I've been quiet this week, thinking and reflecting, and purposely not blogging. I wanted to experience Holy Week as a whole before I wrote about any part of it. I'm glad I did, because it's been quite a revelation.
I'm going to warn you right off the bat that this is likely to be long.
Of all feast days, Palm Sunday is usually my least favorite. I don't really know why that is, except that it stands in stark contrast to the days to come during Holy Week. It's a day of triumph, but the Gospel for the day is the Passion. It's a say of dichotomy, and it's unsettling.
At the church I've been attending, Palm Sunday started off with the whole congregation processing into the church with palm branches. Any church I've gone to in the past has made the procession optional, if they've done it at all, because the congregation is so large, or because they don't see the liturgical significance. I usually haven't participated because...well, I don't know why. But there was something powerful about the whole congregation entering the church together as a community of faith, waving their palm branches as the crowds did when Christ entered Jerusalem all those years ago.
It also brought home the symbolism, at least it did for me. Those same crowds that greeted Jesus as they would royalty, as a celebrity, were clambering for his execution not even a week later. And even if they weren't among those yelling, "Crucify him!" they weren't yelling anything to the contrary. It reminded me how we so often embrace what Christ teaches in theory, but then we turn our backs on it when comes time to put it into practice. "Love one another as I have loved you," sounds like a marvelous ideal, but when faced with that co-worker who gets on your nerves, or that driver who cut you off, or that friend who takes you for granted, it gets shoved into the background. We are willing to turn out backs on what Jesus taught in a heartbeat if it serves our purpose. It's a humbling and somewhat guilt inducing realization, but it is comforting to look around and know that every single person processing with you has the same failings you do. And it's even more comforting to know that we are forgiven when we fall short.
But perhaps the most moving part of the service on Palm Sunday for me was the "reading" of the Passion. Now, normally this is done in one of two ways. Either the presider reads the whole thing from the Gospel, or it is read with a narrator, the presider reading the part of Jesus, and one or more people reading the other "characters." But this church did something different and really good.
Instead of the Passion being read, the choir sang a cantata that told the story of the Passion. I forget the composer, but it was wonderful to say the least. It was accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation of a variety of images of Christ's Passion and death from various artists both classical and contemporary.
Normally, I don't like multimedia presentations during worship. There's a time and a place for that, and liturgy isn't it. But this was just...I don't have the words for it. To see so many representations and interpretations of the passion story was...almost overwhelming. It brought home the fact that when we talk about humanity being made in the image of God, it doesn't just mean people we like, or people we are comfortable around. It means people who are different from ourselves, people who make us uncomfortable for whatever reason. We are all made in the Divine Image, no matter what our culture or ethnic group or socioeconomic status or sexual orientation or whatever.
That reminder, combined with all the news coverage of Terry Schiavo (which I have studiously avoided writing about) have made me consider what it really means to respect life. So many people get so up in arms about euthansia or assisted suicide or abortion. The decry them as part and parcel of the moral decay of our country. The protest outside clinics and hospices.
But so many of these same people have no problem with the death penalty being applied to minors or those who are mentally challenged. They favor the war in Iraq, and didn't see any problem with the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners of war. They cross the street rather than walk by someone who is homeless. They ignore the hungry in their own country and across the world. They turn a blind eye to the fact that there are parts of this world where children can be forced into slave labor in the sex industry on pain of death of themselves or their loved ones.
Aren't these part of respecting life?
Now, I'll tell you, I don't think Schiavo's feeding tube should have been removed. Palliative care like that is just a basic right and component of death with dignity. And I don't favor abortion and a method of birth control. I just get upset when the religious right focuses on just these things and ignores the other issues. When Jesus told us to love one another, He didn't just mean when it is convienient. He meant all the time.
Sorry for getting off on that tangent, but it is really a part of the whole story of Easter.
I'll write about the rest of Holy Week tomorrow. It's later than I thought it was, and I need to sleep now.
Monday, March 28, 2005
Thursday, March 17, 2005
My boss in Las Vegas getting married (in a surprise wedding - not too sure about that), then she has a meeting out of town all next week. She didn't leave me anything to do, so I was bored and played a little.
Big change from the parchment, huh? I wanted something a little lighter and more springy. What do you think?
Posted by Sheryl at 4:43 PM
Monday, March 14, 2005
Just thought I'd announce that.
So here I am, downloading demographic statistics for the third solid week. By the time I actually finish this, I will be able to tell you anything you want to know about the population of the southern states. Not that you want to know anything. But my boss's boss does, county by county, so here I download. Actually my coworker (former supervisor) is supposed to being doing this, but somehow I got stuck with it. Not sure how it happened, but oh well.
I made fajitas for dinner last night, minus the peppers (they were too expensive). They were good, but my whole apartment smells like fajitas now. Just thought you needed to know.
