Saturday, April 11, 2009

Strangest Good Friday Ever

One of our Good Friday services was at the Labyrinth. People could come and walk, and we had a bulletin about the Stations of the Cross, which coordinated with bricks that were numbered. The church did this kind of self-directed service last year, and it was well-received.

I planned to be at the Labyrinth from noon-3. We needed people there to hand out the bulletins, to answer questions, to tell people that we had water in the cooler. I expected a peaceful, meditative afternoon.

When I got to the Labyrinth, I found out that someone had vandalized it. As you see in the photo in the post below, we used old roofing tiles when we laid out the Labyrinth. They're fragile, in some ways, in the same way that your dinner plate is fragile: if you jump on it, it will break.

It looked like someone had jumped on at least a quarter of the tiles. The tiles were still in place, so we decided to go ahead with the Stations of the Cross opportunity that we had planned. In many ways, the broken clay tiles made a great symbol of Good Friday.

After 3, we decided to replace the broken tiles, thinking that to leave them broken would be akin to leaving graffiti on display: it would just encourage more vandalism. So, I spent 2 hours on Good Friday piling broken clay pieces into a wheelbarrow and moving whole tiles into place. The first hour, I didn't have gloves, because we had 2 pairs of gloves and 3 workers.

I had lots of time to reflect as I was working. My thoughts ranged from the mundane ("I'd been wishing I had more chance for an upper body workout!") to the despairing ("We're making no progress! There are so many broken pieces!") to the poetic ("So many great symbolic elements here: broken clay, aching hands and feet, resurrection . . .").

When we first assembled the Labyrinth, I was part of a different church, but I was invited to help put it together, which I did for an hour. Now, I've helped put it back together again. The whole experience has made me think about how often our human plans end in tears, yet even in tears, there is room for hope. We're thinking of ways to make it clear that the Labyrinth is sacred space, by planting shrubs and other greenery. We're thinking of moving one of the labyrinths (the square, Roman-style one) to a different place on the property, since we used a lot of its tiles to resurrect the circular labyrinth.

I was expecting the Tenebrae service to be the highlight of the day. While it was meaningful, my time with the Labyrinth was even more profound. I found myself moved to tears at the thought of clay vessels broken open (what are humans, anyway, but clay vessels?). I found myself moved to tears at the thought of all the plans of God, gone terribly wrong because humans muck it up. I found myself profoundly affected by thinking about all the ways God redeems creation, no matter how many times we ruin things.

And now we wait for Easter.

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