“..& when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil “who is this?” people asked, & the crowds answered “this is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee” ..the Jewish insiders in Jerusalem, the inner sanctum of Judaism, didn’t know him; but the outsiders, the rank & file, knew him ..geographically from Nazareth ; spiritually as a prophet a week made holy, even holier than ever this year, because of our turmoil over the virus; afraid of outsiders who might bring the virus, & their dis-ease, into our valley..who may bring in their dealings/relationships with Jesus in person, rather than in liturgy & rubric..
where do we stand as we step into Holy Week? where understandably & necessarily this year, we are kept at a distance from liturgy & rubric ..a sacrifice/our sacrifice that will save lives among us.. ..the Body of Christ at its best, in prayer & sacrifice in the name & person of Jesus Christ
“..the Lord has given me a disciples tongue “ ..to warn of consequences of spiritual distancing .. ; Lord have mercy “..to reply to the wearied “ we face it & beat it together gracefully.. ; Christ have mercy “..I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed” ..to speak out against those who play lip service to Government & Church advice.. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
On Wed 18 March 2020, our faith, & by connection, indeed by intinction, our lives changed for the foreseeable future as, on government advice & with our Bishop’s support our Church’s were closed from Friday 20 March 2020, & we each & all, separated yet indelibly always together, came to terms with the loss of our family weekend meal in our spiritual home, our Church. All this in the space of a Wednesday to Sunday. Little did we know the weekend before, with its gospel story of the woman at the well, we would, like Jesus, be seeking a drink, & thereby a relationship, on distant territory; shared encounters out in situations remote from our religious buildings which in conversation, albeit now by social media or telephone, become deeply spiritual; social distancing, spiritual deepening; remember from last week? As we meet Christ in person in those we have always loved most, our nearest & dearest, but have, for all sorts of reasons or otherwise, become distanced from; sharing the same house room & meals yet distant emotionally relationally spiritually until now..families of Martha’s working sacrificially full on for our families..& now a Martha time; to sit at Our Lord’s feet, at our wife’s, our teenager’s feet, & listen..”the better part” he calls it.. a very special week begins today, Palm Sunday in Holy Week, a Holy Week like none before for us as this Wednesday [ Spy Wednesday & Judas’ betrayal ] changes us & each other for the better through the worst.. Spy Wednesday to Easter Day, the essence of our faith & the divine invitation to enter into its mysteries with the anxieties, fears & uncertainties of the self-isolation of the virus to remind us, is to recognise ourselves personally in the key characters of the Passion story; ”who do you say I am?”..the leading question put by Jesus, still the rookie teacher, to his novice disciples as he did a self assessment of his teaching & a Sats test of his pupils..was the message getting through?..& Peters response, his profession of faith, set the tone & standard “you are the Christ”; a blue sky moment of realisation of who Christ was, & of realisation of who Peter was now in relation to his Master..our Master..a blue sky set to cloud over into a pig sty moment for Peter as servant girl was to gently ask of him & now us “you too were with Jesus the Nazarene” his profession of faith & ours melts under question interrogation test & challenge “I do not know the man”..Palm Sunday & the joyful acclamation, & four days later, the disownment.. ..a favourite character of mine for Palm Sunday is Simon of Cyrene “a man from Cyrene, Simon by name, & they enlisted him to carry his cross”
[you may want to pause here for a few moments, to sit & ponder quietly, before carrying on into the moment & Simon’s story..or come back to it later today, or early in Holy Week..kairos [divine] time is generously provided for us this year ]
An enduring help to me in Holy Week is a book written by Sara Maitland “Stations of the Cross “..she says “John’s gospel gives us permission to add things on with the explicit observation that not everything Jesus did is included in the gospel “were every one of them to be written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” [John 21;25] we are urged to “read between the lines” when trying to tackle contemporary ethical issues. I have been trying to write stories which are genuinely works of literature & at the same time equally genuine works of theology- theology of the imagination; an “artful theology”. In 1989 I wrote for the BBC for Holy Week five stories about the women who encountered Jesus in one way or another during the last week of his life. I tried to stay faithful to the biblical narrative & at the same time bring a contemporary life & sensibililty to the individual women involved. These were real women, not pious silhouettes, & they deserved real voices, real stories. “
Sara Maitlands account of the 5th Station ; “Simon of Cyrene carries the Cross” follows;
[ open it in a separate window if you are receiving this via email ; or read it in the paper supplement enclosed if you received this by post ] See under Coronavirus 5th Station, Simon of Cyrene carries the Cross.
..a family, a familiar family story is it not ?..where are you in it? in which character do you recognise yourself ? & others in your own family? & “ the Word becomes flesh, & lives among us” ..lives within us ..a real story, a true story, for you to take forward into Holy Week 2020..self distancing except for those in your closest family..including Jesus.. “Hosanna to the Son of David “
“I can do that too “..I call to him..& I do.. [ Palm Sunday Year A ; Matthew 26.14-27.66 ]