Prayers for Pastors

Give us a sense (a Holy Week prayer for pastors)

We’re working hard, Lord,
working hard to give people
a sense of you in this holiest of weeks.

We are working hard
to bring alive the story
of celebration
and anxiety,
of branches strewn in the road,
of abundant love poured out,
and unavoidable death,
and the courage to face it.

We strive to summon up
the drama of the moment.
The joy of triumphal entry.
The foreboding
of the days that followed.
The fragrance of perfume.
The taste of supper.
The clamor of angry shouts.

We strive.

Holy One,
in the midst of this
we hold concerns
for sisters in Christ
who wait at bedsides,
who undergo treatment,
who grieve terrible losses.

O God! give us a sense
that you are with us.
Give us a sense of you.



Holy Week, The Inner Landscape

That the Darkness May Not Overtake You

It's pouring here. It felt dark all day. Even the background on my Gmail page (I use the "Tree" setting, which reflects the weather) features dark, dark clouds. I happily sent Sam out with the dog walker this morning and tried to convince him that he really didn't want to walk in a downpour this afternoon.

It felt dark all day.

Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light." After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. (John 12:35-36, NRSV)

It feels dark on the inside, too. Holy Week feels heavy. The stories in the lectionary for these days feel heavy, ominous and, well, dark. 

This week has been hard for me in past years, for a variety of reasons, and I suspect I'm more inclined to go there emotionally because in my spiritual life, I'm headed to the bottom. Because it's not as simple as what the Romans did or which Jewish leaders may have colluded with them. This is about more than history. It's about a state of disconnection, a belief that we can get what we want somehow, a desire to block out our own responsibility for how screwed up the world can be. 

Jesus_scourged When "Passion of the Christ" came out, I remember feeling irritated by the personal response of people interviewed for local news stories. After seeing that horrific movie, a movie that was more about a film maker's love of gore and torture than about Jesus, a young woman said, with a sort of delighted wonder, "I had no idea he went through all that FOR ME!!!"



Humanity as a collective reacted the way humanity so often does to goodness, to God-ness: with violence and disruption and a hope that a lot of sound and fury will turn the clock back to a time when we felt like we had more control.

And whatever that thing was we controlled–market forces, votes for women, minority rights, the earth itself–whatever it was, we cheerfully plunge back into darkness because the light hurts our eyes.

"Walk while you have the light, so the darkness may not overtake you." 

The good news is, we can still perceive the light. It did not dissipate forever. In this dark, dark week, I'm trying to remember to look for its sources, that the darkness may not overtake me.

Christmas, Holy Week

Everything’s Alright

Yvonne-elliman-mary-mag-4 (1) From the basement, I hear the sweet voice of my daughter singing.

“And it’s cool, and the ointment’s sweet

For the fire in your head and feet.

Close your eyes, close your eyes

And relax, think of nothing tonight.”

It’s that season. I looked around the house yesterday for the CD, the Original London Concept Recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. We play it in the car, and we sing along with the songs, and we laugh at some of the orchestrations.

Earlier LP sat at the piano playing Mary Magdalene’s other famous song, the one I used to play and sing when I was just a little older, sitting on the same bench, touching the same keys.

I had the sheet music for “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” I first heard someone playing it at summer camp. Because my Southern Baptist grandmother had declared both JCS and Godspell blasphemous, and because my dear mother feared upsetting her, I had to keep my knowledge of the musicals secret. When my high school chorus sang selections from Godspell in a concert, my mother wouldn’t tell my grandmother I was IN a concert!

Hot stuff.

At my house we don’t fear art. We talk about it, play it, sing it, learn from it, critique it and appreciate it.

It’s so long ago, and the question of blasphemy seems almost quaint, but I wonder what my grandmother thought she knew about Jesus Christ Superstar?

Because of watching it and listening to it, we’ve had long discussions about Pilate (#1 Son loves the song about his dream) and Judas, who we are not so quick to consign to the role of thief as in John’s gospel or demon-possessed, since we don’t understand the world that way. Watching and listening to JCS has gotten us talking about the comprehension of the disciples, the role of the religious leaders and their relationship to the Romans and to the royal family as represented by Herod. It’s gotten us talking about the way creative people pick and choose from the gospels and tradition to paint their own pictures of Jesus.

I don’t see how this can be a bad thing, no matter what my grandmother might have thought. After all, it’s not what goes in that matters. It’s what comes out. And I like what springs from my children, their thoughtfulness and their depth on matters artistic and theological and personal. Everything’s alright.