Friday, April 02, 2010
walking the tightrope of good friday
Over time and through the transitions of being with other congregations, I have lost touch with some of that mystery. I carry it within me, but the communities I have served have not had traditions and experiences of power to anchor the opportunity of this week in their own lives of faith. No Easter Vigils, or poorly attended ones. In the last two years in the congregation I now serve, attendance during Holy Week services is embarrassingly small. It grieves my soul. This week is what it is all about.
In the midst of grounding myself in the holiness and pain that are these days, life and humor intervene. Last night I was in the middle of reading the gospel, the passage from John where Jesus washes the feet of his followers and gives the new commandment to his disciples to love one another as he has loved them. Six people were in the congregation (see earlier note about embarrassing). A cell phone rang. I continued to read, assuming that the call would be ignored and the phone turned off or switched to vibrate. And then the hushed voice reverberated in the mostly empty space, "I can't talk now, I'm in church!" I finished the reading. "Let me call you back." I couldn't help myself. Doing my best to keep a straight face I raised the book while reciting the familiar words, "The Gospel of the Lord," closed the book and stepped to the side to allow the crucifer to lead us back to the sanctuary. I could hear and sense the restrained giggles of others. I returned the Gospel book to the altar and turned to face the congregation to preach. I could no longer control myself and laughter escaped.
After the service, standing in the sacristy crowded with all the items removed from the chancel following the stripping of the altar, I was asked what sort of set up was needed for the Good Friday service.
"The paten, chalice and a purificator," I said, "and the reserved sacrament."
The newest member of the altar guild looked at me with a blank expression. "The what?"
"The paten and chalice--the plate and the cup."
She nodded. Got it. "And you need the host."
"No," I replied. "On Good Friday Jesus dies and we bury him. We don't resurrect him until Sunday. There is no celebration of Eucharist on Good Friday, which is why we consecrate extra bread and wine tonight to use tomorrow."
Another blank look. "So you don't need the plate since there won't be a host."
"No, we do need the plate because we need to serve the already consecrated wafers."
I watched her process this bit of information. Then a light went on and she broke into a smile. "Oh!" she brightened. "Tomorrow we're having leftovers!"
And hence the tightrope. I love this time of year.