Lent

Monday of Holy Week: Cleansing the Temple

The honeymoon is over. Jesus is behaving strangely. I think that his actions in the Temple were disturbing to many, but also liberating and hopeful to many. Isn't that just so Jesus? Disturbing, liberating, hopeful.

On this day we clean our rooms and tidy the house. We also prepare the Temple by practicing the prayer of Examen. My kids are old enough this year to learn and make effective use of this prayer. Here it is in pdf format.

Palm Sunday

When we were little, my sister and I were always organizing the neighborhood kids into "shows." We did all kinds of shows: comedies, dramas, a skit called The Flag for 4th of July (which I wrote so that I could wear my favorite red, white and blue striped terry cloth tank top), magic shows, circuses, and talent shows. God invites us to play in this way too. Biblical festivals have classically included elements of play. Reenacting Passover--a Reader’s Theater type of drama about the night Moses led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, from death to life--was not only an act of remembrance, not only an act of worship, it also prepared the people to recognize the signs of the coming Messiah. They were required to act it out as a fun yearly activity, so that they could be saved.

This week, Holy Week, is full of remembrance and reenactments that prepare our hearts and sanctify us. This morning as soon as I woke up I jumped out of bed thinking, "Today the King comes!" This day is exuberant for me. Maybe it's years of acting it out, waving palm branches and singing loudly The King of Glory Comes! Maybe it's the years we acted it out with our children, when they took turns riding on their Daddy's back into Jerusalem while we all whooped and hollered. I don't know exactly why, but today is so joyous for me! I love to stomp and clap and welcome the King into my Jerusalem. I know that events deteriorate quickly. That soon enough my voice that today shouts "Hosanna!" will shout "Crucify Him!" But, not today. Today we catch a glimpse of the honor truly due Him and today we revel in the fact that He has come. 

~Luke 19: 37-42
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

I am not joyful every year. Some years my heart has felt like a stone within me, and those are the years I am grateful for these words:

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

I looked up the phrase "cry out" in the blueletter bible, and it is most often used, not for joyful worship, but for expressing extreme distress. It made me think about the crowd. How many welcomed Him with joy, and how many cried out to Him in distress? I think the bottom line is that today we choose to invite Him into our own city, our own Jerusalem, our own Here, our own Now. And He comes. He comes and cries over us:

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.

I found the hymn on youtube and even though there is no video, I kind of love this version. It is 4th and 5th graders singing like they mean it. Rejoicing!


Studies for The Garden: Sketch for the Left Panel

This week, I have been reading and studying. In addition to reading commentaries on this pivotal moment, I have been looking for symbolism that will underscore what is happening in the Garden. Below is a working sketch:

 
 The tangle of branches in the sky is a symbol for struggle. I am going to enlarge that section and write Christ's prayer for unity into the sky. I'll slide the sleeping guy up about an inch (he symbolizes those who don't see the point in being watchful and make themselves comfortable while they wait) and slide the guy on the far left down and to the left about 2 inches so that the disciples form more of a curved line (the seated guys tried to stay awake but could not). This sketch will form the top 3 feet of a 10 foot panel. The rest of the panel will be stones. The stones are symbols of the Temple. The wall is crumbly as the old is giving way to the new. There will be deep browns and greens peeking out from underneath and between the stones because there is Life in God's way whether it is old or new.  I am also going to slide the drooping brome grass (isn't that a great name, especially for those drooping disciples?!) down to about the halfway mark of the length of the panel so it appears to be closer to the viewer and lighter. That will let me make it more colorful.

The tangle of branches in the sky is a symbol for struggle. I am going to enlarge that section and write Christ's prayer for unity into the sky. I'll slide the sleeping guy up about an inch (he symbolizes those who don't see the point in being watchful and make themselves comfortable while they wait) and slide the guy on the far left down and to the left about 2 inches so that the disciples form more of a curved line (the seated guys tried to stay awake but could not). This sketch will form the top 3 feet of a 10 foot panel. The rest of the panel will be stones. The stones are symbols of the Temple. The wall is crumbly as the old is giving way to the new. There will be deep browns and greens peeking out from underneath and between the stones because there is Life in God's way whether it is old or new.  I am also going to slide the drooping brome grass (isn't that a great name, especially for those drooping disciples?!) down to about the halfway mark of the length of the panel so it appears to be closer to the viewer and lighter. That will let me make it more colorful.

 

My library had a dozen or so interesting books on the events of Holy Week. The two most enlightening books so far are Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week by Pope Benedict XVI and Tell It Slant by Eugene Peterson. Here is an excerpt from Peterson's chapter on the Garden of Gethsemane:

A few hours before Jesus is hanging on the cross in agony, he is in agony praying in Gethsemane, The two agonies are the same Agony. The agony is given a name: "this cup." A cup holds liquid that is drunk. The peculiar property of the cup is that we hold it with our hands, put it to our lips, tip it into our mouths, and swallow the contents. It requires taking the contents into our entire digestive system, distributing them throughout the muscles and bones, red blood cells and nerve ganglia. The cup is a container from which we take something that is not us into our lives so that it becomes us, enters into our living.

