A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
~ John 13:34, from the reading for Maundy Thursday.
Still thinking Maundy Thursday thoughts about love here on this final day of waiting for Easter.
As that last meal begins, Jesus lays aside his outer garment, ties a towel around his waist, and begins to wash and dry the feet of his disciples. When Peter resists, Jesus tells Peter that if he can’t accept this act of love and care, “you have no share with me.”
Love can’t fully flourish except in relationship, and sometimes we—like Peter—find it even harder to accept love than to offer it. To let yourself be loved, you have to make yourself vulnerable. Opening a channel for love means revealing parts of yourself you might rather have kept hidden. It means admitting how much you need that love. It means acknowledging that you can’t make it on your own.
From Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as partners: “To love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their beauty and value … to reveal to them their capacities for life, the light that is shining in them.”
That is exactly what grace–the lived experience of God’s love—does for us.
The season of Lent is meant to help us let go of our resistance and and accept God’s love more and more.
So that when Easter dawns we can take up that challenge, to love one another, “just as I have loved you.”
Shad fishing at Lewis Island, the last commercial shad fishery on the upper Delaware. I love shad season. As a photographer, that is. I love that there is this little bit of local culture that persists even though there are so many easier ways to get some fish. It’s beautiful to watch the group of effort involved in pulling that seine net out and around and back in again every evening.
The only thing I still don’t understand is, who really wants to eat a shad, anyway?
There are days when you’re just sitting there enjoying your hamburger and something tells you to look out the window and then it tells you to put down your fork and go.
Once again quoting one of my favorites, the poet and priest John O’Donohue:
“The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere … When we experience the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming. Some of our most wonderful memories are of beautiful places where we felt immediately at home. We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of our soul. For a while the strings of struggle and endurance are relieved and our frailty is illuminated by a different light in which we come to glimpse behind the shudder of appearances the sure form of things. In the experience of beauty we awaken and surrender in the same act. Beauty brings a sense of completion and sureness.”
Today is the anniversary of Dietrich’s Bonhoeffer’s execution by the Nazis in 1945. Bonhoeffer is remembered and honored on this day in the Episcopal Church, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the challenges we Christians who admire his example still face 74 years after his death.
I’m thinking especially about something a good person said to me yesterday, a comment that reflected an attitude rooted in white supremacy which I’m sure I wouldn’t have recognized before I started the Me and White Supremacy Workbook at the beginning of Lent. And I should have called this person out on that comment, and I didn’t, because it would have seemed rude and hurtful to someone whose heart I know is in the right place on this and a number of other social justice issues.
I’m still struggling with that. Given a chance to go back and do it over again, I’m pretty sure I still wouldn’t say anything. But so many of us have so much to learn, and how will that happen if we don’t start talking to each other?
A few writers stand out for me in their ability to use just a few simple words to convey deep spiritual truths. Henri Nouwen was one. The Irish priest and poet John O’Donohue was another.
O’Donohue especially was able to express those inchoate feelings and desires that are so tangled for most of us—or for me, at least—that I don’t even know they’re there until I come upon a word or phrase in something he wrote and am surprised to recognize myself in it.
The photo is mine. The quote is from O’Donohue’s “For One Who Is Exhausted, a Blessing,” from “To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings,” by John O’Donohue:
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic, Time takes on the strain until it breaks; Then all the unattended stress falls in On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.
My Lenten discipline this year has been two-fold as I endeavor to take full advantage of this first Lent in a long while when I have no responsibility for how anyone else experiences the season. I’ve been reading a book of reflections titled “Are We There Yet: Pilgrimage in the Season of Lent,” and I’ve also been working my way through Layla F. Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy Workbook,” and I’ve been thinking about the work of that second resource especially as I’ve read all of the reactions and response to the massacre in New Zealand.
Yes, we need leaders who will condemn white supremacy in the strongest possible terms. We need leaders who won’t fan those flames to build a base. We need to weep for the fallen and for those who mourn, and to pray for them and ourselves, for a better world.
But the idea that white supremacy is a problem that exists “out there” is one of the great mistakes that those of us who so long for that better world are prone to make. In this country, white supremacy isn’t just about Confederate flags and Ku Klux Klan hoods. It doesn’t just Infect madmen. It’s an internal and external system that benefits those of us who think we are white (reference Ta-Nehisi Coates) in ways we are used to and even expect, even as we’re conditioned to be blind most of the time as to how it actually works. And there’s no real hope for deconstructing the system until we overcome that blindness, until we see how it has diminished our own humanity and how insidiously its poison is working even in those of us who truly want to be better than that.
One of the realities of retirement from parish ministry is the sudden realization that although there are many places where you would be welcome on a Sunday morning, there isn’t one place where you totally belong. And so for now I’ve become a sort of church pilgrim, sharing myself around. This morning, it was pancakes and silence at Solebury Friends Meeting, nourishment for body and soul. Their annual pancake breakfast is timed around the production of maple syrup from the trees on the meeting property. They’re tapped early in the year and the sap is collected and boiled down to syrup—and yes, although it does take an awful lot of sap to make syrup, it really is as simple as that. I love the idea of gathering a community to enjoy and celebrate the sweetness of its own place.