this week is holy, my calendar tells me, my church tells me. some wee small voice deep inside me tells me too. i don’t feel so holy of late, though. feel ragged and worn. tangled, too. like the branches that jut from my pine, the one whose trunk i stared up and into, trying to find, maybe, some sign of nesting begun.
the challenge this week, then, is to take time that feels ragged, feels spent, and see if maybe, just maybe, i can start to build holy.
perhaps, like mama bird, out collecting old string, and tatters of cloth, i can take little bits of each day. maybe even each hour, and start to weave something that feels like a soft place for my soul. my soul needs a nest, needs a roosting place. my soul needs somewhere to perch. somewhere to swell, feel full.
i walked myself into church yesterday. felt wholly alone. it wasn’t a church that whispers my name. it’s stone, piled on stone. but it’s not far from home. and it is holy week, so i thought i should be there.
i remembered the words of my mother, perhaps the lastingest words she’s ever uttered: don’t let the church get in the way of God. i gave that a try. i tried, really i did, to pay no attention to the girl next to me, a teen with tight pants and big furry boots, who kept checking her iphone for something. the time maybe. a text from a friend. i didn’t notice till later how her brother must have spent his palm sunday, shredding the palm into bits. leaving it there, in a heap on the floor, where someone not looking might step, might crush it into the slate.
instead, i listened to the story. i wept right along. i thought a lot about suffering. how the dominant metaphor here in my church is a God who suffered in ways no human should know. but i suppose there has always been solace that at least, no thanks to the dark inhuman hours of the passion of Jesus, we are not alone.
still, every year, when i listen, when i hear about thrashing and stripping and mocking, i wince, then i swallow back tears. more often than not, the tears spill anyway. i can’t hold them back. don’t want to. they sting. and shake me down deep.
i think, as i swipe at my wet messy cheeks, about unbearable sins, ones then, and ones now. i cannot stand, either, all the stories i read in the papers, the ones about women and children and men, all put to insufferable deaths, or just barely escaping. and living instead with the frames, endlessly looping, of the horrors that always can come.
it is a sobering start to a week in which we live it again, the betrayal, the trial, the slow march to death on a cross among sinners.
achingly, slowly, we live it again. in vigils that last for hours and hours, late nights in a church where the pews get harder and the air, always, gets thinner and staler, tougher to breathe, till you think you might wobble right down, or give up the ghost.
since i, like emily dickinson, of late, find my church more in the woods than the pews, i will do an odd dance this most holy week. i will step into the place of the candles and incense. i will hear all the stories again. i will kneel and wash the soles and the toes and the calluses, even, of a stranger. i will genuflect, and make the sign of the cross.
but i will try to make holy the hours that shroud all the church time. i will, for this one week especially, try to push back the things of the world that distract me, that pull me away from the point. and the whole heart of the matter.
i will, if i can, stop the worry about runs on the bank, and layoffs at work. i will try to forgive all the slights and cold shoulders. will, if i can, excuse the snapping of tongues, and the mists of unholiness that seep through the cracks in the door and the windows i’ve opened for air.
i will try, for starters this week, to listen for whispers of God all around me. i will look for the pure shafts of light, the ones breaking through branches.
i will collect, as much as i can, the ribbons of cloth and bits of stuffing from pillows. i will build, if i can, a fine nest. a place where my soul, once again, can roost, can give birth once again and again, to the thin-shelled belief that this time all around us–these hours, these minutes, these breaths–all are anointed, are holy.
are ours to inhale, if we just settle down and start breathing. again.
how and where does this holy week find you? i find solace in the partitioning of time, in the marking of days and weeks and seasons as holier, perhaps, than others. the challenge is to find holiness in the everyday. it is always the challenge. particularly, i find it now. how and where do you go to find a breath, a heartbeat, that you know is one that is sacred?
