Sunday, 5 April 2015

Blogging Holy Week: Easter Day

"Alleluia, Christ is Risen!"
Being Episcopalians, the reply comes back, "He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!"

Photo by Di Tennent
The journey through Holy Week is complete, in evening or dawn vigils, the lighting of fires, big and small (see above for our one in Dunoon!)  Alleluias are sung, bells ring out, chocolate is eaten.  Easter Day has arrived.

As a clergyperson, we must find the energy to lead the worship with excitement and enthusiasm, even after the marathon that is this week. I reflected on the feelings of the disciples, the women as they approached the Easter revelation - their week had been a churning, destroying week. We still talk about it now, about 2,000 years later, after all.

What does it all mean? Jesus Christ is Risen Today (sing the Alleluia from the hymn  response). But what does that mean?

Hope for all humanity? Relevance for the church? Human belief that we are not extinguished after our bodies cease to function? A loving God who created us and understands us (became us) and forgives us?  A mixture of all of that...?

The Easter Day message is one of new beginnings - those new beginnings are about the gospel, and the gospel is about all sorts of things, in this world and the next.  But we can begin again...

After Easter Day on Bute I am (pretty much) on holiday for a week. Some jobs to do, a little prosecco with the family, some time to start to unwind and get the rushing thoughts out of my head and relax.  But best of all:

"Alleluia, Christ is Risen!"

Blogging Holy Week: Holy Saturday

This blog post should be blank. The emptiness of the day between Good Friday and Easter Day should be empty. Jesus is in the tomb. It has ended.

The busyness of life kicks in, of course. The preparation of the church for the Easter celebrations, the cleaning, the flowers, the building of the bonfires. Paschal candles (two of them, one for each church) are prepared with transfers and holes for grains. Rosemary is cut for the renewal of baptismal vows.  The emptiness is there, but masked by the busyness.

And in one of the churches, as it becomes dark, the vigil starts. The readings from the Old Testament, the Hebrew scriptures, readings that talk about the promise of salvation across history - they are read in a nearly dark church.


I will leave it there - the blog for Easter Day starts in the middle of that darkness. But that is the next day...

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Blogging Holy Week: Good Friday

One of the Sunday school asked the right question last week: "Why is the Friday called "Good" when Jesus is killed? Shouldn't it be 'Bad Friday'?"

That is a good question indeed. A brief scour of sources (Wikipedia!) has a few views - it comes from "God" Friday, or "Holy" Friday, because of how important the death of Jesus is believed to be (this second one being the answer I gave the young scholar). In Germany it is (apparently) known as "Grief Friday". It can be known as "Black Friday" (again, apparently) although we had no major discounts on consumer electronics at church this week.

It is the deliberately low point of the week. The churches are bare and sparse, stripped out the night before. I took pity and did allow heating on. But there is little music, much silence. There was an unpreached-upon reading of John's passion. It says it all, without the need to say any more. Simple wooden crosses are on display.

I recall, as a child, the veneration of the crucifix on Good Friday - kissing the metal nail through the metal feet of the metal Jesus on the middle-sized cross. We wiped the feet between each person's kiss (I was a server). It was profound and strange and stays with me to this day. The little metal figure on the crucifix in Dunoon that I face for the eucharistic prayer draws me back to that memory. Good Friday every Sunday...

At the Good Friday liturgy in Dunoon there was silence before the service. Except for the contractor's yard next door. Where some ordinary chap was hammering at something, in a solitary, measured way. An ordinary person, going about their business, hammering nails into something. A bit like an ordinary Roman crucifixion soldier, going about his everyday business, nearly 2000 years ago.  Death as an ordinary thing, in Israel, in Kenya, in Scotland.

But something can make it extraordinary...

Friday, 3 April 2015

Blogging Holy Week: Maundy Thursday

Tne Triduum starts.

“Christ in Gethsemane” by Michael O’Brien.
Go to for more from the artist.
That sounds rather churchy and maybe just a little bit bewildering for those who don't really get that sort of thing. The Easter holiday for the schools started today, and traffic chaos is promised on the radio as the country seems to decide to travel to wherever the other bit of the country that is travelling comes from.  The promise of Bank Holiday entertainment looms large.

So what is this Triduum thing?

The days at the end of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and on to Easter Day itself - there is a certain intensity about stepping into a one-to-one scale model of the last week of Jesus' normal human life.  Others have discussed this in some detail, such as here. This does actually fit rather neatly into the Bank Holiday spirit - the Passover in Jerusalem 2000 years ago was just such a major holiday, and the excitement of what spectacles might be on offer (maybe even some crucifixions!) might have had the travelling crowds eager to gather for the weekend.

But today is Maundy Thursday. The Last Supper. Bread and Wine. Footwashing. Misunderstanding (as usual, poor disciples...). Tears like blood in Gethesemane. Betrayal. Finally, open hostility and attack from the threatened political and religious leaders.  A lot that would make a fine, dark drama. As it is.

The day that ran by? A funeral in the morning. Dark and light at that, and a dry spell as the coffin found its rest. Eucharist, stripping of the sanctuary and a time of vigil in a dark and cooling church.  And children off from school, ceilidhs and carry outs. Readings photocopied and allocated for the continuing Triduum.  Snags with some of those jobs that really could do with being done.  Even some odd impulses: new wheels on the nave altar to make pushing it away to its place smoother for the ritual stripping and clearing.

It has all started in earnest now.  The mixture of stepping into the narrative from two millenia ago clashes with the ordinary nature of our life. But that's what it's supposed to do...

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Blogging Holy Week: Wednesday

Another betwixt and between day. "Spy" Wednesday, I suppose, with Judas building up to his task of betrayal, is one option for today. The midweek eucharist on Bute had the account from John's gospel, Jesus dipping the bread and passing it to Judas to start him on his task of giving up Jesus.

In a more than one church charge (I only have two, so not an extreme at all) it is hard to keep a focus on Holy Week equally in all places. There is (for ecumenical and slightly complicated reasons) no Maundy Thursday service in our church on Bute, so we have elements of Maundy Thursday on the Wednesday. And I stripped the sanctuary, alone and quietly, after the congregation had departed to the rest of their middle of Holy Week day.

I had never noticed the gilt paint in the open aumbry, seen hazy in the background behind the displaced cross. Hidden treasures?

But still a day to go until the Triduum starts in earnest. A funeral in the morning, a town person, nothing to do with the church, other than having made connections in the past few years. As bustling and ordinary as Jerusalem at the Passover during Roman occupation. People being born, dying, doing everything else in between. No silence and stillness, just bustle and holiday busyness...