Maundy Thursday


He spoke of the four cups of wine and their significance, how the Lord used four verbs of redemption in Exodus 6:6-7 when speaking about Israel:

I will bring you out…

I will rescue you…

I will redeem you…

I will take you…

Why is this night different from all other nights?

I wrote a letter to a college friend the other day, and faith came up, the strangeness of it, the constant shifting. I’ve changed more in the three years since college than I ever did when I was there, and my faith has been moving, too. I keep reminding myself that this isn’t something to be afraid of, that wrestling with doctrine and rightness of things and my own inconsistencies is exactly the way it should be.

It does scare me a little.

Why is this night different from all other nights?

God is not stagnant. Many of my friends are packing up and moving. God is not stagnant.

I am not moving house, but I am moving, constantly shaking things up, walking a new rabbit trail, searching and finding and searching again. I use new words to talk to God, but more than that, I find new ways to listen. I thank Him for the sun, and I thank Him for His unending forgiveness that I need daily.

God is not stagnant.

Why is this night different from all other nights?

There was a time last spring. I was in the throes of – I’m not sure what to call it – an emotional upheaval? A spiritual awakening? I’d just read Lauren Winner’s Still, and I wasn’t sure whether to be angry, sad, hopeful, or just realize its honesty. She wrote about the middle-place of faith, how sometimes we dwell in this space far longer than we anticipated. Throughout the whole book, her voice feels monotone, like her soul is weary with this middle-ness.

I sat in church, listening to my pastor’s words over the eucharist, and I was filled with fear.

My palms began to sweat. I stared at the communion table. It was the first time I realized what awe felt like.

The magnitude of what I was about to do, the bread and drink that would pass my lips, filled me with a visceral fear.

I have never had that same experience again, but I long for it.

The silence at the power of God.

The knowledge that He is so much more than I think He is, and thank God for that.

What makes this night different from all other nights?

To look forward to the feast of the Lord, when all is made new. To look forward to breaking bread with my Savior. To be shocked into wonder.

[Thoughts on Church From a Seasoned Veteran]

I remember sitting in English class in 9th grade and admitting to my teacher that I got most of my ideas for stories while sitting in church. I thought he’d be surprised, maybe shake his head a little, smiling, and tell me that church was for focusing on the Lord.

Instead, he laughed and said, “Me too! There’s just something about being surrounded by the body of Christ that fills me with creativity. Well, that, and when I can’t sleep at night.”

Church has always been a place of mixed emotions. When people ask me about my church life, I think of the little brown church on a busy street where I first encountered God and saw for the first time that God’s love spread even and especially to the disabled. This was also where I discovered music, and I remember counting the rectangular windows while we sang “How Great Thou Art.”

[I was both awed and confused by the extremely heavy vibrato behind me.]

This was also the first place I saw deep relationships destroyed, families betrayed by their own, young children crushed by the meanness of others. I wasn’t exempt from it, either –  I think I may have indeed been one of the mean ones, struggling desperately not to be labeled as “weird” or “different.” There isn’t much worse than this when you’re seven years old.

The next church I think of is the old white church on Main Street, with its green steeple and gravel driveway. I think of Joy Club and youth group and Vacation Bible School. Long Sunday afternoons when we all would play volleyball til our knees were scraped up from diving, and excursions for barbecue down the road when all we thought about was laughing and wiffle ball and perhaps that tiny worry that:

Jesus didn’t mean as much to us as he was supposed to.

This was around the time I started writing in church. Usually it was in my head, long, terrible plot-lines that always involved heroic orphan-girls and handsome boys who lived “in town.” One time I scribbled a slightly-scandalous outline for a story on the back of an offertory envelope; it involved two members of the congregation, and I surely should have been more careful. I did try to pay attention. I succeeded, often. But like my English teacher said, “There’s just something about being surrounded by the body of Christ.” I felt a well of anticipation and ideas whirling around.

[I hopped around from church to church, staying a week, a month, a season. College was too complicated and they demanded too much: “Ministries! Use your gifts! Vocation! Sing! Youth Group! Sunday School!”, so I ran away.]


