The Thin, Tactile Spaces of Holy Week

| March 22nd, 2024

Dear Beloved Community,

Each year during Holy Week, we get quite tactile around the church.

Arms of children lift palm branches in the air (and maybe whack a pastor or two). Our feet walk the Stations on the Street, while our eyes take in the images before us. Our hands plunge into water to wash another’s on Maundy Thursday. Our mouths receive the gifts of bread and cup during communion. Our noses capture the scent of candles extinguished with each scripture read on Good Friday, and our eyes register the darkening room filling with shadows of grief. Sorrow engulfs our spirit as we walk the Stations on the Cross and experience but a glimpse of what Jesus’ last hours before death had been. Breath catches in our lungs as we wait in the stillness of Holy Saturday. Our whole bodies take in the joy of Easter: a flowering cross filled with a garden’s bounty, lilies and song filling the room, our hearts overflowing with joy from the gifts of new life.

Holy Week and Easter are best experienced in our bodies. For it is in the body that God came close, that salvation extended to us all, that resurrection of the crucified one made plain the promises of God. The spiritual significance is not lost on me each year, when remembering that the pandemic began for us in the United States during Lent. In a season where we were intimately acquainted with our bodies’ finitude and fragility, the Christian story and its truths dramatically experienced during Holy Week became all the more searing: the gospel truth that starts in flesh and blood, muscle and sinew, beating hearts and teeming minds.

Celtics use the phrase “thin places” to describe those spaces where the boundaries between divine and human seem so very porous and close. Holy Week is a thin place for me, precisely in its tactile, sensual, experiential form. Each stop along the road of the week offers a pause to enter into the space between – between there and here, between tasks and responsibilities, between the self we know and the self God dreams, between yesterday and tomorrow – and the space again – again in the crowds, again in the upper room, again in the garden, again in the shadow of the cross, again on the morning while it was still dark. Between and again, Christ enters in. Love made flesh, again and again.

I hope you’re making plans to be with your church family this Holy Week, because I trust you need these reminders just like I do. Our full schedule of worshipful experiences are listed below in the newsletter, and we’ll be offering a range of times, formats, and opportunities for you to remember the final days of Jesus. I encourage you too: invite a friend or neighbor to come along with you. Share your curiosity for the thin spaces this week with beloveds in your life. Let this story – betwixt and between, again and again – pierce through the noise of your life and ring a clear “alleluia.”

For as he was entering Jerusalem with palms all around, Jesus remembered the call of the disciples. “if they were silent, these stones would cry out.” As we prepare for the thin, tactile, in-between places that lie ahead, a poem for you by Paul Hooker called “In Medias Res” (translated: “in the middle of things”):

In Medias Res

you who enter the city in the midst of things,
come to find a place to love and die,
though we are busy keeping feasts,
keeping kosher keeping our heads down, keeping a low profile
ducked behind stone walls of practiced custom
where no hope or change or grace can reach us.

you who come to upset our assumptions
take away the illusion that we are the center of things
that we can cushion the stumbling stones in our paths
with pretentious fronds and conceited cloaks
though we cry save us, save us
without acknowledging that we need saving.

you who come to tear down temples
overturn the tables of our sacred things
scatter the coinage of our sacerdotal commerce
release the doves we sacrifice to self deception
though we apprehend you without understanding
and install you in the harsher sanctuary of our stony hill.

you who dwell in the midst of things:
for a moment, for an instant, for a heartbeat
slow the processional of things
still the noise of things
until we hear the one thing whispered
in the silence of the stones.

Together in God’s work of Love,

Pastor Emily