Sunday, April 16, 2006
It Was a Candlelit Week, it Seems
The Thursday before Palm Sunday, we read the passage about Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus with spikenard...and Jesus commending her. That started me thinking about Mary. She truly must have been amazing. First we see her defying convention in an incredibly brave way by daring to sit at the rabbi's feet and learn from him. And later she seems to understand something that the 12 disciples still did not, even a short time before the end. She understood, it seems, that Jesus was going to die.
I finally stopped struggling with a sermon for Palm Sunday and dressed up in a costume and did a monologue instead. It was well received, and I may do more of these.
Then on Thursday we gathered for candlelight communion. The sanctuary was lit with dim purple light on the back wall. The only other light was lots of candles. Most often we share communion by having the deacons pass it to the congregation and then we all take the bread and cup together. Sometimes I do it various other ways though. This night I asked people to come up to the candlelit table, where I held the matzah and my husband held the tray of little cups. (I really don't like matzah, but it seems right to use the correct bread when it is Passover.) As each person stepped forward I looked into their eyes as I said, "_________, the body of Christ was broken for you." And DH said, "___________, the blood of Christ was shed for you." Since it was a somewhat small group, and no visitors, we could call each one by name. The reactions varied from tears to a hurried pass with no eye contact.
The next night was an ecuminical Good Friday Tennebrae service at a church that is out in the countryside. It was completely full of people, elderly to infants. Nine clergy participated, and of those, six were women. Isn't that unusual? Two Roman Catholic priests, a Presbyterian, a Lutheran, a Methodist, a few UCC, and one Assembly of God pastor (me). It was a very traditional and very beautiful service. The sanctuary grew darker and darker as candles were extinguished one by one and lights were dimmed. Then the church bell tolled...such a mournful sound it was...and we sat in darkness as we listened.
My husband and I went out for ice cream with some of our parishoners who had attended. Is it right to eat ice cream on Good Friday?
And this morning we entered our church's lovely little sanctuary to the sounds of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." There were many visitors, which is not always the case for us on Easter Sunday. The cross was draped with a gleaming white cloth, and the crown of thorns was replaced by a golden king's crown. Lots of candles. Lilies, gardenias and azaleas filled the room with a sweetly fresh scent of springtime. Teen Challenge women were our guests today. That is a Christian program for people with life-controlling problems (very successful and one of my favorite ministries). They shared a ham dinner with my mother and me and many others at the lake cottage of one of our church couples, and each of the Teen Challenge women received an Easter basket. Precious women. New life from darkness. Thanks be to God!
Strange in a way, Good Friday was a beautiful sunny day. The temperature reached 70 degrees (yippeee)! Easter, on the other hand, was grey and cold and drizzling.
A nice ending note, the Teen Challenge director told me that our church was the warmest and most wecoming congregation they had visited in the state. Yay for us! :-)
I hope the day was filled with joy for you. Time for a nap for me. Whew.