Slain in the Spirit on Good Friday
On Palm Sunday our pastor welcomed us to worship with a verse I don’t think I’d ever heard used in that particular way before: “Daughter of Zion, ‘See your Savior comes!’” It was an arresting and dramatic greeting. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so singled out, so personally addressed, so publicly validated in worship as a woman. I know it’s metaphorical. I know it’s Jerusalem. But, undoubtedly, in that moment, it was directed at me too, a daughter of Zion. I was so humbled by that extraordinary proclamation. Your Savior comes to you! Jesus, the Bridegroom, taking the initiative. Coming to me. The distaff version of the Prodigal Son, I thought.
At choir practice on Tuesday night, the Lord’s Supper table was already dressed for the coming Good Friday’s celebration of Communion. The proclamation echoed in my heart: See, your Savior comes. He’s already prepared the table for you. Or, in the French, “Tu dresses devant moi une table.” Not the daily setting of the table by the tired butler or grudging maid, but the gracious preparation of the banquet by the host himself, smoothing the linens, eyeing the wine glasses for water spots, troubling himself to ensure that every detail is right. That should have been my clue that something was up, but I paid no further attention to what seemed nothing more than my usual proclivity toward imaginativeness.
Then, today, Good Friday, like Ezekiel, “I looked and I saw the glory of the Lord filling the temple of the Lord.” No, I didn’t fall face down. My cellular construction is knit with the damp grey woolen threads of Dutch reserve. The mystical does not rise easily from my stolid turf-shipping heritage. But somewhere in my soul danced a tiny flickering charismatic, a holy ghoster, an Appalachian snake-handler, a whirling dervish fanatic in visionary thrall.
Don’t get me wrong. I followed the sermon and the liturgy and the singing. I was fully present. But I also saw so much more. The kinds of things I always see when I open my eyes to the liberality of the Host. I saw that my church was a gift… and also something we “re-gift” to the One who bought it and gave it to us in the first place.
There are moments, transcendent moments, when you see beyond what you are seeing. Frederick Buechner talks about looking “at a window” and “through the window.” I was looking at our worship and looking through it. I was looking at a worshipping church family and looking through it to the “sacrifices of praise” beyond.
Be patient. The list is long, but no apologies. It needs to be. I need to see it over and over again, and maybe you do, too – the multitudinousness (exactly the right kind of overblown word) of the blessings that crowd even such an ordinary mended and patched church like mine.
See the pastor who has prepared diligently, praying over the text and thinking about the understanding and hope he desires to ignite in his sermon. See the elder who accompanied the pastor to the nursing home yesterday to offer Communion to the shut-ins. Look upon the artist and his friend who took time out of a busy workday to lug a heavy steel sculpture into the sanctuary, so we could reflect on 1 Corinthians 13, so we could experience the tangible weight and substance of faith, hope and love. Take note of the faithful daughter who picked up her elderly blind mom and drove her to church. See all these other brothers and sisters. The custodian who sliced the cubes of bread early in the morning, and her husband who collected the empty communion glasses in a lowly pail after the service. The volunteers in the nursery who took their turn cuddling cranky babies and tending to toddlers. The young people and their leaders who raked up the gravel last night, restoring the parking lot to a semblance of order after a wicked winter. The senior couple who put up the sign Jesus Died To Save Us And Lives To Keep Us. The volunteer who came early to run off some children’s bulletins because the service might be a bit long and kids can get restless. The sound guy who showed up early to test out the microphone equipment with the mom and daughter who also came early to practise a touchingly tender song, The Bonds of Grace. Another mother and daughter duo who played the flute and trombone with exquisite control, the music plaintively asking, “Were you there?” The devoted pianist and organist who also practised ahead of time and did their willing weekly part to accompany our praises. The ushers who came early to pass out the bulletins and to welcome with a smile. The elders and deacons who wear the heavy mantle of leadership, but who today passed out the sacramental meal like faithful waiters with towels folded over their arms, who collected the offerings, and who will carry on leading and serving tomorrow and the day after that. The woman who stitched the crimson cross and “It is finished” on a black banner. The one who brought the Easter lilies and watered them throughout the week, so their fragrance and freshness would remind us of the newness of life and Easter’s coming. The volunteer who arranged for a video to be shown to the Sunday School children, so they could enjoy a special event on a special day. The techie guy who ran the powerpoint and chose a dignified graphic (that would not offend) to accompany the lyrics. See all the people who sat in the pew and brought their gifts: their presence, their voices, their prayers, their money. See these friends who brought their fears and worries and hopes and dreams to the Cross at 4524 Confederation Line, Wyoming. Every Tom, Dick and Harry. Every Susan, Frances and Nicole. Every last sinful one of us in church today. The Body of Christ.
I’ve written this kind of list before. I probably will again. For this is the vision that never fails to move me, that makes me want to wave palm fronds and fall face down in obeisance to the Lord who did not find us unworthy of his love, but instead came riding on a donkey toward us and a deadly destiny. This vision: when together we gather at the Wyoming CRC to say we believe that we are “the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord, the Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.” And, not just “we.” Me. The daughter of Zion, wined and dined, enfolded and cherished. My hands are still trembling.