Monday, March 18, 2013

Holy Week Meditations 2

(Read the passage slowly, twice, waiting to see something you haven't seen before in these familiar texts. Ponder them for 5-10 minutes in silence, read the meditation and conclude with the Collect for the Day. Listen in the silence....)


The thing I've noticed over 30+ years of Maunday Thursdays is how awkward it is for us 21st century westerners to wash each others' feet.

Feet, in our culture, are very private things. I am, like most people, embarrassed by my feet--my little toe toenails are stunted and odd looking while my big toe toenails are gnarly and thick. I love to get a pedicure but seldom do because I'm humiliated by having Asian women massage my feet--though it feels so good!

I've tried, over the years, to institute foot washing as part of the Maundy Thursday liturgy and it has never been comfortable and moving. Socks and pantyhose don't help--but one thing I believe is this: it is easier to wash someone's feet than to have someone wash yours.

Which brings us to Simon Peter and his protestations that Jesus shouldn't wash his feet, even though washing of feet in those days was as much of common hospitality as hanging up a coat and offering a drink to guests is our day. However, in spite of Peter's objections, Jesus wins him over.

Why is it so hard for us to be 'served'? Is it out culture's 'self-reliant' obsession? Is it the embarrassment of being made to feel 'special'? Why is it so difficult for us to let someone wash our feet?

Maundy Thursday is a day to ponder our inflated pride and privacy. It is a time to ponder the relationship of our fierce 'individualism' to the invitations of 'community'. It is a time to wonder how vulnerable we are willing to be in order to receive service and love.

COLLECT: Almighty Father, whose dear son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

GOOD FRIDAY John 18.1-40--19.1-37

A long reading today. Today is a long day, unrelenting in its sadness. Haven't you ever wondered why we don't call it Bad Friday instead?

John's gospel is the best for the detail and the gore, the agony and the suffering and the touching moments (giving his mother to John to be his mother; naming the slave whose ear was lost to Peter's sword--Malcus; the care of the soldiers for Jesus' cloak, things like that.)

So, the Passion, in all it's glory and all it's misery is lived out today. Over the years, I have presided many times over the traditions 3 hour liturgy of Good Friday, beginning at noon and ending at 3 p.m. It is wrenching and cleansing. When we most nearly got it right, nearly 2 hours of the the 3 were in silence with on occasional readings and prayers and the receiving of the reserved sacrament in silence as well.

My predisposition toward silence become highlighted and enhanced this week of the year. There is an old saying: "Do not speak unless  your speaking can improve on the silence."

Good advice this day or any day. We fill our lives with so much noise that it is often difficult to hear the still, small voice of God over the chaos.

Keep silence this day: honor it, adore it, listen to it, ponder it.

COLLECT: Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Sealing the tomb was a big deal. Jewish funeral practice involved going to anoint the body for two days before the tomb was sealed away. Part of that was honoring the dead but a big part was because medical science was practically non-existent and there were occasions when coma had been mistaken for death and there was a chance someone might 'wake up' who was thought to be dead. But in that climate of Palestine, by the third day, death was made obvious by the smell of decomposition and the tomb was sealed for good. (Remember the complaints of those Jesus asked to roll the stone from Lazareus' grave: in the wondrous King James Version it was, "Lord, he stinketh!"

The guards feared someone would steal his body and claim he was alive. So they sealed the tomb.

I sometimes ponder the things I haven't 'sealed the tomb' on in my life. There are resentments and anger and guilt and regrets that I have kept artifically alive long past their endings. I should have 'sealed the tomb' on those things and moved on with forgiveness and gratitude in my heart. But I haven't. I've kept the stink of those unreleased, unfinished emotions around for sometimes years, decades.

Ponder what emotions, thoughts, feelings, regrets and resentments you need to 'seal the tomb' on and move on, forgiven and refreshed and renewed. Ponder that on this day when we remember Jesus was dead and the tomb was sealed. Who knows how those painful things we seal in their tombs might be transformed on the Third Day....

COLLECT: O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Emmaus Story is my favorite passage of all scripture! I love it not just as gospel truth but as a paradigm for life.

Often we flee from the pains of life and try to go to another place. Often, if we are open to possibility, it is a 'stranger' we meet on the road that will teach us and reveal truth to us. Often, hospitality to the stranger results in remarkable and wondrous insight into the burning in our hearts. Often, most often, we find that if we return to the place of suffering and pain, it is there we will be healed and made new.

On this day, I urge you to simply rejoice and be glad and party! And, as the darkness of Easter night closes in, ponder in your heart how insights come in strange ways, how returning to the place of pain brings healing, how hospitality and welcome is the gift most needed for us to give and receive.

And then say the collect and close by proclaiming once more: "Alleluia! Alleluia!! Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! Alleluia!"

Collect: O God, who for our redemption gave your only begotten Son to death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the powers of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(Dear Friends, have a profound and wondrous Holy Week and Easter. Let this week be for cleansing and healing and new life. Feel free to share these reflections with friends and family and acquaintances. Share the journey of this week with others and 'let them see Jesus' in you love and compassion and gentleness and silence and hospitality. Shalom, jim)

Jim Bradley

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.