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Monday, April 06, 2009

Tuesday in Holy Week: Children of the Light

The gospel appointed for today is John 12:20-36.

Jesus has made his way from Bethany to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. Except, this 'Passover' - this 'Paschal Feast' - is to be his. The sacrificial lamb this year is to be Jesus, himself.

Some Greeks come into the city and want to be formally introduced to Jesus. You can just imagine the buzz - from Phillip to Andrew and then from them both to Jesus.

At his birth, three Wise Men came to pay him homage. As the time of his death fast approaches, 'some Greeks' want to meet him.

We don't know if he actually ever did. Instead, Jesus begins to speak about his immanent death.

12:27 "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say--' Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.

12:28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."

The crowd hear it and thought it was thunder.

On this beautiful, sunny-but-chilly spring morning, the morning I will gather with other clergy to renew our ordination vows with our bishop, I am caught by this passage.

12:36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light." After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

One of the few times I question my ordination vows is when I'm in a large group of clergy. I suppose we fall into a 'grumble' because one can only take so much saccharine cheeriness. "Oh, I'm fine. You?" "Yup, fine. Just fine. The wife and kids, the church? Yup, yup, just fine."

A few years later, we will learn that the man has had a heart attack at age 52, or is having an affair with the Junior Warden, or one of the kids has been admitted to the hospital for bulemia.

And so, as an antidote to all of this, I suppose, some of us tend to grumble about inconsequential things. I suppose it's the same dynamic as the bad food they serve you on airplanes. As long as you have the food to grumble about, you are less apt to grumble that your flight was delayed two hours.

The 'grumble du jour' is that we are not going to resurrect the old tradition of gathering at Diocesan House and processing up the street and to the Cathedral, en costume.

Instead, we are invited to simply come-as-we are, in from the fields, for a simple service of renewing the vows we made at ordination and then we will make Eucharist together. Then, it's back out the door we go. 'Ora labora.'

Some of the old boys are not pleased. They really, really like putting on long white dresses and parading up the street so everyone can see God's 'children of light.' And, they are disappointed, as one put it, to have to "wear a business suit" for this event. As if that somehow really makes a difference.

See what I mean about questioning my ordination vows?

It's hard to believe in the light in the midst of darkness and gloom, much less grumbling and grinching. Jesus says that if we believe in the light we will become 'children of the light.'

As we move into Holy week, we follow Jesus, the Light of the world, and retrace his footsteps as we move further and further, deeper and deeper into the darkest part of Holy Week.

My mind flashes to the image of the church on The Great Vigil of Easter. We begin in darkness in the narthex. We light the new fire, bless it, and from it, light the Paschal Candle which is processed into the darkened church. The Exultet, that glorious love song to God, is chanted 'round 'that marvelous and holy flame'.

We are yet to go through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, but my mind stays focused on the image of the Paschal Candle as I consider the mystery of our faith.

The pilgrimage has only just begun. Whether we process in the street or walk the Via Delorosa in our hearts and minds, we know that following the Way of the Cross and believing in Jesus will help us become 'children of the light'.

And so, we press on.

1 comment:

KJ said...

Excellent post, Elizabeth.

The grumbling and lack of transparency ("I'm fine!") I suppose will likely always be with us, but I'm reminded of when my mother, concerned for my spiritual welfare, commented upon my attendance at a TEC parish where not all might share in an orthodox faith.

"What is that to me?" was my response, which I don't think she understood.

If grumblers wish to impoverish themselves, then, God bless 'em! The rest of us have a light for which we are longing.

(By the way -- This Saturday will be first Easter Vigil service. Can't wait!).