“This is the way in which you are to eat it: have your belt fastened, sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand, and you must eat in urgent haste. It is the LORD’S Passover” (Isaiah 12:11 NRSV). “I have set you an example: you are to do as I have done for you” (John 13:15 NRSV).
For several years, I’ve spent Holy Week with the same companion: John V. Taylor (1914–2001), once Bishop of Westchester (Church of England). Specifically, I’m spending my mornings during this week with a set of meditations that the good bishop presented in Holy Week 1986 in the chapel of the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. The collection is titled Weep Not for Me, Meditations on the Cross and the Resurrection. It was given to me by my friend Rich Willowby and continues to be one of the most thoughtful meditational resources I’ve ever found.
This morning, March 31, Holy Tuesday, the meditation focused on “The Cross—Key to the Nature of God.” Here Bishop Taylor invited me to look closely at the crucified Christ—not the pretty—or empty—crosses of many churches. Instead he bids me gaze upon the terrible and bloody cross on which Jesus hung, bleeding and slowly choking to death, displayed in all his nakedness for the world to see and misunderstand and mock. After inviting me to spend some time at the cross, he has the audacity to quote another bishop (John Austin Baker of Salisbury): “The crucified Jesus is the only accurate picture of God the world has ever seen.” If that isn’t enough to correct the way I picture God, Bishop Taylor goes on to call my attention to the larger truth when he calls my attention to the words of Jesus at the Thursday night meal: “not so with you.”
My already challenged eyes halt gain. Wait. Jesus, the one who will soon hang on a cross, is talking to his disciples and teaching them about lordship. First, he says, the common idea of lordship is that lords lord it over those who are not lords. “Not so with you.” Kings demand royal treatment. “Not so with you.” The highest demand to be seen as the highest. “Not so with you.” The chiefs must be seen as chiefs. “Not so with you.” The authorities must be granted their authority and power. “Not so with you.” Suddenly, I am transported to Jesus who, this Thursday, will kneel before his disciples and wash their feet. There he says, “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet...you also should do as I have done for you…” (John 13). Then we see him before Herod and before Pilate, quiet, non assertive, disconcerting. “As I have done for you.” Then we see him before the crowd who call for his death. “As I have done for you.” Then we see him on the cross, hanging there in all his gory, beaten, pierced, bloody reality. “As I have done for you.”
“If God was in Christ we have to come to terms with a God to whom it is natural to be humble, frustrated, and at risk. The coming of Jesus was a prodigious revelation that turned the previous ideas of God and of authority on their head.” (Taylor, John V. (1986). Weep Not for Me. Geneva: World Council of Churches, p 9)
It’s Lent, early, Sunday, at church.
I’m walking forward, part of a double line
up the middle of the sanctuary. A double line
of diners headed to the Table.
The bread is torn.
I dip the bread into the cup and
walk to the kneeling bench, suddenly
aware that the juice drips lightly from
the torn bread onto the palm of my left hand,
Cupped beneath to catch
any sacred drip. A purple spot, raggedly
splattered; at first outlined, then
A mark, scripture says, I bear briefly
a mark of Jesus. Stigma. A sign of reproach and
shame made beautiful; might I say, made
holy by memory, by story.
A beauty spot.