Spiritual Practice for Passion Sunday and Easter

In February Tedd Dodd offered a series of reflections for the season of Lent, inviting folks to consider taking a day a week during this period to pray the scripture, follow the suggestions for spiritual practices and consider the questions about life in faith.  In that same vein, Ted offers some tools to deepen our experience of Passion Sunday and Easter

PASSION SUNDAY

Scripture:  Matthew 27: 11-54

(This week, as you read the story, note

  • The way Jesus responds during his trial
  • The many images and symbols connected to the crucifixion)

Reflection

In Matthew’s version of Jesus’s trial and execution, Jesus is cast as royalty.  Pilate asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  A crown, not made of gold and jewels but of thorns, is placed on his head.  A reed scepter is derisively forced in his hand.  The soldiers contemptuously kneel before him.  A sardonic sign over the cross reads: “This is the King of the Jews.”  And of course, he is a sovereign who is subjected to ridicule and humiliation.  He is flogged, stripped, mocked, spat upon, taunted, tortured, and put to death.  Unlike the pampered lives of most royals, this king suffers.

Imperial Rome chose crucifixion as a means of capital punishment and usually reserved it for non-compliant subjects and insurgents.  From Pilate’s perspective, as governor, he was maintaining the peace of the empire, safeguarding the powers and principalities from the revolutionaries and dissidents.  What was it about Jesus that was so threatening?  He did critique the religious leaders calling them hypocrites.  He turned the tables in the temple.  He kept company with social outcasts and dined with the marginalized.  In all this, he claimed that God and God’s Kingdom held authority over Rome.  Even in the face of his life being endangered, Jesus was unwilling to relent or acquiesce.

Question

Empire continues to operate today.  Privilege, position and power rest in the hands of a very small, but moneyed, minority.  As followers of a Christ of integrity, what might our role be in standing for something different than the pervasive social conventions of racism, classism, and sexism?  How might we challenge the status quo that keeps poverty in place and the starving in hunger?  How might we address a widespread sense of fear that promotes violence and separates us one from another?

“Give a Day” Spiritual Practice

One day this week scan a newspaper or read a magazine or visit a news website.  Bring critical thinking to this task.  Ask questions like:

  • For whom is this written?
  • Is there something they want me to buy?
  • Are they leading me to be afraid?  Who benefits from my anxiety?
  • Who benefits from this media?
  • Whose voice or image is not represented?

Prayer

God of the cross, not a throne,
you know that life is not always safe.
Jesus of the thorns, not a gilded crown,
you experience suffering.
Christ who cries “Why have you forsaken me?”,
be with us in our struggles and
move us toward love and solidarity for the world. 

old illustration of Jesus with Pontius Pilate addressing a crowd

 

EASTER SUNDAY

Scripture:  John 20: 1-18

(This week, as you read the story, note

  • The way the narrative unfolds
  • The manner in which the characters interact)

Reflection

This Lent, a monastery in the States, offered a series of daily videos exploring the gospel of John.  In one of the early on-line features, a particularly impish monk, insisted, humorously waving his arms, that the author of the gospel wrote the text with a playful spirit.  In all the wrestling with John’s poetry, imagery, exalted Christology, convoluted prayers and lengthy story-telling, I had never picked up on this tongue-in-cheek tone.  So this Lent, when reading John, I have noticed a surprising sense of fun.  I am sure that is not the only way to read John but it does offer some insight.

Take the story of the first resurrection appearance as an example.  Against a background of grief and pain, weeping and loss, everyone is running around like they were in a French farce or a Keystone Cops movie.  Mary runs from the tomb; Simon Peter and the unnamed other disciple get in a foot race.  The beloved disciple out sprints Peter, but stands frozen outside the cave like a quavering Stan Laurel or cautious Barney Rubble; Peter bumbles (once again) into the tomb like an over confident Oliver Hardy or “act-before-you-think” Fred Flintstone.  Mysterious details pop up like a parody of a detective novel; (why is the head cloth rolled up separately from the other linens?)  Supernatural angels, with exact choreography, stand at either end of the missing body and then turn the plot with, overly obvious, but holy questions.  Mistaken identities confuse the plot like a Shakespearean comedy; (why would Mary confuse Jesus for a gardener?)

Yet in the midst of what could be seen as high jinks, revelation happens.  Mary sees the stone rolled away from the tomb.  Peter notices the linens lying on the floor.  The beloved disciple enters the empty grave and perceives and believes.  Mary talks to angels and finally recognizes Jesus standing before her.  In the whirlwind of life and death, these characters see resurrection, possibility of new life, and hope.

“Give a Day” Spiritual Practice

Take a day this week to try, intentionally, to see humour.  If you

experience minor frustration or inconvenience, attempt to laugh at the situation, or even yourself.  In the face of personal circumstances of suffering or sorrow, remember a sustaining time when you were able to smile and face the day with joy.  In light of bigger picture realities of poverty and power imbalance, try and think of a satiric way of making a point or a clever, ironic way of drawing attention to an injustice, for example, in a letter to the editor or a call to a political representative.

Prayer

God of Easter,
Roll away the stone of sadness, turn our mourning into dancing.
God of Resurrection,
Race with us to the site of new life, turn our crying into mirth.
God of the Empty Tomb,
Help us to see angels who make holy inquiry, turn our grief into joy.

old illustration of an angel at the empty tomb speaking to women