We gathered like usual on Maundy Thursday, remembering how he washed their feet, shared a supper that was infused with new meaning, and trogged out to sweat blood in a garden called Gethsemane. It’s a somber meal with words about bread and body, wine and blood. There is covenant-making in the works. And dipping bread in the same bowl as one who will betray.
Our supper had already traveled out to the city, making appearances in public places: Same supper, different contexts. And some people wondered what in the world is going on. Others knew, recognizing the familiar DaVinci pose. But now those images came crashing back home, back to the place where we always break bread. This time, though, the portable supper took on new meaning, the lines between sacred and secular air brushed away.
When you leave Maundy Thursday its only a short hop to Good Friday, the dark day, the day of trials, denial, torture, death, entombment. We want to avert our eyes. And avert eyes for more than one reason. It’s gruesome, of course. But more than that the sacred mirror has been held up before us and we don’t like what we see. It was I who crucified you, Lord. My humanity did it.
And then in a passing, fleeting moment, there out in the darkness of crosses, we see it: A young man, one of his followers, almost caught because he’s hovering near the cross, looses his clothes as he runs naked into the night. The nameless naked.
We don’t know who he is, but we can guess he is one of his now scattered followers. He’s terrified and impotent. He’s running for his life, stripped of everything he thought he had, all the protections peeled away. And of all the characters in the story maybe he is most our stand in because we find ourselves fleeing without anything, at least before all this we do.
Somewhere in the darkness where the nakedness intersects with flight, there is a veiled grace that is about to catch him, enfold him, clothe him, and bring warmth and light. But not now. Soon, but not now. Weeping tarries with the night but joy comes with the morning. And it surely does.
I remember an interview with the phenomenal jazz maven, Lena Horn, as she talked about the seasons of her life. She especially spent time talking about the long expanse of mid-life that contained a persistent state of depression. She called those years “the dead years” because that’s how she felt. She said, “I was dead for several years of my life, and then I came back to life in the second half.”
I think crucifixion, in part, is about exactly that, the dead years. And I think that resurrection, in part, is about coming back to life. There is running naked into the dark and there is awakening to the morning light. We talk about it over and over without naming that Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is shared by us, when we share in it. It names us and gives us hope at the same time.
Behold, the old is gone and the new is come. Thanks be to God, it’s so.