Today is Maundy Thursday, a day in church tradition when the heads of the church and heads of state would give money to the poor. It was done in the most humiliating way, though I’m not sure if those doing the deliberately thought of it that way. They would throw the money into the crowd and the people would then throw themselves on the coins and fight for it. Remember these people were starving and had no welfare system. But to those doing the giving it reinforced the idea of “the poor” being uncouth and unruly.
Now the Queen hands out “maundy money” in a calm and dignified way to a chosen few. Now we don’t even let those who could do with a bit of extra cash even go through the humiliation of having money thrown at them. But I think that is because we hide the poor even more. It is harder to see who is on benefit and who isn’t, but the media makes sure it highlights those receiving state aid as undeserving, scroungers, uncouth and unruly!!
This week a might icon of history, religion, culture and tourism has fallen. There were some very brave fire-fighters who worked hard to save it. People have been donating thousands for its rebuild. This same week, if you listen hard enough, the flooded areas of Africa are in dire need of food and medical supplies but no one is donating thousands for them. In fact many parts of Africa, Asia, Central and Southern America, and even parts of Europe are having an on-going struggle with severe poverty issues, yet money for these is raised in dribs and drabs. Is it better to be an icon than a person in need?
I love this quote from Velveteen Rabbi’s son on her post Seeking: Seeing the ordinary through new eyes about how he feels on the eve of Pesach we search for hidden hametz and about searching for Easter eggs with his Christian Grandma.
It’s fun because it’s about finding something new in regular places. If you find something new to do, then you always have it with you. And that makes it like you’re traveling, finding new places, even though you’re not going anywhere.
It was this whole thing of “if you find something new you always have it with you” and about travelling and finding new places even though you’re not going anywhere. I think this is so profound and so deep and I wonder how often we, as adults miss it.
From my reading of Mindfulness if it about looking at what we know and finding newness in it, of being ‘present’ full with what we already know. How often do we take a walk along the same route and not notice how amazing it is and yet if we take a child or even just someone who’s not been that way before they see things we have gotten used to? How often in a relationship do we just get used to the same old same old and forget why we got involved with this person in the first place? How often do we forget that some of the flaws we see glaringly now we used to gloss over before when we saw them through new eyes?
I want to be able to travel to new places without going anywhere. It is why I write. I can be here in my room, can take something I know and can rework it. I am working with some of my memories which come from running memoir-writing groups and I was looking at them with new eyes. What slant do I want to put on them now? That isn’t lying about what happened but, I think, saying I want to look at what I think I know with new eyes. I want to travel somewhere new with what I already hold in my hand. I can then choose what light I want to see it in. Even the most tragic circumstances, if I want I can see amazing things going on. But also if I choose, even in the best of circumstances I can focus on the one bad bit in it. I can choose how I view my life. Sometimes I need to search hard, sometimes like with the Dragon Easter Egg Hunt at Gwrych Castle, where I volunteer, finding the eggs is easy because they are so big, but sometimes it can be hard to find that spring flower trying to appear through this unseasonally cold time. But the buds and growth and colours are there just not as visible as the Dragon eggs.
It is so true that once we do find something new in familiar places we remember it and hold on to it. I remember finding a clump of primroses along a path where I walked the dog regularly. Primroses for me bring back special memories of a bright patch in a hard time in my life which does make them special. But now whenever I walk this path I not only look out for these primroses but also look out for other changes. For me finding that something new and special in familiar places makes me want to look more and look harder and find something else that I didn’t see before.
I think I need to make sure I do this in places that I have yet to find something new. Who knows what is hiding in those familiar places?
I was woken by rain hammering down on the skylight in the roof. I look at the window and see the rain pouring down. Things are not as they should be for Easter Saturday. I know as Brits we will laugh, shake our heads and say “typical British Bank holiday”. But actually we know they aren’t all like that but also we know this isn’t how they should be. Thanks to good old Facebook memories I was reminded of a picture I took from my window this time last year of the tree outside my window starting to blossom. This year it is still bare branches. Spring really is later this year.
But I wondered what the first disciples thought the day after Jesus died. Things definitely were not as they should have been. Things weren’t right. This isn’t why they had followed Jesus. They had expected more. There might even have been some who remembered his teachings about dying and rising again. But he was dead and had not risen again.
How often do we wait for something to happen and it always takes too long? Even if we know that date of a birthday, wedding, celebration it always takes too long to come about. Imagine not knowing the date? But also imagine not knowing for sure what would happen?
So this Easter Saturday, as things are not being as they should be, I am going to ponder the disciples and share this piece I wrote a while ago
Today is the winter solstice. The day when the sun stands still for three days before days start to lengthen again.
Today I got a revelation as to why the early Christians picked December 25th as the day to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It is a random day I’d always thought. Or had heard stories of how the pagans had celebrated on 25th because the sun had decided to reappear rather than disappear completely. But then I remembered another time when it looked like The Son had disappeared completely.