Oh, and there were no carrots
My friend Amy asked me to write a short reflection on how the Coalition for Christian Outreach impacted my life in college and beyond. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. It wasn't because the CCO didn't impact me - nothing could be further from the truth. But it was so hard to try to...quantify something so intangible. And with everything I've been through in the last year, it was even more difficult.
Why is that? It took me a while to be able to answer that question, but I guess it's because I'm at such an uncertain place in my faith life right now. I don't know that I'm still Catholic (with a big C), but I'm not sure I can identify myself with any other denomination either. I know I've said that before, but it's still true, despite the fact that I've been worshipping in a Lutheran church for almost half a year now.
I think it's guilt. I used to laugh off the concept of Catholic guilt, but not any more. I feel like I'm letting down hundreds of generations that have gone before me. I know that's stupid. But nonetheless. It didn't help that one of my fears came true when I told one of my Pittsburgh friends about it a few weeks ago. We were having an IM conversation when he asked me about my faith life. I decided to tell him the truth. He made some snide remark about settling for a pale imitation of "real" Catholicism. I tried to defend myself, but I was tired and not expecting some theological discussion. He ultimately said that Lutheran theology renders the whole sacrfice of Christ unecessary, which though I can't claim to know much, I know isn't true. I finally told him that right now, I'm happy where I am, I don't know if it is a forever thing, but it works for me for now. He never responded, and I probably lost him as a friend.
I don't know how to feel about that. On the one hand, I know his opinion shouldn't matter. I know he is an arrogant pr...er...guy who thinks he knows everything because he has a degree in philosophy, works for the Church, and spent a year in seminary. I've known that about him since I've known him. On the other hand, I want him to respect my choices because I've always supported him, even when he faced criticism from most of the congregation for his liturgical choices, and even when I didn't necessarily agree with him.
Is it just me or does it seem wrong that working for the Church can mess you up this bad?
Posted by Sheryl at 11:56 AM
Saturday, March 12, 2005
I like frozen food. It's cheap and convenient when you are single. It's even tasty sometimes.
But why, why, why do you insist on puttting tons-o-carrots in everything you make? Everything, from Chinese to Italian to everything else has carrots in it.
I don't like carrots. They go to waste every single time. I know I'm not the only one in that situation.
I know carrots are cheap, but so is broccoli. And I would pay a few pennies more if you put something exotic like asparagus in sometime.
So please, if you happen to read this, give us consumers a little variety sometime. Thank you.
Posted by Sheryl at 4:29 PM
Friday, March 11, 2005
Thursday, March 03, 2005
...and I can't take a shower. I can't wait until I'm allowed to get my back wet again. I'm going to stay in the shower until the hot water runs out, let the tank fill up again, and repeat it about a thousand times. I'm going to wash my hair every time, too.
My manager said that I don't have to have the hole in my back packed every day anymore, that every three days is enough. That's good. Maybe by next weekend I can fulfill that fantasy.
I've been meaning to write about this since Sunday. I heard a really good sermon this weekend. The Gospel was the story of the Samaritan woman at the well from John. It's a favorite Gospel of mine, but I gained a different perspective this weekend.
Most of the homilies, sermons, and reflections I've heard about and read about on this particular reading deal with how countercultural it was for Jesus to speak with this woman. First, she was a woman, and a rabbi wouldn't waste his words on a nobody like that. Second, she was a Samaritan, and no self-respecting Jew would deign to speak with one of "them." Finally, she had a bad reputation. She has had five husbands, and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. In short, she was the type of person anyone in their right minds would go out of their way to avoid. But Jesus didn't, and in fact used her to spread his Word. It's a great reading to use when the theme is focusing on how God can use us and how we have value in His eyes despite the fact that we are flawed and fallible.
This past Sunday, the pastor did touch on that, but his main focus was on how this woman was doing something terribly mundane and ordinary, the everyday task of drawing water from the well. And it was when she was doing this ordinary, mundane task that Jesus sought her out, taught her, and used her to reach other people.
It reminded me of the Jubilee conference which I attended every year when I was in college (and coincidentally enough, was going on this past weekend). The main point the Coalition for Christian Outreach tries to get across during this conference was that we have been given gifts by God, and that we need to use those gifts to serve in our everyday, workaday life. Whether we are pastors, or doctors, or bankers, or computer geeks, we can serve Him through the way we perform our jobs and live our lives. Those conferences had a profound effect on me, and I will write about that sometime.
Finally, in keeping with the water theme, there is an interesting discussion on removing the water from the baptismal and/or holy water fonts during Lent at Dash's blog. I personally don't like to have the water removed. I like to be reminded of my baptism during Lent, during this time of preparation. But that's just my opinion.
Posted by Sheryl at 10:16 PM