man told me later brought him to tears. A nine-foot wooden cross, crafted from a cedar
tree Michael Sisson had eyed in the woods and watched over for two years before it spoke to him of what it was meant to be, towered over us all. The cross seemed to beckon us as our choir sang the beautiful offertory music. It begged to be touched as people came forward to present their monetary offerings to help people in need in Richmond County. They also brought to the cross a carefully or randomly selected rock representing a burden to be laid down at the foot of the cross. One man dropped to his knees, his head in his hands, in silent prayer after placing his rock beside the base of the cross. Candles were touched by flames, lit by those coming forward reminding each person of the Christ light within them or of someone whose memory they treasured as a light in their life.
Stan Terhune our Senior Warden read the Gospel story, introducing us to the Holy Week character Joseph of Arimathea. The one who, after Jesus’ death, asked Pilate for Jesus’ body, then took it down from the cross and placed it in the rock hewn tomb in a nearby garden. Rev. David Johnson as Joseph brought the character to powerful life for us with his larger than life voice and presence. It was a stunning performance, real, intimate and passionate. His voice boomed, shouted, almost whispered at times, rose and fell during his story telling, as he paced around the cross towering around him, touched it, ultimately describing in poignant detail Jesus’ body finally released, falling into his arms. The flames on the candles danced wildly during the telling. Was it the cross currents of wind rushing through the open doors of the arms of our cruciform church or was it the unseen Holy Spirit stirring both their flames and our spirits?
We sang our passion in the words of “Rock of Ages” and “Just as I am” and “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.” We were caught in the grip of that old, old story of life, death and our salvation on our own darkening night last Sunday evening as we faced a nine-foot tall wooden symbol of saving grace and heard the final words of Joseph of Arimathea as he told of rolling a stone over the entrance and sealing the tomb within which lay the dead body of his Lord. As the evening closed around us, we gave voice to the power in our life and the life of the world of that “Old Wooden Cross” and the ones who were there with our Lord and Savior.
What a remarkable evening as it came to an end over a communion of sorts of water, lemonade and homemade cookies spread out in the side chapel by Sandy Garretson and the Farnham ECW ladies. The final evening in this series will take place next Sunday night at 7 p.m. at Warsaw Baptist Church where the Rev. Torrence Harman will give voice to Mary Magdalene, the first to find the stone rolled away, the tomb empty and then coming face to face with the risen Christ.
“Blessed are those who mourn”
Lenten Reflection: Week 5
I suppose it was meant to be. That I would feel called to reflect on this Beatitude highlighting grieving, mourning and weeping. That I would be trying to seek and offer some light on it as the first anniversary of my husband’s death coincides with the final week of Lent, Good Friday and Easter this year. But I drew within this circle of reflection others among us who have experienced the death of a loved one or some other significant loss event in recent years. A consensus emerged, implied in a heart spoken question: “Just where is the blessing?”
Intellectually we could see in some of the cases that it was a blessing for the one who died, released from physical or mental conditions that were literally sapping their life away. The battle over, release from suffering finally won. And, perhaps for the one left behind a sense of relief for their loved one – relief and some degree of peace born out of deep love. But, bottom line, we deeply and personally experience the loss; it hurts in a very physical and psychological way that sometimes makes no sense.
Any listing of the most significant “stressors” in life focuses on loss. The top events include: loss of a loved one (especially loss of a spouse or child); divorce or marital separation; loss of a job or retirement; a major illness/health event; moving/relocation; financial crisis; even care of an elderly or sick family member. Basically, any of these events cause disruption of our way of life, a loss of the way life has been or was anticipated to be. They alter the ground upon which we live and move. They force transition and change, whether change is needed or not, wanted or not. Basically, such transition events seem to touch upon the primal fear that gets triggered when we find ourselves facing an unknown future. It’s no wonder such events are typically disturbing and unsettling.
But as we consider the idea of “blessing” it is not the life event that Jesus is characterizing as a blessing, but how we respond to such loss events. The blessing appears to be in the mourning and grieving of the event. Also, in the blessing offered to us when we can weep, respecting that we are deeply affected and can let our emotions flow as needed, releasing despair and sadness that can become pent up and even do more damage when imprisoned within us.
Mourning and grieving are a natural process that can help us move through the wilderness of loss and transition. That can help us find a way forward, a way to live life beyond the loss. Mourning and grieving are ultimately a life-giving process – a necessary pathway through what appears to be life denying. They are reflected in the vision that our Creator and re-Creator of all life offers for “resurrection” within the natural cycle of all life –a resurrection that promises life again after what appears to be death. This vision is offered us so incredibly at this time of year, in both nature and our coming Easter liturgy.