Passion … that was the subject in the pews where I sat yesterday. Passion week, passion for Christ, passion for the lost, passion for people, passion for truth.I too found myself wiping the tears yesterday. In this most holiest of weeks I find myself looking for, and lacking, the passion that once ruled my life. Can I find it again … most definitely. The spring brings the promise of newness of life in the earth … and in this earthen vessel.
beautifully put, my friend….earthen vessel. it is so true that sometimes we feel simply the muddy raw clay, and we cannot, for the life of us, find the glaze of the pot pulled from the oven……
… truth, and sometimes we feel the heat of the kiln, but when we’re finished, a vessel that can be used. Some vessels are to hold, some to pour out. I’ve always felt like the pitcher that gets filled only to be poured out again. If that’s the case, I need to be filled to be used. That’s my aim … getting filled up again. Thank you for today’s post. It’s what my heart has been crying for some time now.
good green day to you…oh, i don’t know about the churches, but i do know the fields have been a bit blackened by me, the paths left seem holy, seem hopeful in that the green might spring through the black soon…a resurrection. i do this every year, burning the fields, right around this time…to see what life pokes through the dark, dead fields. it always does, you know…life overcomes death in time, perhaps that is reason enough to rejoice. and yes, i’ve been peeking through the branches too…only the starlings seem busy building nests…above that swing with the hole in the roof…oooops, haven’t fixed it yet-can’t tolerate the thought of keeping life out, silencing the peeps, nope. take care, big hug.
ahh, true, maybe that’s what i need–a church of the fields. a church where the preacher comes up every morning, a giant orange orb, with lessons to teach and stories to tell. maybe it’s their in the rows, instead of the pews, where wisdom will come, break through the black earth. maybe my choristers are, as emily says, the sparrows and even the baritone crows. maybe it’s sifting the soils there in my fingers. maybe it’s why, true, i think you’re so smart. because you are there on your knees in the church of the fields. you labor and toil, and, always, you come up from the fields with a gospel and teaching to tell. and i know i listen. resurrection, you say. the little green heads poke right through the burn. life after death. fallow to fullness. the sun and the earth, they promise….sounds like a church i believe in…..
when I was an intern pastor at a church, which was ten years-old and had only owned a building for four years, many of the parishoners told me that they liked being church together before they had the building. As soon as they built the church building, there main foci were bricks, new windows, heating bills. Prior to the building of the church they rented space in a gymnasium and it was at that point years earlier that their foci was community and hospitality. I realize that I’m writing a bit of a tangent, but I do believe, long before the institutional church took shape, the church was rooted in an earthy identity.I know that I have shared this story here before, but I will share it once more. I read a story about a rabbi who went out to the fields and found his son reading the holy texts up in a tree. He went out to the tree and said to his son, why don’t you go to the synagogue to read the texts, don’t you know that the divine is the same everywhere, whether it be in the synagogue or in a tree.The boy looked down from the tree at his father and said, yes, but I am different when I am in a tree.May the sacred find you bam, wherever you may be, whether it be tree, field, pew or at the backyard birdfeeder
slj, if you told that story, i don’t think i remember. i LOVE it. i know how the boy feels. and i love that it’s a rabbi story. appropriate in my world view for this week, where i more than many probably think about the story of the passion through a jewish-informed lens. i think how the story has been the source of so much pain for so many millions of jews. i think of jesus the jew, who was sitting with his apostles for the passover. anyway, i love rabbi stories. they always have wisdom for plucking. thanks for bringing your tale here to the table. i am being beckoned by a little one. must go….
aahhh, bam, what a mornig to pull up to the table after an absence. Thank you for sharing your heart so well. Yes, the struggle with the presence of suffering – both distant, and in your face – seems to be the question of the season. The struggle is so piercing, and yet always seems to draw me into its presence. One image I love is the composting that Earth does, with leaves and branches and critters who no longer breathe. Knowing that they (we) become the fertile soil for new life helps me imagine suffering being composted into compassion. The image doesn’t change the suffering, but it helps me to show up.Thank you for keeping the table spread.