Tumbling in the Sand
A meditation for Maundy Thursday. The gospel text: John 13:1-35
When my Granddad died, my Grammy and my mom — his wife and daughter— cleaned.
They got incredibly busy with emptying closets and cleaning up the house. And there was knitting. And cooking. And running errands. And doing what needed to be done —anything that needed to be done or could be done at all.
I have noticed that they are not alone. I have seen many family members respond this way after the death of someone they love. Maybe your family does the same thing—they get busy.
I think that this doing is a way to mourn, to get to work on the projects of the everyday in order to slowly come to terms with what has happened, to allow the sadness and sorrow to more slowly hit.
And, I also think that all this activity is a way to pray.
To pray with your hands and feet.
To pray that life continues on.
To pray with your whole body and being for hope.
And, I don’t think that all this errand running and being busy is just a way to pray when things like funeral happen.
In fact, any time my family gets together—and I imagine yours as well—it seems that the women end up in the kitchen:
setting the table
cooking a meal
cutting veggies and cheese and meat
planning grocery lists
sharing and talking.
This moments are like prayer.
Communal “women” prayers …
Not to say that men aren’t welcome.
In fact, men often are also put to work in my family doing something: fetching something, contributing something for the meal. Or, just welcome in the kitchen to chat and contribute to the company and laughter and conversation.
Those times when we are all together, working together like that — particularly in times of celebration or in sorrow — seem to me to be holy.
To be filled with prayer —
prayers of preparation
prayers of gathering and love
prayers made with hands and feet and service to one another.
Which brings me to think about the women — and men — but probably mostly women, who prepared for the dinner for Jesus and his disciples that night. Who, with their hands and laughter and care provided service that the gospel writers completely ignore—even while Jesus speaks of serving and loving one another.
These servers, these who prepare, are mostly left in the background.
And when Jesus and his disciples go to the garden to pray and to continue the epic narrative of his betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, death and burial … it is these women, these hands of service that are left to clean the table and wash the dishes and put it all away.
It is their prayers made by their hands and feet that sustain and support the entire gospel — the entire work of Jesus.
Tonight, we have the opportunity to honor and sanctify and remind ourselves of the holiness of this prayer of service and love —
washing each other’s feet and or hands to remind one another of the support we provide to each other even as Jesus has served us — that we serve and love one another, becoming the body of Christ for each other and the world …
when the altar is stripped.
Piece by piece removed, as the psalm is sung that reminds us of Jesus’ coming passion
I invite you to see this, not as it is often (accurately) represented as a sign-action of the stripping and handing over of Jesus for crucifixion,
but as the hands and feet and prayers of the women — and others
— who cleared the table
and stood near the cross
and prepared his burial clothes
and the anointing oils they took to the tomb before dawn
and whose acts of mercy and preparation and prayer
are signs of hope that life and grace continue on.