The cup that Jesus holds in his hand in Gethsemane that night is God's will--God's will to save the world in a final act of sacrificial love. The cup that Jesus drinks is a sacrificial death in which Jesus freely takes sin and evil into himself, absorbs it in his soul, and makes salvation out of it--drinks it down as if from a cup. Jesus' name is, translated into English, "Yahweh saves." As Jesus drinks the cup, he becomes his name.

I am struck by the deliberateness in Christ's choice. He very consciously chooses surrender and all that it entails. Pope Benedict discusses Jesus' humanity and struggle and says this: Just as Jesus will take all of our sin onto/into himself to redeem us, at this moment in the garden the totality of our "resistance to God is present within Jesus himself. The obstinacy of us all, the whole of our opposition to God is present, and in his struggle, Jesus elevates our recalcitrant nature to become its real self." Essentially, Jesus is wrestling not just his own very human battle with fear, but also he has begun to take on our sin and he is wrestling with our collective NO to God. His obedience "draws us all into sonship."

One of my stretching disciplines is a prayer of surrender. I have been intentionally choosing surrender the past five weeks. I can't really claim success. It's hard. Very hard. I am a fighter. I want my way. I want control. This week, I choose to stop looking at (and judging) the disciples and turn my gaze fully on Christ surrendering in the garden. I want to look with my eyes wide open. With my hands open. With my heart open.

Take Me Deeper: Journey to the Cross and Studies for the Garden

I am taking some liberties with the study at His Kingdom Come's Take Me Deeper Project. The theme for the month of March is Journey to the Cross, and I have decided to focus on that broad theme rather than work on each week's individual verse. I want to give myself some space to work on the Garden of Gethsemane piece (which I introduced here)

Much of this week was spent pondering. Jesus went a stone's throw away from the disciples. Exactly how far away is a stone's throw? We threw a lot of stones this week. I also consulted google. The question still plagues me. A stone's throw is mostly used as a metaphorical distance to mean not very far. The same person can say, "The grocery store is a stone's throw away from the house," and mean 6+ blocks away, and then in the same conversation say, "My sister was only a stone's throw away from me when she was mugged," and mean about 2-3 feet away. So, how far away from Jesus were the disciples, and more importantly, could they see and hear Him clearly? 

I played around with where to put the disciples in relation to Christ and the viewer. I thought about putting them in the foreground because they are us. How many times has He asked us to stay with Him? To remain with Him? To watch and pray? And yet we fall asleep, just like the disciples did. But, I decided to put them in the background to give the viewer a chance to say yes to God. If I leave the foreground empty, with nothing between Christ and the viewer, then we are invited into the moment. We can listen to His request for our companionship, and we have the opportunity to engage. So, I am now planning 3 panels for this piece, a large center panel with Christ in the mid-ground, a skinny left panel with the disciples in the background and a skinny right panel that is empty of figures and invites the viewer to step into the story. 

I also did some rust dyeing experiments. I want to use cloth dyed with rusty nails somewhere in this series, so I played around with it. It wasn't about the rust, so much as the nails. I only used nails (ok, there might have been a couple of screws in the pile). I asked my son to bring me some rusty nails from the barn (barns are good for rusting things):

 
 To wash or not to wash, that is the question. I ended up just blowing the big dust and leaves off and leaving the rest of the dirt alone.

To wash or not to wash, that is the question. I ended up just blowing the big dust and leaves off and leaving the rest of the dirt alone.

 
 I rolled rusty nails into bundles, wrapped a piece of rusty fence wire around one of them and soaked them in vinegar. This is stage one, less than 24 hours after dousing in vinegar.

I rolled rusty nails into bundles, wrapped a piece of rusty fence wire around one of them and soaked them in vinegar. This is stage one, less than 24 hours after dousing in vinegar.

 A few days later, the fabric is almost ready!

A few days later, the fabric is almost ready!

 Isn't this great?! I love how it turned out! It is slightly more brown in real life.

Isn't this great?! I love how it turned out! It is slightly more brown in real life.

 I think I will use this one as part of Christ's robe in a later Station. I love the folds and wrinkles.

I think I will use this one as part of Christ's robe in a later Station. I love the folds and wrinkles.

The rust dyeing project was simple and satisfying. I can see lots of rust dyeing in my future. I usually limit my dyeing projects to the summertime when I can work outside. This project was easily manageable indoors.

I still have a few more details to audition before I launch into building the quilt. A little more studying, a little more pondering, a little more experimenting...

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. The word Lent comes from an old German word that means springtime. This is the time of year when we prune back the blueberry bushes so they will give fruit, when we clear the debris from the garden beds and loosen the dirt. We are preparing the soil to nurture the seeds that will be planted there. This is exactly what Lent is about. We purposefully enter into this season looking for growth. We participate in the preparation by letting go of the old weeds and habits, of spent canes that will drain the energy from the fruiting of the plants, of old patterns of living that do not lead to Life.

We let go in order to present ourselves ready for transformation.

We die in order to Live.

We start with ashes and end with fire.

If you would like to receive ashes and don't know where to start: Any Catholic, Anglican or Episcopalian church will offer an Ash Wednesday service and ashes are given to anyone regardless of denomination (though please respect the church's requests regarding taking communion for which there may be restrictions). There are many Evangelical churches now offering Ash Wednesday services as well. I am confidant a quick google search will yield a several in your area.