I have felt disoriented this Holy week – -it’s a natural part of my transition into this new role. But that aside, Holy Week is supposed to be disorienting in a way – -to shake us up and make us really think about what happened, who was in the Upper Room that night, what it may have felt like to be in the garden, on the road, or watching the events unfold on the hillside. Some of the favorite sermons I have written have come from the days between Palm Sunday and Easter. We think about who we are, and why we believe what we do in a different sort of way this week.
Tonight was our Maundy Thursday and Tenebrae service. Tonight, my mind flashed back to Ash Wednesday, almost 4o days ago. That night was one of worship and part of that service found me looking into people’s eyes -just like tonight. When you smear ashes on someone’s forehead, you have to look in their eyes as you remind them of our mortality. Tonight as I offered the blood of Christ, I looked into people’s eyes as well — some damp with tears, many dry. This service feels more intimate than many we participate in.
As we read the scriptures and extinguished the candles, one by one, that Holy Week sank in. As the last flame was snuffed out, as the sanctuary fell silent, I found it hard to breathe, and found myself so very thankful that we are indeed an Easter people – -that while we will dwell in this space for a while, the light is not out forever. It is hard to be the one saying the words”crucify him” (that was my reading) and hearing – -no, feeling – -the reading of the temple curtain being torn and the sky going black, and not be affected somehow. And as the significance of the evening grows as the silence grows. And then… from the back the hymn “Were You There?”
Were we? No – -not really. Yes. And we will continue to be. We will spend our Friday in this strange balance of everyday life and worship. We will be disoriented and scattered, and it won’t be until we approach the tomb on Sunday that the world is right again.