[St. Peter’s Church in Salzburg]

I worshipped with my new church on Easter Sunday. It wasn’t what I was used to. In order to worship together in one service, we had to move to the local high school, and suddenly it felt more like a show than church. I was surprised because that’s not how Sunday mornings usually feel here, but I closed my eyes and willed myself to be open.

I have so many set ideas of the way things should be and all too often I let those ideas destroy moments that shouldn’t be destroyed.

So I sang with all my might: “Low in the Grave He Lay,” “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” “In Christ Alone.” The hymns were the same, even if there was suddenly a screen above the pastor. The smiling faces around me were the same as most Sundays. I was grateful to have my family with me, to worship alongside them like we did when were little. I was grateful that God has kept me close to Him, even when church has been such a place of mixed things.

I am slowly getting more involved, with my feet only slightly dragging behind me. There is so much history between me and church, but that’s true of anyone who’s stuck it out and been part of the worshipping church. You can’t take Christ and leave the Church, or at least, I can’t justify it, as much as I’ve tried. Christ came to redeem people, and it’s people that make the Church so difficult.

All I can do is try to be one of the people who makes it a better example of the Kingdom.

Easter Sunday

This Easter was different.

I went to my first Easter Vigil, snuck into the dark sanctuary, unsure of what was waiting. Scraped and squeaked the plasticky pew cushions every time I shifted (whose idea was it to put plastic in a place of quietness? certainly not someone as fidgety as I am…). Sat next to a dear friend and for the first time in a while, felt like I was worshiping with family. The scriptures were read in the dark, and the long line of people doing this, the Jews reading to each other the stories of Creation and the Exodus, the Christians telling the story of Christ’s redemption, the early church. History always catches me, makes me want to be a tiny part of it. I was now one of those Christians, one of who knows how many, who was hearing the Word of God.

This wasn’t high church – no gongs, no dramatic theater – it was like a mix of Evangelical understanding of Christ’s grandeur. A pretty good mixing, actually.

And after three hours of sitting, standing, singing, praying, we ate and ate and celebrated the resurrection of our God.

I had wanted the eating to be at midnight – the dawn of Easter Sunday – because that was symbolic. As the clock strikes midnight on that Sunday, we dance and jump and proclaim our salvation.

We ate at 11:30. Just shy of symbolic, but Easter Sunday was coming quickly, and 6:55am too quickly for me.

I slept in Brookline and rose FAR TOO EARLY to sing three services at another church, a historic church, a church that many good people have called home. But it doesn’t feel like home to me, and I am not looking forward to it. K. in her sweetness rises too, makes me a cup of coffee, pretends it’s normal to wake up so early on a weekend, and as I head out the door, we say, “Happy Easter!” and we mean it, our voices ringing in the empty Sunday streets.

After the second service, (and yes, of course we are singing the Hallelujah Chorus, among other oratorio pieces), I am wondering if I’m gonna make it. Another cup of coffee. A slice of smoked ham and cheese because there is nothing worse than passing out on risers because you don’t have enough protein. I am praying from where I sit on the floor, praying that I make it through, that God reminds me what it means to worship, what it means to have a ministry while you are trying to worship.

It was probably the hardest Easter Sunday I’ve had. I certainly didn’t feel at ease. That’s the way Pastors always feel, I guess, on their toes, ready to “perform.” Singing on a regular Sunday feels like that  too, but not nearly as bad.

Home there were plates of cheeses and humous, crackers and olives, rounds of warm brie with apricot jam (this made lovingly by my cousin), and later two hams dripping with juice, scalloped potatoes, homemade rolls.


There is always someone serving.

My parents in the kitchen long before the meal, working to feed family and friends, slicing, baking, kneading and buttering.

Me, pretending to sing well even when I felt like I was so tired my vocal cords were dried up.

The Pastor, preaching the Good News of our redemption, of Christ’s miraculous resurrection, of God’s promise fulfilled.

I feel, this week, a sense of hope. I wish that every week there was such energy in my worship, in our churches, in our homes. I wish I were never self-conscious of proclaiming where my hope comes from. Maybe every year it will get a little easier, and I will be able to hold on to this joy that is Easter.