Palm Sunday in Uncertain Times

As members of St. John’s spoke to one another over the past couple of weeks, one question rose repeatedly: What about Holy Week? These liturgies are so much about physical action: waving palms, washing feet, stripping altars, unearthing alleluias. How can it be Holy Week when we’re not together? How will it be Easter from our desks instead of our pews? 

Our questions and lament have me thinking about the first Palm Sunday, the gospel story of Jesus entering Jerusalem. Crowds gathered, Jesus processed, followers cheered. We’ve practiced our liturgy so long that it’s easy to forget the turbulence of the scene. We remember the celebration and expectation, but not the intensity or confusion. There wasn’t an established liturgy for the first Palm Sunday. Certainly, nothing had been approved by religious authorities.

When the followers of Jesus watched him enter Jerusalem, they didn’t know what would happen next. They thought he would restore their nation. They didn’t know the victory they were proclaiming wasn’t going to look like they imagined. Our future, and our celebrations, aren’t going to look like we imagined, either. Graduations will be postponed, weddings and funerals pared down, and reunions cancelled. God will still be with us in every step and every stage.

We cannot share the same Holy Week spaces that we have in years past. I will not grasp your hand to pass peace, and you are not in danger of being whapped with a child’s palm frond. But we can place our hands on other things that connect us to Holy Week: growing plants, soap and water (surely we notice the washing, washing, washing we’re doing and connect it to Maundy Thursday). We have an incarnate faith, and a communal one. We can make a point to touch those things around us that connect us to our story, and we can connect with one another. We can’t do both at the same time, but we will experience holiness in new ways this year. 

And having said all that, there’s room for grief, too.
Jesus was not the kind of king those palm-wavers thought they were getting. They lived in Roman-Occupied Jerusalem, and thought that they would be delivered from their difficult lived circumstances. They weren’t. Jesus’s kingdom had begun, and also wasn’t yet. That’s where we are. In the beginning, and the not yet. The disciples obeyed, they served Jesus, but they did not have a clear picture of what was happening, or what would happen next. So many people are serving God and neighbor at St. John’s right now, and I think it’s safe to say that we do not have a clear picture of what is unfolding next. 

This Holy Week will be sacred. It will be unforgettable.We are in it together. As Frederick Buechner imagines God saying: 
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you.”

Here are a few small things you can reach for to help you stay in Holy Week:
  • Gather a few stems and leaves. Carry them on your walk around the neighborhood. Celebrate the here-yet-still-anticipated reign of Christ.
  • Do you remember how to cut paper snowflakes? Cut small palm fronds, and keep them where you’ll see them: on your desk, in your window, on your table. Remember that wherever we are, we are herald’s of God’s kingdom.

Blessings to all of you this Holy Week.


Father’s Day

This is just to say:
It is possible to parent in ways that you did not experience. It is possible to listen and nurture and play, even if you did not receive those things. This is a quiet, huge miracle that people don’t notice much.


Zero Waste Life Experience

I’ve long assumed those cheerleading years were wasted time, but it turns out that yelling encouragement is a big part of what I’m here to do.

Happy Pride Weekend, Columbus.


TGIF (with love to Brené)

I've been blogging in my head (and missing Mary Beth and Mindy and basically the sisterhood of bloggers), so when Brené Brown revived her "TGIF" habit from her old blogging days, I was in. A nice, mellow return by way of sharing a gratitude practice with one of my favorite women heroes.

T(rusting): I'm trusting that I can do a new (interim) job well, and that my family will find its footing in the chaos of me going back to work.

G(grateful): I'm SO FLIPPING GRATEFUL for the support I've had from generous, trusting bosses.  Cannot tell you how much it means to me to be trusted and backed up. Also, hugely, the friend who's helping with childcare and the many friends who are keeping me from losing my mind.  Oh, and the nurse practitioner who treated me with so much love this week.  And the warming weather. And the husband who gave me a sick day and looked at snails on the trail with the little Biscuit.

I(inspired): I've picked Thérèsa of Lisieux back up lately, because she's been calling to me for the last several weeks.  I learned about her years ago, and felt utterly bored by her "holiness of small things" kind of mysticism. Now, as I'm starting to accept the smallness of my own reach, I'm encouraged by her words.

How about you? What's your TGIF this week?

ETA: F!!! I forgot F(un)! Y'all, that is about exactly the state of things right now.  I am totally forgetting the F.  Um.  I have an ongoing pattern of seeing powerful lady movies with my best friend (remember, per Mindy Kaling, best friend is a tier, not an individual), and I'm wagging about getting a date for The Hustle on our calendars.


You Always Have the Poor with You

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” - Mark 14:3-9

This week has been brutal.  This week has also been breathtaking.
My spouse took a couple of days off, and after the national horror of yesterday's Senate hearings, I decided to schedule a last-minute facial this morning. 
As the aesthetician massaged my face and hands with oils, I thought about the work to be done, the work of protection and justice and dignity. 
We always have survivors with us.
Jesus must have been bone-tired.  God alone knows how many people he'd healed by this point, how many hungry mouths he had already fed, how many powerful men he'd stood up to on behalf of maligned women.
And there were still more to be fed.  Still more to protect. Still more to heal.
If we think about the scope of the work to be done, we cannot carry it.  The woman with oil was anointing Jesus for his burial, but we need to be anointed and massaged and nurtured for our survival, too.
"Self-care" gives me the heebie-jeebies.  If your sleeves aren't rolled up and your hands aren't dirty, I don't want to hear a damn thing about the importance of self-care.  But if the poor are indeed among you, and if you're feeding and healing and standing firm? Be extravagantly nurtured.  Pour delicious oil on one another. Be profligate in the beauty you share and receive.
Tonya stroked my eyebrows and warmed my fingers.  Sarah, Molly, and Liz are sharing beautiful music this fall.  Dave makes me tea and soup and holds my hand.  I cannot stand without the oil they pour.
There is so much work to be done.  Only beauty and love will carry us.  


Wednesday Prayers

Tenebrae service tonight; also deep worries about a friend's critical illness.

Kyrie Eleison.

And with you?


Wednesday Prayers: Passes Understanding, Indeed

Someone walked into my apartment this morning and commented on how peaceful it felt.


That has definitely not been how it's felt to me, lately.  I mean, unless peaceful is just managing not to scream, "stop screwing around and go to the damn potty!" That's not really my definition.

But lately my prayer has been that wherever we live, it's as welcoming as possible to as many people as possible.  It's how I'm (sort of) coming to terms with a few more years in a beige, cat-ravaged apartment.  For years and years, I used to joke (not joking) that all I wanted in a home was a ballroom and a library.  Most of our bookshelves are in the basement right now (because they make such tempting ladders), and beige carpet does not a dance floor make.


In our homely little development, we have neighbors from all over.  Neighbors who wear hijab, and neighbors who grill very tasty smelling meats.  The kids play football in the huge field behind Sam's room.  I will always know people with PhDs and fancy jobs, but here I learn about what manufacturing jobs entail.  As much as I want my own charming little home, I can't imagine being more accessible to more people.  And when different people all come to my drab little domicile, they meet other people they might not meet otherwise.  (And for sure no one feels intimidated by the space.)

It's not where I want to be, but it sure functions how I want it to function.

So: prayers for my home, please.  That it grow in warmth and peace and security.  And maybe one day, in aesthetics.

And how about you? What's rattling through your brain when you wake at 3 a.m.? What are you thinking about when you're driving? What can I be taking to God for you?