still see Daddy kissing her good-bye one more time.

I don’t remember the funeral at all. But I remember, a spring day after the funeral. Mommy’s rosebush was blooming so it must have been many weeks later, May or June, and not the chilly spring days of late March or early April. The bush by the front door was covered in those tiny pink roses and I picked some. I broke some small limbs off the yews that were planted across the front of the house, and I made a little floral altar where I could pray. I can remember this all so clearly, just like it happened this past Tuesday, but it was 49 years ago.

Genuflecting in front of my little homemade altar, I prayed:

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Dear God. You brought your son Jesus back to life after three days. Would you please just bring Mommy back like that?

Here we are now in 2015 coming into Holy Week. Palm Sunday is three days from now. Maundy Thursday is three days from then. And then Easter, three days later.

Three days.

In the hymnal,  it goes like this:

  • All Glory, Laud and Honor
  • O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
  • Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!

And as I look at the twin headstones and see the three days there (47 years apart) separating the end dates of two women whom I have loved and who loved me, I have to pause here in that middle place. I have to get through Maundy Thursday and O Sacred Head, Now Wounded. I can’t leap from the joy of life to the joy of resurrection without walking through the suffering and death of the cross.

Yes, I have to go through. But…I can’t stop there. The deaths of Mommy and Cathy have colored and shaped my life, just as the death of Jesus has. I have mourned, I do mourn and I will mourn.

But oh, that third day – Resurrection Sunday – is where my victory is. And it is where Mommy’s is and Cathy’s is as well. And so I will celebrate their lives and I will find joy there.

Christ the Lord is risen today! The third day.

Amen.