Cherry Bream, Flickr, under Share-Alike License


Journeying with Jesus' Body

From Jessica Bratt

As we enter into Holy Week, I'd like to share a piece I wrote two years ago for the Faith and Leadership program at Duke Divinity: "Journeying with Jesus' Body." It's a bit long for The Twelve, but perhaps even portions of it can be edifying for you as you reflect on the unfolding events of this week. 



April 19, 2011

Mark 15:40-47

I looked around the room. I was in the company of a few hundred other clergy, chaplains, hospice workers, funeral directors and mortuary school students -- all gathered to hear Tom Long and Thomas Lynch speak on "The Good Death, Good Grief, Good Funerals." 

Long, a theologian, and Lynch, a writer and undertaker, invited us to reflect with them on the shifts taking place in how Americans handle their dead. Not death -- the dead. Because, as they explained, the human species deals with the idea of death by dealing with the thing itself: the dead person. What we do with one who has died speaks volumes about how we understand death in our culture.

Throughout history, humans have recognized that the body of one who dies can no longer remain among the living. It must be moved in some way and to some resting place. This basic reality is a constant across all societies, and how it unfolds in any particular place or time is never perfunctory.

The basic metaphor, Lynch and Long suggested, is that a community accompanies a sacred person on a journey from the land of the living to the great mystery. We process the death by processing with the body from one place to another; in moving it, we are moved. (Picture, for instance, the processional of a presidential casket in Washington, D.C.)

This metaphor is in jeopardy, they contend, for a number of reasons: the breakdown of community, at least as it was understood in past centuries; the transience of our lives and scattered nature of our roots; the gradual erosion of our culture’s adherence to larger narratives, religious or otherwise sacred.


Open Our Lips

If Christ’s disciples keep silent, the stones would shout aloud.
O Lord, open our lips, and our mouths will sing your praise.

     This is he whom seers in old time
     chanted of with one accord,
     whom the voices of the prophets
     promised in their faithful word;
     now he shines, the long expected;
     let creation praise its Lord
     evermore and evermore.

     Let the heights of heaven adore him;
     angel hosts his praises sing:
     powers, dominions, bow before him
     and extol our God and King;
     let no tongue on earth be silent,
     every voice in concert ring
     evermore and evermore.

     Christ, to you, with God the Father
     and the Spirit, there shall be
     hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
     and the shout of jublilee:
     honor, glory, and dominion
     and eternal victory
     evermore and evermore!

(Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, 4th century)

Rev. Jeff Sajdak has served congregations in Iowa and Michigan, and is currently the Dean of Students at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.


The Problem with Palms

From Debra Rienstra

Let’s admit it: Palm Sunday is a problem. I know I shouldn’t be questioning a moment in the church calendar that goes all the way back to the third or fourth century, but why do I always vaguely dread this day?

Here’s how it usually goes down. You arrive at church, and a smiling usher hands you a little palm branch. Your fellow parishioners, likewise armed with palm branches, line up as best they can, the adorable little children in floral dresses (girls) and tiny sweater vests (boys). Adults of various ages are doing their best to look cheerful, when actually everyone is feeling awkward. The music revs up—something processionalish—and a little parade begins. “Hosanna to the King of Kings!” we’re all supposed to say, or sing, or otherwise convey.

At this point, we congregants are essentially playing the role of the crowd in the Triumphal Entry narrative from the gospels. We’re supposed to be feeling joyful, because Jesus is the King of Kings, and here he comes in triumph, the humble king whom prophets foretold as Savior. Except that this is the beginning of Holy Week, and Jesus is coming into Jerusalem to die. Unlike the crowds in the story, I know exactly what’s coming, and I do not want to wave a little palm branch about it.



From James C. Schaap

On a plane, I'm a reader not a talker. In fact, I rather resent jabberers, warm-hearted folks, I'm sure, who make it their mission to discover wheres and whys about the bald man buckled uncomfortably into the seat belt beside them.  I know preachers who claim they do great evangelism on planes.

Me?--I'm a reader with earphones, and I had a book I loved this time, Kent Haruf's new novel Benediction.  It's terrific.

But I never really got it out on that flight because the computer determined to make clear just exactly how much I need to lose weight by sending yet another meaty male, a guy in a Packer cap, into a skimpy seat designed for 160-pounders, both of us lugging along about a hundred more.  There we sat, a couple of tubs strapped in seats meant for the svelte.

You got to laugh about that, so I did.  "It's a conspiracy," I said to the guy in the Packer cap.   The only way I could avoid rubbing shoulders with the guy was to lean halfway into the aisle.  You know.  There we sat, a couple of aging linebackers, packed-in Packers.

Mutual suffering brought us uncomfortably close, so I asked him about life up north.


My Neighbourhood

From Thomas C. Goodhart

Home is that place that nurtures and sustains you, where you are with your kindred, where you find rest and comfort, are safe and supported. It is as Merriam-Webster defines a “congenial environment.” Or it ought to be. Looking back over the various blog postings I’ve made here at the Twelve, I find myself often returning to this theme of home. And not just here. Why, just the other day in a sermon I referenced—rather embarrassingly—the late ‘90’s teen-pop TV show Dawson’s Creek to get to a Randy Newman song sung by Chantal Kreviazuk, Feels Like Home. (Take a listen! And as to the Dawson aspect, the song was apparently on the Creek’s soundtrack, not that I associate with or really know anything about that…) Sometimes in regards to culture (even pop culture), often ecological, and usually of the personal, I dwell a lot upon “home” as place, relationship, and even way of entering into a deeper experience of the holy. Perhaps it’s influenced by my evangelical roots and the picture of Jesus knocking on the door. But mostly it’s because of verse 14 from the Prologue of the Gospel of John, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Lived among up perhaps better stated more colloquially, “pitched his tent.” I wonder at the immensity and the subtle reality of God making God’s dwelling among us not only in the person of Jesus Christ but in the Holy Spirit too.

It is with that mindset, with thoughts of home permeating my heart that I wish to use this space to commend to you a new short film of only 26 minutes called My Neighbourhood. For a limitted time, you can watch the entire film online at the Guardian.