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Mortar and pestle

by davesandel on April 8th, 2021

Thursday in the Octave of Easter, April 8, 2021       (today’s lectionary)

Mortar and pestle

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release him. You put to death the author of life.

On my desk in front of me is a mortar and pestle. It’s black, and as yet unused. The stories of Holy Week, that week of passion, fear and grief, grind themselves into me. They have ground themselves into the skin and the souls of Christ-followers for centuries. We want to be there, so we travel to Jerusalem and walk the Via Dolorosa. We kneel before the Stations of the Cross in Catholic, Episcopal, Anglican and Orthodox churches around the world. We pray before each station, and imagine ourselves into the story.

While they were still speaking of his appearance on the road to Emmaus, Jesus stood in their midst. He said, “Peace be with you,” but they thought they were seeing a ghost.

As the service at St. Vincent’s neared midnight, my friend, whose feet were washed on Thursday night and who sang the sixth psalm during Saturday’s Easter Vigil, closed her eyes, rocked back and forth, and felt just like she was there. Jesus, will you wash my feet? Can we sing and sing and wait until the moment when the rock will be rolled away? Of course we can, and Jesus will be singing with us, Jesus will be waiting with us.

Why are you troubled? Why do questions arise in your hearts? It is I, myself. Touch me and see.

Even now, a few days into the Octave of Easter, I feel no hurry to leave the gardens, or the secret rooms, or even the tomb itself. We can read the psalms and the prophecies of Isaiah and the other prophets, and know that this very day, Our Day, is the day that the Lord has made. Time changes its tone, the “fullness of time” completes its work, as we close our eyes, rock back and forth, and whisper to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. You are witnesses of these things.

I have been reading about the desert, and its effect on spiritual travelers. The sand dunes are often anchored only by bare scrub sagebrush, and the winds blow the dunes into shape after shape. There is nothing to hold onto here. In the wind-blown sand you can only be still, breathe as best you can through your mask, and watch for Jesus.

Have you anything here to eat? Then his disciples gave Jesus a piece of baked fish, which he took and ate in front of them.

The hot winds grind me into the side of a dune. But as the sun begins to set, I know the wind will die and in the black dark sky the stars will burst and sing. The air will cool and finally become cold.

And then God made the stars. He set them in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw how good it was. And so it happened. Evening came, and morning followed.

I rustle among the burning branches of my tiny fire. Its exquisite coals glow red and yellow-orange in the dark. In an hour I’ll be able to see my breath.

But in a moment of deciding, I do not wait. I open the door of my tent, crawl inside, and rock back and forth, back and forth. Grateful, I close my eyes. How close, how close you are right now, dear Jesus.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. But what is man, that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man, that you should care for him?

(Acts 3, Psalm 8, Psalm 118, Luke 24)


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