From the Rector
Friends, it’s that time. This Sunday, and for the week that follows, it is time to re-enter some of our most essential stories as Christians. For centuries, stretching back at least to the fourth century, we have been viscerally remembering the last week of Jesus the Christ.
What makes this week remarkable for me is the multitude of ways that we enter in. From palms waved aloft, to basins of water, to rugged wood, to a blazing flame, this is not a story that we simply engage on the page. This is a story that we are encouraged, challenged, even, to walk ourselves.
The range of emotion—through exultation, startling intimacy, deep longing, grief, anticipation, and unexpected joy—these are the emotions of our lives. That is part of what makes this Week of Weeks so powerful, so real, and so transformative. If we are attentive to the story, to the reflections, to the music, to the silence, we find that this story is, in fact, our story, and the story of those we love.
And, in order to enter the story, we must be present to it. We have to get into it. Palm & Passion Sunday does its best to hold much of the story. But the totality of the story is so large, so profound, so deep, that in order to be able to walk around in it, thousands of years of witness have told us to live it out, day by day.
This is part of why we extend ourselves more than we might otherwise as a community of practice for these days. For those that have difficulty making evening or night services, we have services during the day for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. In addition, for little ones we have a newly re-imagined Holy Week for Children service on Good Friday. For those who are in school or at work, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday there are evening services. Each of the services, said or sung, with parishioner reflections or with candle-lit procession, has its own feel, its own way into the story.
So come. Find your way into this story once again. Listen to the words. Lean into the silences. Walk these steps. And be prepared to be changed once again.
Loving the Dirt
God shows up for me in a number of ways, but perhaps never so clearly as when I know I have to do something and really don’t want to. With a knowing smile, she has a way of spreading her palms open and inviting, “Go ahead.” I roll my eyes, and on my better days I say, “Okay, fine, you win,” and am led into extraordinary places I did not plan to be.
Before the Passover dinner, when Jesus makes a weird, extravagantly tender gesture of washing his guests’ feet, the disciples balk. But Jesus tells them it’s important, so they play along. Then, because it’s never that simple with this teacher, he leaves them with a curious instruction: “You also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
Um. Do we have to?
While this story is often heard as a call to serve those less fortunate than ourselves, in this particular moment Jesus doesn’t tell his followers to go out and serve the sick or the poor. He tells them to wash each other. To be servants to their peers. Their friends. “Love one another.” Not some abstract others out there. One another, in this room of twelve.
And I wonder if that was harder.
Judas was still in the room. And Simon Peter, who just didn’t get it and made a big show of being confused. And the disciple Jesus loved. And two brothers who had a whole past and a family they had abandoned together.
I wonder if the disciples were ever petty. If they ever gossiped about the dirt they had on each other. We know they got tired and hungry and struggled to keep up with the miracle worker they had been following toward Jerusalem.
So while they all loved their teacher, I wonder how they felt about each other, and each other’s smelly feet. Were they eager to translate Jesus’ gesture to a bond of loving service among themselves?
Generations later, as disciples we might also ask ourselves these questions. What does it mean to serve people we know, whose needs and failings are familiar and similar to our own? What does it look like to get up close and personal with one another’s dirt, to lovingly wash it away and to be washed ourselves? With power dynamics leveled, how does service change?
For me, that’s harder. Servanthood to the marginalized and oppressed is important and has its own challenges and rewards. But in that service, I rarely risk being known. I can choose who to serve and I can choose when I come and go. I can see need as belonging to someone else. And I can serve someone without knowing all their dirt, without having a reason to judge them.
It feels harder and riskier in many ways to intimately serve people who are more like me. People who I may or may not like. People over whom I have no power, and whose flaws and needs might hit a little close to home. I might learn something about myself, and in loving them, have to love the less-lovable parts of myself. I might have to let myself be known and loved.
God smiles. Jesus says, “You will look for me, but I won’t be here. Wash each other’s feet.”
– Laura Eberly
Why keep it? And how?
The images from Syria keep popping up in my social media feeds. I won’t go into the gruesome details of what the casualties of chemical warfare look like. As Phil+ said in a recent sermon, “collateral damage” confesses a particularly thoughtless anthropology. And though there are plenty of worthy arguments to the contrary, I am not certain that raining images of the dead all over Facebook is helpful.
But this leaves me in the echo chamber of my own struggles with Good Friday and the death of God. We, all humanity, are cast in the image of God. Christ’s death on the cross is about the death of God and the death of the image of God. We must kill God. In order to kill God, we have to kill God’s image, the incarnation itself.
