Friday, 10 April 2009

Rev gal pals Good Friday five

I've never taken part in RevGalPals Friday five but thought I would at the end of this Good Friday. Here are the five questions:
1. How will you pray and worship today?
2. Share a powerful memory or memories of Good Friday past.
3. How have you grown and experienced God's love during this past Lent?
4. In whom do you see the face of the suffering Christ most clearly?
5. Where do you find hope for resurrection?

I've spent much of the day looking forwards to going to the servicethis evening in the Reformed Church in my town in France. This was only the second time I have gone there on Good Friday since I left as the serving minister in the parish and the way back over the past 18 months to the place where I once led worship has been an interesting and surprisingly gentle path of reconciliation. Today is a holiday in Switzerland where I work but not in France where I live. I missed the discipline of morning prayer in the chapel at work but I did enjoy finishing reading a book in bed this morning! That relaxation, spending time with friends over lunch and just pottering around helped me prepare to go to church and be part of music and prayers with the tiny group of folk who gathered there.
I worshipped with the lovely organ and flute music, through singing German chorales with French words, looking at the simple wooden cross and somehow glimpsing for a moment understanding of suffering and atonement. We listened to the passion narrative from John's gospel and prayed with words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The service helped me to just let my thoughts meander.
They meandered to a packed St Thomas Church in Leipzig in 1990 in the former GDR (East Germany) where I sat next to the man I loved and listened to Bach's St John's passion, in the church where Bach had been the choir master. I had preached at a Good Friday service in Wolfen where I was student minister and then got on a train to Leipzig. It was an enormous privilege - we had free tickets because the son of the manse I was living in was one of the choristers. Five months earlier the Berlin wall had fallen, Good Friday and Easter were in the middle of the country's first free election campaign. (Well that's how I remember it but perhaps I should check the dates!) It was an uneasy Good Friday, as I look back now I realise these were people waiting for the shock and threat of the future.
This Lent I have grown in my understanding of anger as a positive and negative force in all of our lives. I have also grown in my understanding of leadership being about containing anger, fear and frustration. A Franco-Swiss theologian called Lytta Basset has written a book called Holy Anger and I remember feeling very liberated just reading the title. I have experienced God's love this Lent at moments when I have been welcomed or let go. I let go of responsibility to prepare worship during Holy Week (well almost!) and was deeply ministered to by others. Yesterday a Maundy Thursday service which began with people laying roses around the altar helped me understand that I can let go of my longing for wholeness and completeness and learn to live with the fragmented nature of life and faith.
I see the suffering face of Christ in so many places, yet it is true that I see it today most clearly in women, men and children living in desparate grinding and unrelenting poverty and war. I do also see it in those great witnesses to faith and humanity who have gone through some form of what might be called "heroic suffering". However, throughout Lent I have been trying to raise awareness of justice and water through the Ecumenical Water Network's Seven Weeks for Water. I have never spent a single day of my life having to worry about whether I would be able to have enough water to drink. Perhaps today I see Christ's suffering more in those people whose suffering seems intractable, unchanging and never-ending - trudging daily to carry water, trying to find enough food. While I worry about the meaning of life, people worry about being able to go on living ... meaningless, dehumanizing suffering grinding people into the dust. Who will remember them?
I find hope for resurrection in remembering the Bible and remembering people. As I wrote "who will remember them" this verse came to my mind: Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. (Matt 10.29)
There is hope for resurrection in God's memory being so much greater than ours, holding together the human fragments of so many genocides and wars and calling humanity back to humanity, life and love. "Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom".
And thank you for asking for a poem - it has made me search out Elizabeth Jennings Collected Poems from the back of my bookshelves. I half remembered her poem Resurrection but here's the poem that follows it and where I left a bookmark, it's a meditation on the painting accompanying this post.
Mantegna's Agony in the Garden

The agony is formal; three
Bodies are stretched in pure repose,
One's halo leans against a tree,
Over a book his fingers close:
One's arms are folded carefully.

The third man lies with sandalled feet
Thrust in the path. They almost touch
Three playful rabbits. Down the street,
Judas and his procession march
Making the distance seem discreet.

Even the praying figure has
A cared-for attitude. This art
Puts down the city and the mass
Of mountains like a counterpart
Of pain disguised as gentleness.

An yet such careful placing here
Of mountain men and agony,
Being so solid makes more clear
The pain. Pain is particular
The foreground shows a barren tree:
Is it a vulture crouching there,
No symbol but a prophecy?

copyright (c) Elizabeth Jennings


Mary Beth said...

I am so glad you posted this and let us know about it. It's a delight to meet you and read about your day...and your life.

Many blessings!

Sophia said...

These are beautiful reflections--thank you for joining us and we'd love to see you any week! (And thanks for the thanks--though I just post once a month as we have a rotating schedule).