Between Celebrations

crown of thornsWe just finished Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem and the beginning of Holy Week. Next Sunday, we celebrate Easter, commemorating of course Jesus’ resurrection. But between the two celebrations are days of incredible pain, heavy sorrow, nerve-wracking fear and almost unbearable grief.

They huddle in a dark room, this small band of brothers who have lost their beloved leader, teacher, Master and friend. They don’t dare light candles to chase away the shadows, and they start in fear at every footfall outside. Have they been discovered? Are the soldiers coming for them? Tension fills the air and sometimes breaks out in whispered accusations. Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you say something? Gazes drop in shame. Why didn’t I say something? Why did I run away?

Where is Judas? They have heard rumors that he killed himself. Good! some of them think. I’m glad he’s dead, that thieving, scheming betrayer. And yet he is missed. He had been one of them. He had been a brother. And yet because of his actions, their friend is dead, their friend who taught them to call Jehovah Daddy, who had multiplied the loaves and fishes, who had healed limbs and calmed the storm.

One of them remembers the taunts at the cross. “He saved others but he can’t save himself!” and he tries hard to push the hate-filled voice out of his head and yet like the serpent in the garden, it slithers into his soul and lodges there. “He saved others but he can’t save himself!” The words are joined by another mournful wail, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” He knows he is the only one here who heard that cry, and yet he can’t tell anyone that. So in this roomful of brothers, he sits and mourns and feels more alone than he has ever felt in his life.

Where is hope? Where. Is. Hope. To him, to the other 10 in the room, it seems that hope died when Jesus did.

Shadows deepen. Life is dark. Even today, we huddle together and face the dark. “In this world you will have trials and tribulations, but take heart,” He said. “I have overcome the world.” But at times, those seem like hollow words. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” But at times, we feel alone and and we feel forsaken. We fumble in the dark for a hand to hold, to somehow believe that we are not alone, that our grief will be comforted, that our tears will be wiped away. And so we gather up the tatters of our faith again like an old woman gathers up yarn to knit a blanket.

We live in the shadow of hope, we dwell in the shadow of the cross. Today, it’s Friday. It’s filled with pain, with overwhelming grief, with fearful doubt and crushing sorrow.

Today, it’s Friday. But Sunday is on the way.


Two Marys – Good Friday Monologues

I wrote these two monologues for Good Friday last year. My Easter monologue will be posted on Sunday morning. Please feel free to use them if you’d like. I only ask that they be attributed to me and that you let me know how you used them, if you do. Thank you!

Mary Magdalene

Have you ever met someone that you knew as soon as you met them that they would change your life? I felt that way when I met Jesus.

You see, I had been depressed for a long time. Some people said there were demons in me. Other people said I just had a lot of illnesses. To be honest, I didn’t care what they called it. All I know is that life was awful and I was miserable. Life was nothing but torment. My sister Martha and my brother Lazarus did what they could to take care of me, but I know it was stressful to the whole family. It was hard for us to have friends or to be a part of the community. I was an outcast.

But then I met Jesus. There is something wonderful when someone accepts you for who you are. He could see past the erratic behavior and the language, moans and shrieks that would come from me. He saw deep inside me. He saw what no one else could see. He spoke one word and the demons left me. Instantly I felt a peace I had never known before. I had been healed! Life would never be the same.

My heart belonged to Jesus from that moment on, and nothing would change that.

Jesus often visited our home, and there was nothing I liked more than to sit at his feet and listen to him teach. I could hear whispers sometimes that I shouldn’t be there. It wasn’t right for a woman to be taught in the same manner that men were. But where else should I have been except at his feet? His feet. The feet that walked down dusty roads.

I learned a lot from listening to him, and some of what I heard made me sad. He talked about his death, about things that would happen to him in the future. None of the disciples seemed to really pay attention to what he was saying. But I couldn’t get rid of the sorrow inside me.

How could I bear it if he went away or if something happened to him? I loved him. My whole life was wrapped up in his. I didn’t want to be like one of the other disciples and tell him that these things couldn’t happen. They could happen. They would happen. How could I show him how I felt about him, show him that I understood?

I remembered the perfume I had. It was the only thing of value I owned. I could think of nothing better for my Master. So one night when he was at our home for dinner, I took the perfume and poured it over his feet. His feet. The feet that walked on water.

The smell of the perfume filled the room, and I loved him so much that I would have done anything for him. I let down my hair and began wiping his feet. I could hear whispers then too, that I shouldn’t have wasted the perfume, that I could have sold it and given the money to the poor. I could feel my face burn with shame. Was it wrong of me to show my love for him?

But then he spoke. His word at one time had driven the demons from my body and my mind. And now his word drove accusations away. But I heard words even I didn’t want to hear. “My burial.”

Was I the only one who heard that?

And now standing at the cross, his mother beside me, I look at the bleeding and tortured man in front of me. His arms are stretched out as though they could embrace the whole world. His feet are nail-pierced. His feet. The feet I anointed for his burial.

I remember his words. But I remember other of his words as well. About death. About being raised. About promises of an afterlife. And although my heart is full of sorrow, there is life and hope within.

And I think about his feet. His feet. The feet that will walk down the road again.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus—In Grief

There were so many things I wanted to say to you, my son, and I always thought I’d have the time. And now it’s nearly too late. So I’ll say them now.

I was so young when the angel Gabriel appeared to me and told me about God’s blessing upon me. I was confused. I just didn’t know how it could happen. And I was a little worried too, worried about Joseph and how he would handle it. It seems now that all of that was a lot for a teenager to handle. I look now at the young girls in Galilee, ribbons in their hair and laughter in their voices, and I can’t imagine that I was ever that carefree, ever that young. I feel so old now.

When I look at you I see the little baby you were as I held you in my arms the first time. I was so tired. Your father and I had traveled by donkey to Bethlehem for the census. It was an uncertain time, so scary and tense. Your father tried hard not to show how nervous he was, but I could tell. And then when we finally got there and there was no room for us anywhere, he was almost at a breaking point. I know I was. He apologized so many times when he led me into the barn. But I didn’t care. I just needed some place warm and quiet so I could lay down. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

That pain was nothing compared to now. When I first became pregnant, I said to your Aunt Elizabeth that all generations would call me blessed. I’m not so sure now.

I never told anyone about the day we presented you at the temple. You’ve heard what the prophet Simeon said about you, that you would be a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to our people. And you have been, my son! Your kindness to the outcasts has drawn people to you, and in you, people have seen the face of God. But it also drew unwanted attention to you, anger, hatred. At times I wanted you to be a little quieter, a little more cautious around the Pharisees. You could have! You didn’t always have to provoke! You didn’t always have to speak the truth, did you? And yet, I know that doing that, that softening your words or backing down, would make you a different man. Do I wish you were a different man? How could I want that? You are the hope of Israel, the hope of all mankind.

What I never told anyone was that Simeon said that a sword would pierce my soul. I never knew what he meant. But I know now, my son. I know now.

I always wanted to protect you from pain. I hated every bruise and scrape. But I couldn’t protect you from pain when you were little, and I was helpless to stop any of the violence inflicted on you today. I felt the lashes that fell on your back, the back I used to wash when you were a little boy. I screamed until my throat was raw at those who hurled awful names at you, the son whose name I whispered daily in my prayers. I wept when they crushed the crown of thorns on your head, the head I kissed goodnight every time I put you to bed. But when they drove spikes through your hands—hands I held as we walked down the road—I felt the sword pierce my soul.

I stand now at your cross. There are no miracles this time. The light has gone out of my life, even as it is draining from the sky.

All generations will call me blessed. I’m not so sure now. I’m not so sure.