by Christine Sine
With great embarrassment I realized this weekend that in my zeal to get The Gift of Wonder Online Retreat launched before Holy Week, and my even greater zeal to update our resource lists for Holy Week, and add all the wonderful suggestions for navigating Holy Week at home that I have been sent, I almost forgot to work out what I would do for my own Holy Week observances. Unfortunately I suspect that this is the case for many church leaders whose focus is on providing resources for their congregations rather than themselves.
So on Saturday I sat down and mapped out my Holy week trying to integrate my love of the traditional practices with my concerns for all we share the planet with during this COVID-19 pandemic.
First I realized that there awe inspiring practices I want to make sure continue to be at the forefront of my mind each day
A centering prayer
A time of quiet contemplation
An awe and wonder walk
These are the mainstay of my spiritual life, but I also realize that for this special week I need special practices that help ground me in my faith for another year. After all this is the week around which all Christian faith revolves. We need to take it seriously for ourselves, our committees and our churches, no matter where we might be celebrating it. So here is what I am thinking:
Yesterday I planned to initiate 2 practices for this week and I still might get to them, but then on Saturday I was sent the Palm Sunday colouring template above by Sujatha Pichamuthu Balasundaram, in India. She has written a great post on The Privilege of gratitude and will send you the template to colour if you are still interested. I don’t usually like colouring but this experience was different. It helped to focus my contemplation for the morning. As I coloured it my heart ached for all the vulnerable people in world and for all those who are struggling with fears, anxieties and the horrors of this pandemic.
And that, not surprisingly reminded me of my post from several years ago The Subversive Walk of Holy Week.
I am hoping that celebrating Palm Sunday and Easter in a COVID-19 reality has helped all of us rethink why we follow Jesus and what we hope to get out of it. We might have started with a cheer and a shout, but now we are scared. We don’t understand what is happening yet in the midst of our anxieties and laments we know this is the only way to go.
AsI think about that N.T. Wright’s words in a recent Tim article come to mind:
It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead. As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope.
I wonder if this is the real and subversive message of Palm Sunday and Easter for us this year. We don’t understand what is happening or why. In some ways we too feel betrayed maybe even abandoned. Yet we know we serve a God of love.
We must be willing to sit in that tension. We are lamenting what we have already lost but are starting to see glimmers of new possibilities, new acts of kindness and new hope for the future.
Lacey Brown’s recent questions on the COTA Facebook page are so pertinent at the moment:
- What does loving our neighbor mean in this time of pandemic?
- What does it cost us to love and serve?
- How do we “go out” while staying put?
And we are seeing so many good responses of neighbourliness, compassion, generosity and caring are already emerging. Like what Morgan Schmidt is doing in Bend Oregon where she created the first Pandemic Partners group with the motto: It’s simple – if you need help, ask. If you can help, respond out of the goodness of your heart. It has given birth to a wave of similar groups across the country.
Then there are the people buying groceries for elderly neighbours, sewing masks for hospital workers and making lunches to be distributed to the children who rely on school lunches for their main meal of the day. Even those who stand outside their homes each evening “making a joyous noise” to honor health care workers and first responders are in some ways being subversive. So many possible ways for us to reach out when everything within us is telling us to stay hidden and think only of our own safety.
“What does loving your neighbor look like for you in this time of pandemic?”
Just asking the question has a certain subversiveness to it and I pray that as we begin this walk through holy week together that you will willingly respond with the same subversive spirit that Jesus has always asked of his followers. These are days of anguish just like Jesus lived in and Jesus’s great example to us in times of anguish is humility, service and love.
The beauty is that Jesus, in his humanity, sees and knows all of us. . . the flawed humanity that surrounds him. . . the flawed humanity of each of us. . . and he sees it and he forgives it, and loves us, and gives his blessing to all of us as he clops along the dusty road toward his confrontation with power, his time of trial, his abandonment, his death and finally his resurrection.
So I hope that this Palm Sunday you are not just waving palms on the sideline but are actively following Jesus down that dusty road towards Jerusalem.
So if you are still in need of ideas for the rest of Holy Week:
Palm Sunday was a busy day for me – and on top of that I preached for COTA. but I am so glad that I have been forced to rethink Holy Week this year and consider how I will walk with Jesus over the next few days.
So my Palm Sunday practice has now become Holy Week practices.
I want to create a quarantine rainbow window to hang in our front window and I hope to add some more as the week goes by. This was not just fun to do but also a powerful meditative prayer practice – We might be stuck inside, but we can still share love and light from our windows in the form of rainbows! . And we can pray for all those at the front lines as we do so. Alternatively you might like to create yard art in places that neighbours can see and be blessed by it.
Lilly Lewin suggested planning a parade around your house or yard for Palm Sunday. I read her post just after reading about the #makeajoyfulnoise movement that started in Italy but has swept around the world. People stand outside their houses or on their balconies and “make a joyful noise” in solidarity with health care workers, first responders and other vulnerable people in their community. What a great practice I thought… and it can begin with my around the house Palm Sunday parade. Here in Seattle it is meant to be at 8pm but I was wondering if an earlier time so that kids can be involved would be better.
I was particularly drawn to this “at home”version of stripping the altar – Stripping the Table instead and am looking forward to doing it on Thursday
Make hot crossed buns. In Britain, Australia and New Zealand hot crossed buns are an important symbol of Easter. They are particularly pertinent to Good Friday so my plan is to make some on Good Friday morning for us to enjoy over the weekend. And to lighten the mood of this very somber day you might like to start by listening to this nursery rhyme.
My second Good Friday practice is Stations of the Cross. This year I have downloaded Scott Erickson’s templates and plan to spread them around the house. Or I might gather all the crosses we have around the house and plan a meditation around them.
Also hot off the press that might upend all my plans is this virtual Stations of the Cross REIMAGINED adapted from Lilly Lewin’s great resource in the Godspace resource list, by Ed Goode a pastor in Cincinnati, OH. It just went online last night. Lilly says: He made them digital! With beautiful videos, actions and responses and ways to pray the traditional stations of the cross in community on line.
I feel a little nervous about sharing anything of what I plan to do for Easter Sunday, seeing how easily my Palm Sunday observances were upended. At this point I am thinking of doing some garden planting in the hope and anticipation of the resurrection. I suspect that other practices will come together as the week progresses so keep your eyes and ears open
And have a blessed Holy Week.