Thus, every image on Facebook becomes a crucifix, the Imago Dei, breathless and cold.
“Unto us a child is given,” becomes “collateral damage in the war on terror.”
And here we are full circle with the death and birth of Jesus.
Often I treat Lent and Holy Week as an opportunity for personal reflection. The season is frequently about my individual piety (self-improvement) rather than trying to expand my corporate sense of identity as a Christian, for example. This season, however, I realize how much of a luxury that is.
Such individual self reflection becomes privilege, an exercise of my social place rather than an engagement with the story of Christ Jesus which is about the reconciliation of all creation. Though I am an individual part of that creation, the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is creation’s story.
It is not a story for my pious consumption.
– Tripp Hudgins
The Easter Vigil
Coming close to a great mystery
The first Easter Vigil I can remember must have been when I was about six years old. I didn’t know it was called the Easter Vigil. But what I did know was that it was Saturday night, the day before Easter, and something mysterious and very special was happening.
The night before we’d also been to church—going to church at night! strange and unfamiliar!—and what a somber experience it had been. There were black cloth hangings over things, even on the cross way up at the front. They told the story of Jesus on the cross, a story I knew from my children’s Bible. I was sad and angry about what had happened, even though I knew there was more to the story.
That Saturday night we stepped again into a dark church. But this time, way at the front, I could just make out flowers and gold hangings and beautiful decorations. Something was changing. Then, partway through, all the lights came on and somehow it was Easter already—even in the middle of a world that was still dark outside. I don’t remember much of the rest of the service until the eucharistic prayer. As Father Stuart raised the consecrated bread, suddenly, out of nowhere, a bell tolled, sending a shiver up my spine. Our church at that time didn’t usually use bells during the eucharist, so again I knew that something about this night was different. Somehow I was very close to a great mystery.
I’ve been part of many a Vigil since then. I’ve even led a few. But something about that six-year-old experience has always stayed with me. I’m grateful (and completely impressed) that my parents were brave enough to bring me. I know it can’t have been easy doing Holy Week with a six-year-old, but it was a gift that’s paid dividends throughout my life. Children have a profound sense of the sacred. I know I did.
– Stephen Shaver
Learn about all the Holy Week services in more detail here. You can also see a full calendar of Holy Week services here, which you can then add to your own Google calendar by clicking the blue plus sign in the bottom right corner.
Orthodox Egg Decorating – April 14
On Good Friday, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm, kids and families are invited to gather in the Parish Hall to take part in the Orthodox Christian tradition of dying and decorating eggs bright red. It comes from a wonderful story of Mary Magdalene’s witness, and offers us a way to make more meaning of the fun of Easter eggs. Snacks and all supplies provided. Contact Dani Gabriel with questions.
Holy Week for Children Service – April 14
Maundy Thursday Vigil
– Nancy Pryer
Keeping Vigil Together
At the end of the evening Maundy Thursday service at All Souls, we will process as a community to the chapel, where members of our community will take shifts throughout the night keeping vigil. If you would like to help keep watch, email Erin Horne to sign up for a one hour slot from 9:00 pm to 8:00 am, April 13-14. For more information, contact one of the Vestry chaplains, Bob Holum, Erin Horne or Kat Lisa.
Easter is coming, and the feasting begins on Palm Sunday!
There will be a Continuing the Feast brunch between services this Sunday, April 9, around 10:10 am. These brunches have become a really positive recurring theme in parish life— they encourage us to slow down for a little while and just enjoy each other’s company in extended conversations over food, they bring together folks from all corners of the parish, and in this case they launch us toward Easter together. (If you haven’t noticed already, Holy Week is big at All Souls — rich, intimate, challenging, festive, thoughtful, touching, all at the same time. Palm Sunday is the beginning.)
We need a few extra hands to set out tables, chairs, and potluck items during the 9:00 am service. And we always need brunch food to share! Please let Jeannie Koops-Elson know if you can help with setup or cleanup.
FEASTING IN HOLY WEEK
The feasting keeps on going… if we want to celebrate right, we’ve got to have good food and help! Sign up here to bring food and help set up and clean up for the Vigil and Easter Sunday.
Part of the fun of Easter is, of course, the Egg Hunt! Please take a bag of empty plastic Easter eggs home this Sunday and bring them back on Palm Sunday, filled with candy or small toys so we can be ready for the joyful chaos on Easter morning. Eggs and bags will be available in the narthex.