Two thousand years on from the event, knowing that outcome, as we also know that the sun will move on and the days will start getting longer, we forget what it must have felt like. Imagine firstly being a pre-science person and each year wondering if the sun would really continue or whether it would decided that it had had enough and the days were just going to keep getting darker until there was no more. [Though maybe that isn’t so hard to imagine as we see the news and read the newspapers. We appear to be in dark times that are getting darker. So maybe we can understand.] Now imagine how it must have felt when you realised that the days were slowly minute but minute getting longer. I’m sure they had devises to be able to show them this was happening because their fear must have been great. Don’t think with 21st Century eyes and minds but with ancient minds who were not sure.
Then think back to that event two thousand years ago at Passover. So many people had given up everything – livelihoods, reputations, status, money – to follow Jesus and he’d been crucified. They knew he was definitely dead. If they hadn’t seen it they would have heard about the soldier putting his spear in Jesus’ side and the blood and water flowing out. Here was someone who was definitely dead. The Son had stood still for three days. The Son had been put in a sealed tomb – not because he was anything special but because it stopped the stench of a decaying body from seeping out. He had been still for 3 days.
I also think we miss some of this because the organised church decided that people wouldn’t wait that long so they put the crucifixion to a Friday and Resurrection to a Sunday. Often I’d miss the whole Easter story by seeing the detail in that and so deciding it wasn’t a true story. There are not 3 days between Friday and Sunday no matter how hard you try. But there are scholars who have said that in certain years there are more “sabbaths” due to Jewish tradition and that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday. [I suggest googling this yourself before I lost the thread of what I’m saying 🙂 ]
So try to imagine you think this is the man who will light into the world, who you have given up everything for, but here he is not just one day, not just two days, but three days still. Dead. In a tomb. Imagine then how you would feel when he came to stand with you, when people you knew told you they had seen him. When people said The Son has risen.
It was like a big light going on. The whole idea of the sun staying still at the time we celebrate Jesus birth fits hand in glove with the time we celebrate Jesus resurrection. God is so clever. And I also think as we do feel like we are entering a very dark time politically with Brexit, Trump, North Korea, wars and rumours of wars, refugees, more famines, and other atrocities we often don’t hear about we need to remember that it might look like The Son is standing still but the light is still with us and it will conquer the darkness.
Easter Saturday, the space between death and resurrection life. The hard place to be. For those first followers of Jesus it must have been so awful because they did not know for sure that Jesus would rise again. We do so we go about our daily lives, do some DIY, go shopping, eat, drink, etc. For the Christian now I believe that Easter Saturday, and often even Good Friday, has lost its impetuous. But in our own lives Easter Saturday can be very real.
I feel like I have been in that place between death and resurrection life for a long time; probably since I finished my job in December
2014 and got to grips with dealing with my grief and pain and reordering my life without sister, father in law and some friends. Even with this house move I have blogged about being in liminal places, inbetween times. I do pop my head above the surface at times, like a crocus, but then it stops again. Actually that space between the end of something and the resurrection of the new isn’t a clear one day thing as it is in the Christian calendar. I believe for each of us it is a long slow journey. I was journalling all this when I checked my emails to see Day 50 of 100 days for 100 years of history, a prayer for Ireland initiative. Steve Cave says so much better what I am feeling but he says it for a land that I was only praying for last week:
Here are some quotes:
I can’t help but feel we are still living in Easter Saturday here; we know something significant has happened with the transition to politics instead of terror, but we haven’t yet experienced resurrection to something new. We’re still fighting, albeit it is usually now just with words.
we’re still in between what has happened and what we still long for – it’s still Easter Saturday to an extent and we’re waiting for resurrection.
For me, for us, so much has happened but when Ian says “what are we here for?” I have to answer honestly “I’m not sure.” Yes we started our Airbnb rentals yesterday. Yes we have had friends and family up. Yes we have met up with some people here that could be friends. Yes I did feel my heart get majorly lifted and healed last week whilst we were praying about hearts in Ireland. Things did change. I do know something significant has happened, that I am in transition.
What do I long for? I often wonder if I am ready to ask that of myself? I do want to write, but am struggling to do much more than blog and write emails to friends. I do want to get back into praying for the land of Europe but can feel that is a “wait” word. I do want to run a hospitality house but I find it so hard at the moment and find that things can really stress me out. Like with these first guests – it turns out that the radiator in the Airbnb room doesn’t work. Ian sorted them out, got them to move rooms, etc but I was upset by it all and couldn’t come up with a solution. I still feel weary; weary that I don’t want to do anything at the moment. I am down to start work with an agency doing temporary schools work, but I’m not sure if I should.
I do feel like I am still in between what has happened, the healings and the moving, but am still in that waiting place. It is very much that whole thing, as I have blogged so much before, of waiting, not pushing, but letting God. It all goes back to trusting Him. A wonderful learning curve!