Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Five - Holy Week

I invite you to share five favorite Holy Week things, five things that are truly worshipful for you

1. I think its' possible that my very favorite worship service of the whole year is The Sunday of the Passion.  What I do every year is take whatever Gospel we are in for the lectionary - this year it is Mark and I just take the whole passion story beginning with the entry with Palms, divide it up among readers for the various characters and I read the narrator, and intersperse Lent and Holy week hymns.  I always end with "Ah Holy Jesus".  I find it very moving.  It may be the one worship service I lead where I can actually worship.

2.  Art:I love to find Holy Week art.  So many different representations of the events of Holy Week. I've recently discovered Pinterest.  Oh have I discovered Pinterest.  Here's my Holy Week Board 

3. Handel's Messiah  I'm going to put Bach's St. Matthew Passion for the bonus, which I love, but really what I do during Holy Week is play all of the second part of the Messiah during Holy Week.  I just couldn't put all of that on here.

4. Holy Thursday:  the beginning absolution, when people come up and I place my hands on them and say "In obedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins"  I have done it for the first time at most of the congregations I've served.  That first time I always worry that no one is going to come up.  But they do come up.  They are hungering to hear those words.  I am humbled to say those words.

5. Holy Saturday - I like to hold my first communion workshop on Holy Saturday.  Here's a post from last year.  I always think about finding a church that holds an Easter Vigil but when it comes down to it, I just want a quiet Saturday evening and try to go bed early for the sunrise Easter worship.

Bonus:  a piece of music that "is" Holy Week for you: 
Bach - St. Mattew Passion

Monday, March 26, 2012

Just What IS the Point of Foot Washing?

Foot washing at 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly

I suppose I should begin with a confession/disclaimer.  I have issues with being touched by people I don't know.  

This did not use to be a bad thing.  We used to have certain social boundaries that I kind of wish we still had. 

Like I don't appreciate the store checker, whom I do not know, reading my check and calling me by my first name as though we were good friends.  It used to mean something when you called someone by their first name.  It meant you had a relationship.  But you had to earn that relationship.  It didn't' just happen because you started calling each other by first names.

This is what I'm getting at.  Everyone wants community and God forbid "intimacy" but they don't' really want to work at  it.  

The guy at the large public worship service wants the right to hug me without earning my trust.  I don't understand how the fact that we are both at a public worship service gives him the right to grab me and force his body against me in a hug during the peace after I've kindly extended my hand to him for a handshake.  That's not peace.  It's not community.  It's certainly not intimacy.  It's rude and selfish.  The opposite of what the peace is supposed to be about.

So what's this got to do with foot washing?  Well, it's a long-standing church tradition to follow Jesus' example and wash each others feet on Maundy Thursday.  No church I've served at has had that practice and I haven't felt called to introduce it.  I would do it if I had to.  But I would not like it.  

So that fun new ELCA clergy facebook likes to argue about this a lot.  Some people do a hand washing because people are kind of funny about having their feet washed.  Some say this an innovation that is not helpful and not scriptural (unless you want to remember Pilate washing his own hands).  Me?  I don't want to do either one but if pressed, I'd have to go with the traditional foot washing.  

What bothers me about the argument is how many people say this is such a powerful, moving "intimate" practice.  And there's always that hint that people like me who  don't want people touching my feet are being like Peter who didn't want Jesus to wash his feet.  

But this practice is not about intimacy or having a "powerful experience" in worship.  

It's a symbol of humble SERVICE.  I'm not even sure Jesus meant for us to copy it and do exactly that in a liturgy.  I think he meant for us to,  you know, go out and SERVE people HUMBLY.  Like maybe we should go wash each others toilets.

Kings and Popes used to go out and wash beggars feet on Maundy Thursday.  

That was very nice.  Of course, at the end of the day, Kings were kings and popes were popes and beggars were beggars.  Probably the beggars did not feel as warm and fuzzy as the kings and popes did.

So it's fine to wash feet on Maundy Thursday and if I had to I would.  But if we really want intimacy and community, we don't achieve that instantly by a festival of inappropriate touching. 

I think the best way to create community is to work together in service, working together to make a world where there's an equal place at the table for kings and popes and beggars.  

We do it by the hard work of humility, of kings and popes and beggars, and everyone between, working together, listening to each other.  Instead of washing feet, let's listen to each other.  

The latest horror of the killing of Trayvon Martin showed me  whites need to listen to blacks more.  

Instead of washing someone else's feet, maybe we all need to just clean out our ears.  

And then, after we've worked together, learned to trust one another, listened to each other, then probably you can hug me AND wash my feet.  Or not.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What does this Facebook Urban Legend and The Help have in Common?

I think I'm annoying my friends with my insistence on pointing out most of the amazing photos and inspiring true stories that get posted and reposted on facebook are not true.  The latest is this one:  With this photo

A 50- something year old white woman arrived at her seat on a crowded flight and immediately didn't want the seat. The seat was next to a black man. Disgusted, the woman immediately summoned the flight attendant and demanded a new seat. The woman said "I cannot sit here next to this black man." The fight attendant said "Let me see if I can find another seat." After checking, the flight attendant returned and stated "Ma'am, there are no more seats in economy, but I will check with the captain and see if there is something in first class." About 10 minutes went by and the flight attendant returned and stated "The captain has confirmed that there are no more seats in economy, but there is one in first class. It is our company policy to never move a person from economy to first class, but being that it would be some sort of scandal to force a person to sit next to an UNPLEASANT person, the captain agreed to make the switch to first class." Before the woman could say anything, the attendant gestured to the black man and said, "Therefore sir, if you would so kindly retrieve your personal items, we would like to move you to the comfort of first class as the captain doesn't want you to sit next to an unpleasant person." Passengers in the seats nearby began to applause while some gave a standing ovation.
If you are against racism, share this

Oh my God - if I don't' share it does it mean I'm not against racism? 

According to - this has been around a while, at least since 1998.  The villain started out as a South African.

Well so what if it didn't happen, what's wrong with sharing it?  I dunno..aren't' there any TRUE stories of people standing up against injustices and discrimination?   And what is wrong with this picture?  It's All WHITE people. 

It's the opposite of the story of the Good Samaritan where the hero is a marginalized outsider.  Here the hero is the white attendant who has the power and authority to resuce the poor oppressed black man by sending him on up to the first class, and all the WHITE people cheer.  And don't we white people feel good about ourselves after reading this.  Share this if you are against racism.  There I've posted it.  I've done my bit for the cause.  Good for me.

I have a lot of Black friends on Facebook.  None of them have posted that story.   Maybe because they have stories of REAL heroes to share.  Maybe we should listen to their stories instead of passing around fake stories of white heroes that make us feel good and let us forget that racism is a lot more complicated to deal with than finding a Black man a seat in First Class.