|flowers for our friend who ministered with us|
at the foot of the cross so many -- and not quite enough -- days
"The men that cut their graves in the grey rocksSpoke to the sons of God upon the four cross roads:“Men of Genesareth, who climb our hill as slow as spring or summer,Christ is your Master, and we see His eyes are Jordans,His hands and feet are wounded, and His words are wine.He has let death baptize the one who stirs and wakensIn the bier we carry,That we may read the Cross and Easter in this rising,And learn the endless heavenPromised to all the widow-Church’s risen children.” (from The Widow of Naim, Thomas Merton)
A few years in, and the liturgical year learning curve keeps chipping away at my worship wish dreams; we celebrate month in and month out what will be, but is not yet. Easter glimmers brighter than all other seasons because we have one story of what will be for all of us is already for One -- the firstfruits of resurrection, Jesus. In that sense, maybe Easter is the best time for death -- when the truth of resurrection is uppermost in our memory.
The exact thought occurred to me when I woke up the morning of our friend's funeral with the lyric "Alleluia to the risen King. Alleluia, death has lost its sting. Christ is risen." repeating a continuous loop in my pre-conscious brain. Before this epiphany I mostly felt a low-grade anger that God letting people die during Eastertide was wrecking my liturgical mojo.
We rehearse in order to remember when we most need to remember. Saturday morning for our dear friend Dick Chote. On other mornings during the seven weeks of Eastertide for 3 killed in Boston and the 26-year-old Russian immigrant accused of killing them, 14 dead in West, 1,127 in Bangladesh, dozens in Iran, 34 in Pakistan, a number too horrifying to imagine in Syria. One morning in Easter the liturgy of Resurrection was for our friend's mother gone in less than two months from a ravaging cancer, one morning for Matthew Warren removing himself from the particular ravages of his own illness, one morning for the esteemed photographer and father of four David Sacks. One morning for Brennan Manning, one for Dallas Willard. This morning for 51 in Moore, Oklahoma.
And last Saturday for the gentle man who showed us how to be a father to the fatherless. A father trying again to love where love had disappointed him and those he loved.
I entered the sanctuary angry, one friend among hundreds there to mourn. I was angry that God took away someone who'd meant so much to us during a season we'd tired of caring deeply for anyone. I was angry right up to the first words out of Father Cliff's mouth, the first words printed in the liturgy:
The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised.
Anger thrust back to its rightful, righteous place a few paragraphs later:
As we commend our dead to God, they are no doubt commending us. Together with them, we rise up to look death in the face and say, 'Terrible as you are, we know One who is mightier; and that One has taken us as his own for ever. We will not live by fear of you, but, fearless in this world, will live by the gracious love of the only true God, who has made us and claimed us and is blessed forever.' Amen and Amen.I enter Pentecost; we enter Pentecost. Yesterday the young woman cutting my hair asked my forgiveness for seeming out of sorts. Her friend died. "I'm 20 years old and this is my fifth friend to die, all Vietnamese." Before these words I read a book and avoided eye contact. I wanted space to be alone with my thoughts. Her spoken lament changed my mind. While she massaged my hands -- kneading, twisting, encircling my fingers with hers I prayed the Spirit of God to leap from my skin to hers. I asked the Spirit of the apostles who healed by their fingertips to heal her broken heart, rescue her from darkness into light. Spirit of death to Spirit of the already-resurrected Christ.
Pentecost is for my 20-year-old, Vietnamese hairdresser. The what will be, but is not yet for her.
In this season we rehearse what has already taken place for us, we the not-yet resurrected but fully Pentecost-ed here and now, the Spirit already poured out on my flesh, on all the sons and daughters of God. I am the daughter who prophesies. You are the young man who shall see visions. Dick Chote dreamed dreams. We are the carriers of the Spirit of Christ, given power to do greater works. We are the enlivened ones bearing witness to the peoples not yet alive to God.
*Linking with Heather's community at Extraordinary Ordinary today.