March 11, 2015 § 1 Comment
“Christ-follower.” “Student.” “Husband.” “Listener.” “Auntie-Mother-Father-Sister-Brother-Spiritual Advisor-Friend.” “Congregant.” “Worshiper.” “Pray-er.” “Caretaker.” “Encourager.” “Baker and Short-Order Cook.” “Housewife.” “Gleaner.” “Secretary.” “Commuter.” “Reader.” “Social Media Whore.” “Information seeker.”
We play so many roles in one lifetime; these are just a few of mine. So many different hats, so many different scripts, so many different expectations placed on us, so many different guises, rules, games, presumptions, postures, behaviours…so many roles.
Sometimes we try on new habits, new uniforms: “Gym rat.” “Vegan.” “Knitter.” to see if we’re comfortable playing those parts. Sometimes we can incorporate those new clothes into our old wardrobe, but sometimes the fit is too tight, or the colors don’t quite go together, and we have to put the newness aside.
Sometimes we’re cast in roles, with or without our permission, and forced to inform the casting director that we’re either uncomfortable with the part as written, or we’re withdrawing from the production altogether because the script is not playing out as well as we had hoped. Sometimes we don’t re-evaluate our participation, either, and we end up feeling used and carelessly treated. I know that throughout my life, I’ve often been cast in the role of “Confidante” by murmurers who believe I will participate in dialogue as they rail and bitch and moan and gossip, and I’ve lost more than a few acquaintances by informing them that I just don’t play those kinds of scenes.
There are also roles we’re born in to, like “Son.” “Daughter.” “Sibling.” … some of the scripts for these scenes are quite painful, as anyone who has stayed away from home purposefully and then returns for a rare festival knows. One of my besties says, “I’m going back home so all those people can push all those buttons they programmed so well and so long ago.”
The problem with being cast in a role with a long run, however, is that we can begin to perform perfunctorily, going through the motions, on automatic pilot. Not being truly awake while we’re alive. Reciting our lines without Being There. I mean, how many times have I TRULY not wanted to be in Church on a Sunday, white-knuckled the Prayer Book and rattled off Old 64 (“…Deliver us, when we draw near to thee, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind…”), and sat there bemoaning the fact that the first half of the service is basically a sing-along with some aerobics and a whole lot of listening until I start to perk up at the Prayers and The Magic Show. Ugh. (#LentUnEdited) I think this is one of the reasons I love Lent so much (yes, I said it, I love Lent) because it’s a spiritual re-boot, it’s a time to slow down in order to notice the blessings around us, a time to breathe deeply in appreciation of the miracles at every turn. You know, I realised Saturdayat Posey and Kristin’s Deaconate ordination when we chanted the Taizé Veni Sancte Spiritus in choir that I hadn’t truly stopped to breathe in the silence of God with a quiet mind for WEEKS ! (snow grumble shoveling grumble cross country skiing on snow then ice then snow covered ice then lake jumping, lather-rinse-repeat grumble.)
At the station where Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem, he encounters on his journey professional wailing women. If you’ve never seen Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders in skits where they play professional acting extras you’ve missed some good comedy. They never have lines in the movie they’re filming or the LIVE opera in which they’re performing, but you hear their running inner dialogue as they discuss all their subtext and motivation for moving from here to there, “I think I’d be sweeping, should I start sweeping?” “Oh yes, I’m going to go over to the fountain!” I’m afraid I’ve got some French and Saunders damage here.
I imagine the women Jesus comes across find out there is to be a crucifixion that day. Maybe they don’t want to come to work. Maybe they’re tired, or maybe they’re bored because it’s just one more crucifixion of one more poor slob who thinks he’s Messiah. Or maybe they still need to do their Sabbath shopping and they’re ticking off their grocery list while they’re going through the motions of wailing and woe-ing and crying and lamenting. Then guess what. Just like always, Jesus turns the tables on them.
