Thursday, March 22, 2012

Knapsack 3-29

Notes From My Knapsack 3-29-12

Jeff Gill


Easter blossoms and bitter herbs



Passover meals always have bitter herbs along with the sweets and salt; good quilts need the dark colors arranged to help the bright squares pop.


Visual art pays close attention to negative space, and any musician or actor knows that silences are a crucial part of what we listen to, and how everyone hears.


Even if John Cage took that idea about 4'33" too far for some of us.


Easter needs Good Friday. No crown without the cross, goes one old saying, and if you try to leap from Palm Sunday's kingly procession to the glory of the resurrection a week later, you're likely to fall hard into the valley of the shadow of death.


As Winston Churchill liked to point out, the 23rd Psalm says "though I walk *through* the valley . . ." not "as I stop and sit a spell in the valley."


So we make our way from the rented rooms and furtive, yet fraught with significance meal, a scurry through the Kidron Valley to Gethsemane to a betrayal, and an imprisonment, a scourging, a crucifixion.


You've seen the movie.


Maybe you don't want the whole Technicolor visual, but if you don't "go there" in some way, you'll lose the contrast that helps make sense of the raucous, gleeful, incredulous joy of Easter Sunday. At Centenary UMC, we're going to try to wrap up the Maundy Thursday service next week, for those who are game, with a footwashing.


John's Gospel skims the communion story of that Holy Week Thursday, the usual heart of why Christian churches do a Thursday night service, and tells a story his predecessors skip past themselves: Jesus gets down on his knees, wraps a towel around his waist or neck, and washes people's feet.


This, in a society where that was not only a social no-no, but where many wore no shoes, most who did had but sandals, and the streets were filled with camel droppings. Foot washing was a real humiliation.


We just have to warn the women who want to participate not to wear hose. Do women still wear hose? We'll warn 'em anyhow, just in case.


For all the cultural distance, there's something strikingly counter-cultural in 2012 to wash someone's feet. It's a situation and position whose essential humility can still be felt, and it's hard to lord it over someone while you're holding onto their foot while sitting on the floor.


So towards the end of the 7:30 pm service, as the sanctuary lights darken with the reading of what is to come, and under our willful forgetting of what will be brightly unveiled, just beyond that night on the coming Sunday morn: some will choose to leave through a side door, and sit in a circle in Shepherd Hall, and take off their shoes.


That's what Moses had to do first, too. Barefoot on the soil, the humus, humility, on holy ground; standing to look into the depths of the darkest night, before the coming dawn, waiting for a place of promise to be revealed.


May this spring fulfill some hoped for promises in your life!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he wears size 14.5s, so you don't want to have to wash his feet, it will take longer. Tell your spring story to him at, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

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