Yesterday we proclaimed the arrival of Jesus with “Hosanna” and the waving of palms. And we suddenly are confronted with how easy it is to rejoice, but even easier to walk away – not sticking around for the hard part. How many of us go right from waving palms to Alleluias a week later, skipping over Jesus’ journey to the cross. “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:40)
Lent has not been a contemplative time for me this year. It has involved lots of travel, lots of ‘feeding’ others through workshops, presentations, and planning. My intentions have been to read reflective texts while at 39,000 feet, but I have fallen back to playing word games on my Kindle or reading a mystery novel. I’ve filled my time with work projects and worrying about tasks undone and the well-being of parents.
Yesterday, I stopped by the hospital to visit with my mother-in-law who has been hooked up to numerous tubes and machines there for a week. She’s 90, now frail and perhaps drawing her last labored breaths. She seems to be at peace, but is still talking up a storm . . . talking to anyone and everything . . . a conversation that only she can comprehend. My daughter and future son-in-law accompanied me yesterday – it was an Ash Wednesday moment for them. A recognition of our mortality. And my husband has patiently sat with her every day since her arrival on “the hill,” even as tax season reached it’s peak.
Before we headed to the hospital yesterday, I met Becca & Jamie at the florist in New Haven; the person who is doing the flowers and centerpieces for their wedding in October. They brought a bag of stones, the bottom tearing open just as we entered the door. They brought them back from Acadia National Park, one of their favorite spots. They have meaning for them, and will be a focal point for their wedding. I collect rocks also – not so many – from my travels. I have a small glass jar with a stone from Iona, one from a beach in Virgin Gorda, one from the Grand Canyon, …. all reminders of places that have touched me with the beauty of God’s creation. (Yes, I know I’m not supposed to have taken them.)
Somehow, all of this has prepared me for Holy Week. I’m not sure how. I wonder, how do airports and hospitals, hotel rooms and dining room tables, stones and trees, earth and oceans cry out? about holiness? about life and death? about violence and peace?
“Never doubt the meaning of Lent. It happened a long time ago, but it happened. Jesus walked this earth. He practiced a ministry of radical inclusivity, drawing to himself all the despised and rejected members of society. He lived what he taught: a life of justice and love, of profound compassion for all people. He lived a life acceptable to you, O God. His death terrifies us, because it reveals how committed the world is to its own way, and the price the world exacts from those whose commitment is to you.”
As we extinguish the light this Friday, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of all God’s children, young and old alike, in the world who suffer in body, in mind, or in spirit.
What we contemplate this week is beyond words, beyond understanding. May the Holy Spirit intercede for us and give voice to what, for us, is inexpressible. Amen.
The above quote and prayers are adapted from several resources: “Before the Amen: Creative Resources for Worship” edited by Maren C. Tirabassi & Maria I. Tirabassi (2007: Pilgrim Press) and “An Improbable Gift of Blessing: Prayers and Affirmations to Nurture the Spirit” by Maren C. Tirabassi & Joan Jordan Grant (1998: United Church Press).