I mean, think about all he’s been through by this point and he’s just gonna stop? and start giving performance notes and line readings to these women? What the What? And think what the women must be thinking ! It’s like, “Ermahgerd, why is he TALKING to us, he’s just supposed to be whipped along his way ! We don’t have lines with him in this script ! Keep walking!” And what does he say? He says, “Weep not for me, weep for yourselves !” and I think, doesn’t this happen to us on Ash Wednesday?
One of the very few times the Book of Common Prayer addresses us directly, in the name of the Church, is right there after the sermon in the Proper Liturgy for Ash Wednesday: “Dear People of God…” Ermahgerd, is she talking to us? And then the priest invites us “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”
This is basically the same moment as our station, right? Whether we’re attending the Ash Wednesday service and truly participating, or whether we’ve rushed to it from work to try to squeeze the service in (#MyAshIsInChurch), we’ve come in, done some aerobics, we’ve heard some readings, and then the priest stands there and directly confronts us with, “Weep for yourselves!” Examine yourselves! Check yourselves! Turn from ways which are harmful to you, harmful to others. Pray on these things. Read about these things. Meditate on these things. (#LetsMeetInThePrayerBook) Fast from things so that you may know the painful lack others experience daily. Remove from your life excess, maybe not for always, maybe just for this season. But all these practices, always anattempt to simplify, to make us more aerodynamic … Lent … #LessIsMore …
In this season, Jesus stops what he’s doing, turns to us, faces us full on and says just for right now…just for this appointed time…please. stop. rejuvenate, gather strength. because the time will come, and soon, when we will need all our strength to pray for others boldly and effectively, to serve one another with power, and to bring witness to the ends of the earth of the Risen Christ … until then, “we must put our whole trust and confidence in God’s mercy, and evermore serve God in holiness and pureness of living, to God’s honor and glory.”
February 28, 2015 Comments Off on Lenten Quote of the Week: St. John Chrysostom
“Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity on him. If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him.
Do not let only your mouth fast,
but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands and all the members of our bodies.
Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice.
Let the feet fast, by ceasing to run after sin.
Let the eyes fast, by disciplining them not to glare at that which is
Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip.
Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.
For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and
devour our brothers?”
– St. John Chrysostom
March 15, 2012 Comments Off on The Fifth Station: Jesus Is Stripped of His Clothes
At the climax of Julie Delpy’s Two Days in Paris Jack (Adam Goldberg) strips naked before his girlfriend, Marion (Julie Delpy) as they confront one another about the status of their relationship. He drops his pants, and everything else, in an aggressive manner denoting that he wanted Marion to really know who he was. While nakedness was familiar to Marion and Jack’s relationship, Jack used nakedness, in this instance, to remove any barriers that prevented Marion from perceiving Jack as he really was.
Like Adam and Eve, feeling shame toward our naked bodies is a learned posture. Watch any screaming naked newborn baby as it enters our world, and it is clear that being naked is the least of the baby’s concerns. Yet somehow we, as babies, children, teenagers, and adults, learn to invest great time, thought, and money into how we cover our nakedness. This is especially true for those living in New York City. Even so, it is worth considering how our routine concern for covering impacts our relationship with God and with others. Perhaps it is no mistake that Jesus was naked on his painful journey to his ultimate confrontation with God and the people who persecuted him. Perhaps it was the only way for him to be fully present on the journey of ultimate sacrifice and for his humanity to be truly perceived both by those who loved and hated him.
Humiliation and pain make hiding highly desirable. In those moments we want to run to the nearest dark space, cover our heads with a blanket, and just disappear from everyone and from God. A challenge in the fifth station of the cross is to become truly present, truly vulnerable, and truly naked in our confrontations with God and with others when we’re experiencing humiliation, pain, and the inclination to run far far away. Such metaphorical nudity might mean exchanging our masks of superficial pleasantries with bare honest conversations. It might also mean being naked, literally, before God and/or before others we trust. Because it is especially in that moment that we can no longer hide our condition of being utterly human.
– Michelle R. Jackson
Michelle is Assistant Program Director, Stewardship Services at the Episcopal Church Foundation.